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Love in the Time of Caller ID

When we’re always in touch but never in reach, can true love blossom?
By
WebMD Feature
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Just as FedEx, UPS, and DHL can send a package across the country overnight, CrazyBlindDate.com can set you up with a stranger in just a few hours -- when you absolutely, positively have to be with someone right now.

Hey, if you can get a suit dry-cleaned in three hours, why not a first date?

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Using technology in the search for true love is certainly nothing new: In the 1899 hit song Hello Ma Baby, a young man entreats his lover to "send me a kiss by wire" and begs, "Oh baby, telephone, and tell me I'm your own."

In 1965, when computers were still hulking monstrosities programmed by punch cards, a group of Harvard students, including future Supreme Court nominee Douglas H. Ginsburg, formed a company called Compatibility Research Inc., which attempted to apply digital science to the art of love. Match-making sites such as eHarmony, Match.com, OkCupid, and Casual Kiss are its love children.

But is technology really a boon to romance or a barrier to intimacy?

For the star-crossed lover Abelard who wrote to his unattainable Heloise nearly a thousand years ago, the agony of waiting for the mail to arrive must have been keen indeed. For many of today's romantically inclined, however, the immediacy of electronic love notes helps to keep intense relationships fresh.

But for others, technology has its limits and its perils, because it allows us to reach out to, but not touch someone. Instead, we're substituting emoticons for emotions and stripping the intimacy of in-person encounters from the small daily kindnesses of personal relationships.

"I think that word, 'connected' is a misnomer, because we believe we're connected but in many ways we might be more disconnected from the actual relationship with a person," says John O'Neill, LCSW, director of addictions services for the Menninger Clinic in Houston.

A Match Made in (Cyber) Space

Certainly, technology can bring people together. According to eHarmony.com, every day, 90 of its more than 17 million registered users get married. And there are as many match sites as there are fish in the sea.

There are also hundreds or thousands of smaller sites offering pair-ups by religious affiliation, gender, age, cultural interests, political convictions -- whatever floats your boat. There's even one for Klingon and Vulcan impersonators, called Trek Passions.

Jeanine Persichini of Dallas met her husband, Gary, eight years ago via an online personals ad.

"I think it [technology] enhances a relationship," Persichini, a real estate assistant in Dallas, tells WebMD.

"Actually, I think you get to know someone more, because they're not hiding anything," she says. "You can shoot off a little 'I love you' text message anytime during the day when you can't interrupt your significant other at work with a call."

Persichini confesses to having been reluctant at first to reveal just how she ended up finding true love, but she has come to realize, she says, that the ends justified the means.

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