Many singles are placing their faith in algorithms to help guide Cupid's arrow this Valentine's Day.
There's no shortage of unmarried people on the market -- roughly 102 million Americans -- and a lot of them, tired of the bar scene or failed blind dates, are turning to online dating sites, hoping their soul mate is just a click away.
In many instances, the industry -- which market research companies estimate to be worth $1.33 billion and used by 40 million Americans -- is producing results.
Erin Heintzinger, 33, of the East End, a marketing director and a veteran of OkCupid.com, believes that love can spark on the World Wide Web.
"It's an amazing technology advancement for the sake of humanity because the people who might not have been able to find someone are finding people," Ms. Heintzinger said. "Whatever your quirk, fandom or sexual proclivity, there's someone out there."
She joined OkCupid before Christmas in 2010 fresh off a "pretty awful" seven-year-relationship.
Ms. Heintzinger said she was leery of most men at the time, but online dating sites gave her a sense of security.
"I had control because I was looking at a computer screen and not the guy in the bar," she said. "I could screen them really well. I could Google them until I felt really comfortable."
But her mother was not convinced.
"My mother promptly freaked out when she realized what I was doing because all she could think of was serial killers and mass murders," Ms. Heintzinger said.
Her sister-in-law would call on every date to give her an opportunity to fake an emergency and escape (now there's an app for that), but Ms. Heintzinger quickly found herself dating two men she didn't need to be rescued from.
Things got weird when she discovered they worked for the same company. Still, Michael Holodnak, 33, of the East End won her heart because he found the situation comical -- while the other man threw a fit.
Soul mates on Playstation
She credits the site's matchmaking capabilities with helping her find her soul mate, a software engineer. The pair, who got engaged at the Highland Festival in Ligonier this fall, shared a 99 percent compatibility rating on the site and she believes their commonalities- like Firefly, their favorite TV show, playing Skyrim on Playstation 3 and love of the Steelers -- make them a strong couple.
"There are differences, but enough solid commonalities that there is never a dull moment with us," she said.
Now her mother tells her to help single friends get online.
But some families are not as open about meeting on the Web, despite a societal progression that has shed most of the taboo nature of it.
Chris Miller, 35, of Indiana, Pa., said he didn't have any reservations about trying Yahoo! Personals in 2006 as a single in Syracuse, but didn't tell anyone about it.
"It was still a time where people would have made fun of you about it," said Mr. Miller, who works in newspaper advertising.
A few days before Mr. Miller closed his account, Emily Virkler -- whom he had messaged weeks before -- finally responded.
They met at Al's Wine Bar on a cold night in Syracuse and talked for more than three hours.
"From the first day we met I had a feeling she was the one," he said. "She was the only person that I met online."
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