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Dating in NWA, by Carla R. Herrera

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Singles in Northwest Arkansas appear to be meeting more online than off. For those who don’t patronize clubs or bars, there are few events geared to the single life, except for the rare occurrences of speed dating and single get-togethers formed by members from internet dating sites.
According to the U.S. Census 89 million Americans are single. Most are looking for more personal connections and finding the internet as the place for initial contact, then move into meeting at public places.
“If you are not into the bar scene it really is difficult to meet people. I think the whole online venue has become a viable option for singles of all ages,” said Bev Richards of Fayetteville.
Scott, 33, of Fayetteville agreed that the internet works. “I think online is the best. You can find out a lot about someone from their profiles and not have to wonder if they have kids.”
While matchmaking sites such as Match.com and E-Harmony are popular (Match.com boasts 15 million members) just as many sites that don’t charge fees are gaining in popularity as places to find prospective dates.
Plenty of Fish, Myspace and other free sites have millions of members who browse listings of other singles in their geographic areas and though it may be more difficult to determine if the person behind the profile is a match, once a conversation begins between people, it either takes off and they find something in common or it fizzles quickly, leaving them to continue on their way without wasting time on a relationship that would not have worked.
“I have met some wonderful people online—girls and guys that have become important friends to me. The last guy I dated I met on Match.com,” said Jessica Conway of Lowell.
Though it may be true more people are turning to technology to find connections they crave, they prefer to meet through personal encounters. Some are turning to local social groups and find the experience beneficial.
“I meet people through my church singles group, internet, and friends,” said Laura of Fayetteville.
The larger the network, the more opportunities one has of meeting people. In the past, people would carve relationships from existing peer groups, but advances in technology, economic activity and changing demographics influence the way groups are formed today.
“We don’t have the same social groups like we did when we were younger,” said Robert Holmes, who recently moved to Fayetteville.
Holmes, like many newcomers to the area, meets people through groups he belongs to. Active in outdoor activities, as well as becoming a charter member of the local dart club and participating in diving events, he doesn’t have a problem meeting new people.
“I prefer to meet people through [other] people,” he said.
In some areas of the country, speed dating has become popular. Speed dating is a group activity where men and women meet in a public venue like a restaurant or bar and rotate to meet several people over a series of timed “dates,” much like the old game of musical chairs.
There have been speed dating events in Fayetteville, but the NWA Speed Dating website is currently disabled. At the last speed dating event scheduled at Joe’s Bistro, two participants came, but organizers failed to show up, said Schaan Gray, who works at the Bistro. A call to the organization to find out when the next event would be held yielded no results.
“I’ve been speed dating through NWA Speed Dating a couple of times,” Laura said. “While I haven’t met the love of my life there, I have had a lot of fun with it,”
And that seems to be the bottom line for most singles. Though they may work at meeting that special person, the journey seems to be just as important as the destination. Where they meet doesn’t seem to be nearly as important as whom they meet.
“I meet people everywhere,” Conway said. “I have been approached anywhere from Wal-Mart to the gas station. I enjoy meeting new people without expecting to find someone I am romantically interested in.”

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