Facebook app takes the creep out of virtual dating

Originally published in the October 22, 2010 issue

Remember when the world of online dating was so innovative and creepy 10 years ago, and then it was featured in movies and television and suddenly everyone was doing it? It became a fairly socially acceptable pastime, as long as you ignored those pesky news reports of online predators.

Now online dating has undergone even more changes in an attempt to make people feel less creepy about it. A company called Vision Sync has come out with new dating apps for Facebook. The Virtual Connect Cafe (accessed through SocialConnect) is a resource where users are actually in a simulated cafe, passing through a lobby before entering to choose from a virtual smorgasbord of interactions on the “menu.”

The SocialConnect app allows users to meet a date in a virtual environment before meeting in person. Users can schedule dates or chat sessions virtually to determine if the prospective individual would be a good match.

These “dates” don’t only take place in a cafe but in different locales throughout the world. The participants can use their imagination to agree upon a location, including Paris or the beach. There are also avatars that can be created while chatting with someone to simulate holding hands and smooching.

The experts behind this technology say that it is actually very effective at determining whether or not a person would like to go out with someone again. They also argue that it is a safer alternative to get to know someone before meeting them face-to-face.

But let’s be honest – you can’t fake stupid but it has been pretty well established you can fake creepy, weird and sadistic. Even with a newly accepted app on Facebook, I don’t think the online dating community will be perceived as any less creepy.

Although it is a nice tool for people that don’t like picking up one-night-standers in bars, the element of chemistry is not something that can be conveyed across a computer screen, no matter how attractive your avatar is.

Anybody can be charming, witty, or gorgeous in the comfort behind their computers, but in person, it becomes hard to ignore that incessant mom-mentioning or repeated George Bush impersonation.

There have been documented instances of good relationships emerging from technology like this, but users should be wary of any situation in which a Sims videogame scenario becomes more than just a metaphor for your own life. But at least for now this presents a better alternative to those creeps on Yahoo.