Almost everyone these days can name a couple they know that met on the Internet, though it wasn't so long ago that skimming the online personals for love was considered strange, even a bit desperate.Taboo or not, the practice certainly isn't new.
"In Britain, the personal column was suspected (much like the Internet is now) of harboring all sorts of scams, perversities and dangerous individuals.At least that is what the police tended to think, and they only stopped prosecuting lonely hearts ads in the late 1960s — until then they often thought that they were mainly placed by prostitutes and gay men," Cocks said.Many of the postings were simply calls for friends or pen pals, becoming especially popular among single servicemen, called "lonely soldiers," during World War I."At that time advertising for pals or for lonely soldiers was fashionable and contemporary — something done by those who were, as they put it in their ads, 'bohemian and unconventional,'" Cocks said.The personals sections of those 18th century newspapers were also useful for gay men and women to meet lovers, back when homosexuality was still illegal (it remained so in the UK until 1967).
Personal ads went mainstream in the early 20th century, with expectations at a much lower level than their earlier incarnations."Someone from an Irish radio station asked me whether the essence of all Internet dating ads was ' Loser seeks Winner,'" he said, "but I think those opinions are really those of younger people, [such as] those under 30 who see no need for Internet dating.Or of married people." Heather Whipps writes about history, anthropology and health for Live Science."Short self-descriptions aren't only the preserve of Internet daters, they are also the essence of things like Facebook and other social networking sites," said Cocks.The difference between the personal ads of the previous centuries and today's is the age of those using Internet dating sites, according to statistics.Matrimonial agencies were big business there by the early 18th century, printing ads on behalf of men who paid the agency to recruit them a good wife.