Recent studies claim that the Internet is quickly becoming a tried-and-true way of uniting soul mates – I personally owe my marital bliss to online dating and I’m pretty vocal when asked about how I did it. But anyone hoping to find love online should know the truth: That whole “there’s a lot of fish in the sea thing” is no joke. And some of those fish are horrible. An estimate of 40 million loveless hopefuls in this country alone have tried online dating – that’s 40 million potential first dates that don’t always end well. Thankfully, there’s another option – you could let a matchmaker do it all for you.
Before you roll your eyes and judge me for even suggesting hiring a person to find your next partner, you should know that based on research, it’s quickly becoming an acceptable and successful way to find a partner, especially if you’re too busy with your high-stress life to bother with online dating yourself. Now, some matchmakers are turning to one of the best social resources out there to find your future mate – Facebook. The social network’s Graph Search feature has recently been making waves in the online dating industry for its ability to return a list of users that fit the bill (romantically), and more matchmakers are experimenting with it to provide their clients with location and interest-based matches.
But much like anything that’s on the Internet these days, there are some inherent problems with using the good ‘ol book as a dating database to consider – so is the wealth of information there worth diving into? We asked the experts.
The mechanics of matchmaking
Every matchmaking service caters to a certain demographic and deals with different levels of relationship needs. Most of them do their own personal vetting of potential partners through questionnaires and in-person interviews. After getting to know more about the client, the matchmaker then weeds through their database of members seeking partners and find ones that have similar needs, wants, and goals.
“Through this process, we discover the key characteristics that our clients are looking for in a match,” says Irene LaCota, Spokesperson for It’s Just Lunch International. “We introduce them to other like-minded singles in a casual, low-pressure setting where they can talk face-to-face, which we believe is the only way you can truly get to know someone. After we select a match, we’ll describe the person and confirm a convenient time and place to meet. All are clients have to do is show up and have fun meeting someone new.”
Tawkify does things a little bit differently: First step is to find your matchmaking match (say that three times fast). “As soon as a new customer signs up and answers 10 questions about themselves, we match them up with their personal matchmaker,” explains Kenneth Shaw, Co-Founder and CEO of Tawkify. “Their matchmaker then goes and finds them a match, provides both of them nuggets about each other to intrigue them (never photos) and we send them on a Tawkify (15 minute phone call that drops off), a Walkify (a stroll), or a Mystery Date (we send you on an adventure, never something so dull as drinks and dinner). All the scheduling is taken care of. No more social mind games, back and forth… their matchmaker just cuts through all of that and have them interacting. Afterwards, they provide each other feedback, possibly help them improve if necessary, and set them up on another date.”
And for a particular set of people, paying the big bucks for a solid match is worth it. “I only work with a select group of men, usually between 10-20 clients a year,” says April Beyer, President and Founder of Beyer & Company, a personal matchmaking and relationship consulting firm. “I provide a personalized search. When I have a potential client, we talk on the phone. I get to know more about him and his lifestyle, his family backround, his relationship history, what worked and didn’t work in his relationships, his strong points and quirks, his wants and his needs. I share my process and how I work and if that resonates with him and we both feel we want to meet at that point, we sit down in-person and discuss it at length. I go beyond the client’s profile and ask the deeper questions that most people will never ask. I actually know more about my clients than some of their friends do that they’ve known for 25 years. If I feel that I can be successful with him then I invite him to become my client, but it has to work both ways – matchmaking in its highest form is very personal and very specialized.”
Fine-tuning with Facebook
Almost everyone is on Facebook and more often than not, people share updates on them willingly, making it the closest anyone can get to knowing what a person is like in real life. According to a Relationships and Technology Singles Survey 2013 conducted by It’s Just Lunch, people use Facebook to look up information about their dates prior to having them, and even more once the first date is over.
While we – the ones being found matches – might do Facebook research, those doing the matching don’t always use it for that purpose. Matchmakers mainly use social media to let people know their services exist and are reputable. Beyer has been catering to a select group of highly successful, educated, relationship-minded men for 15 years. Her database is comprised of thousands of women from all over the country that are drawn to her business, thanks to the powers of the Internet and social media. “A lot of it’s been advertising on Google, a lot of it’s building my brand and awareness for it via social media. I’ve done a lot of television work. I’ve hosted a TV show. I’ve been on Dr. Phil several times, as well as CBS and Good Morning America. It’s really through the outlets of TV, online articles, a small amount of advertising, and social media that bring in the women to my database.”
Using Facebook as a promotional tool is nothing new – however, new features have turned it into a starting point for matchmakers as well. “We use Facebook and Twitter to promote events and build awareness about our company, but not until Graph Search did we use it to reach out to people for dates… I LOVE this new feature!” exclaims Anni Powers, COO and Executive Matchmaker for Northern California of The Real Matchmaker, a personal date scouting service. “It has not only helped me exponentially to search for single people in targeted areas, but also if I have a client who is intent to meet someone who shares their love of kite skiing or pugs, I can search for people on Facebook who share their specific interests.”
“Our matchmakers are hip and young – we generally call them ‘not your mother’s matchmakers’ – they are very savvy with social media. They generally use social networks to scout for potential matches for their clients. It’s easier to filter down to the criteria our clients are looking for. We’ve used Facebook’s Graph Search before, however the response rate from a stranger is very low. This could be due to [Facebook’s] Other inbox feature,” says Shaw.
(This should serve, once again, as a reason to check your Other inbox).
Facebook can make for awkward dates
“We use social media as a way to stay in touch with singles and share our research results and dating tips. We also use it to watch for any trends that might be happening in the dating world! We do not use Graph Search to find matches for our clients as we only match our clients with other It’s Just Lunch users,” says LaCota. This protocol – which is prevalent in most matchmaking services that prioritize their own database – may be due to the results of the survey they conducted with their members. Out of over 10,000 respondents, almost 54 percent say that they never interact with a love interest on social media, 44 percent say they prefer to keep their personal relationships out of cyberspace, and 34 percent say they wait for their date to friend them on Facebook before initiating online contact.
Powers recommends using good judgment when you turn to social media to find potential mates, but to never rule out any available resource to find love. “If you see a friend of a friend that’s cute, you can always ask your friend to make an introduction. I will say that reaching out to people you aren’t connected to at all isn’t very effective since most people are very protective of their privacy.”
“As a broadcasting tool, Twitter and Facebook sometimes work where you ask your network of friends if they know of someone that fits a specific criteria or would like to go on a date with someone with certain attributes. It’s hit or miss depending on who sees it. Going through your network to find a match helps validate that the match you’ve found is someone trustworthy and requires less evaluation, though our matchmakers still call and research each individual,” says Shaw.
“The whole thing about dating that we cannot circumvent is the idea of unfolding in front of someone and allowing them to get to know you,” Beyer explains. “The fact that that person can go on your profile, see photos of your family, things that you posted, and things that you’ve expressed about your life, they get to know so much about you before you’ve even said, ‘Yes, I’d like to get to know you, too.’ I don’t feel it’s a great tool at all.” Beyer believes that Facebook is intended for friends (who already know each other) to connect – if a friend of a friend wants to connect with you, then having that middle person to facilitate the introduction is fine, though.
So…is Facebook an ally to the pro matchmaker and a good tool for dating?
The first keyword here is “pro.” Sure, in a dating emergency, using social media to find someone to go out with is a viable option, provided that you elicit the assistance of a common acquaintance to make you less of a creeper. But you have to remember that your friend – the one that’ll introduce you to the possible love of your life – does not do this for a living. The “friend of a friend” referral is a lot more casual. Professional matchmakers spend years developing their tools, expanding their databases, and improving their methods. They’re like headhunters and scouts looking for the right person for the job, the job being your future girl or boyfriend, maybe even your future spouse.
Professional matchmaking is a lot more demanding than your basic “dating,” which is the second keyword. What sort of relationship are you in the market for? If you’re looking for people to play the field with, there are sites like Tawkify, It’s Just Lunch, and The Real Matchmaker that provide a fun and less stressful alternative to online dating and they do so by streamlining the vetting process, which may or may not include a little bit of digging on social networks. While these matchmaking services could potentially land you in a serious and committed boyfriend-girlfriend relationship, there are relationship consultants like April Beyer that provide “in it to win it” matches that eventually end up with matrimony – this type of search requires a lot more seriousness, which is not necessarily achieved through social media interaction.
Matchmaking – a multi-million dollar industry expected to grow six to seven percent annually – is certainly becoming a more acceptable way of finding The One. The jury’s still out on whether or not Facebook can serve as a proper matchmaker’s resource, but the growing database there certainly makes it a possibility. While the holdouts still remain, as new and “innovative” apps dominate this space, surely the traditionalists will start to give it a harder look.