Full Article Text:
*Cupid is no longer a pale cherub with a bow and arrow. These days, the ultimate matchmaker looks more like a computer screen. Ron Worthy, Executive Director of BlackPeopleMeet.com — the nation’s leading online dating site for Black singles, believes that online dating is the most effective and efficient way to find and develop relationships that work, with the indirect bonus of saving the family and supporting the community.
“I really believe in it,” he said. “I grew up in a single-parent household and I really wish something like this had been available for my mother back when I was growing up. It was very difficult for her to find a man. Ultimately, the black community is built on family and family is built on relationships. So, this is my way of helping out the community; allowing people to have better and more effective ways of building a relationship.”
Worthy cited that the African American community has higher incidents of divorce and lower incidents of marriage. He believes that most of the community’s plight is due in part to the lack of stability in the household. But, in addition to being an answer to a social concern, online dating is a safe and effective way, well, to find love.
“There are going to be people that go onto online dating sites just to hook up or for casual relationships, but what we found from our polling is that 75% of the people joining our sites are looking for serious relationships,” Worthy revealed. “Something out there is telling them that, ‘Hey, I can do it offline as effectively and as inexpensively as I can do it online.’”
With online dating, he contends, you have more control, better odds, and more options.
“It’s easy, it’s effective. It’s inexpensive,” he told EUR’s Lee Bailey. “When you think about the alternative, meeting through friends or going out to bars and clubs – in those scenarios, there’s a lack of control.”
Worthy gave an example of a woman waiting for that perfect man to come up to her in a club or the bar.
“The reality is that even if the perfect guy does exist, is he going to be in the club? Is he the guy that comes up to you? Or is it going to be the guy that has the best game? And is that the one you want to start a long-term relationship with?” he asked.
“When you’re online you have so much more control,” he continued. “Someone that you’re not interested in approaches you online; you can block them instantly and never have to worry about them. So there is a safety factor online that doesn’t exist offline.”
In those regards, mainstream and niche dating websites are quite the same. However, Worthy said, there are some differences.
“For the black community, specifically, and one of the reasons why a lot of sisters are going online, offline the male to female ratio is a significant barrier. You have seven or eight women for each man, so that presents a significant challenge for African America women, who are twice as likely to be single than their white counterparts.”
The BlackPeopleMeet network has a pretty even split, according to Worthy. Though women do outnumber men, the difference is slight and not nearly in the same numbers as they outnumber men offline, particularly in the African American community.
“Sisters, a lot of times, wait for the man to be delivered by God on some level. They expect the guy across the room is going to say, ‘Wow. That’s my soulmate and I want to be with her for the rest of my life.’ It just doesn’t happen like that. That’s like the love lottery.”
Furthermore, for niche sites, it addresses the idea and people tend to prefer common race or ethnic backgrounds, religious beliefs, and life stage, as Worthy explained.
“Our sites are different from mainstream sites because we focus on certain niches,” he said. “We have Christian sites, sites specifically black Christians, and seniors’ sites.”
“And with the rise in niche sites like BlackPeopleMeet.com,” he said, “I think that there’s more of an option for African Americans than ever before to go on and find someone who’s also looking for someone who’s black.”
“We realize that not everybody is going to be attracted to a mainstream dating site. This is our way to provide value. That’s our unique selling proposition is that people will find people like themselves that are looking for people like themselves,” Worthy said.
However, BlackPeopleMeet.com does not have only profiles of black people. Worthy said that it’s really no surprise, particularly in this day and age.
“First of all, black is beautiful,” he said. “The world has known that for a while; it’s just one of those things that’s coming to the forefront. There’s a lot more of mixing of races and there’s a lot more comfort around that idea. Love can find you anywhere.”
Ultimately, Worthy reiterated, the site is designed for black people looking for other black people.
“That’s the main purpose,” he said. “But we’re not going to be discriminatory to anyone who’s interested in that community.”
Launched in 2002, BlackPeopleMeet has helped introduce tens of thousands of couples, with a majority of members ages 35-45. Every month, the site reaches 4 percent of the total Black population in the United States. Worthy said that most of the site’s population is in the 31-45 age range, but there many members who are 18-24 or over 55.
“We have 30-somethings to early 40s, [when] people are settling down and are looking for an effective way to do that. When you really don’t have a lot of time to do what you did when you were 23, 24 years old, where you would meet people. More of our folks are out in the suburbs not having a way to connect with people as easily,” he said. “Then you have free dating sites that primarily attract a younger audience looking for more casual relationships and then you have mainstream dating sites like Match.com or Yahoo Personals that get a little bit of everything.”
And then there is the question of social networking sites and the fine line between socializing and dating on the web.
“It’s a really important distinction to make,” Worthy said. “Those are two different contexts. With Facebook it’s about connecting with people you know or that are in your network and getting deeper connections with them. Sure, there are people who use Facebook to date, but whenever that happens, all of our research, an my own personal experience, goes to show that because of the context being social networks and friends, people are often put off by advances or dating because it’s sort of out of context.”
“With online dating and BlackPeopleMeet specifically, the context is king,” he continued. “You’ve heard on the Internet that content is king. In this situation, context is king in the sense that when you go there you don’t have to worry about reaching out to someone who is not there to meet someone. You know that that is the case because you’ve come to a dating site.”
Once you’re on the site, the key is to be “out and about; to be proactive,” Worthy said.
“Use the site, and search. It’s safe and it’s affordable. You have thousands of people right there for the cost of a cup of coffee every day. Think about how much money people spend on movies, dinners; you’re going to spend some money, time, and gas – for a few options.”
And then there are those that swear they will never try online dating. Interestingly, those are the people Worthy enjoys talking to the most.
“When we talk about the alternative, they realize that, ‘If I really am trying to find someone for a serious relationship, I really a have to open my options up.’ If you were looking for a job would you have any problem putting your resume online? There’s never a problem with that. Why is looking for love not as important as looking for a job? Why should you be ashamed of that? I think those perceptions are changing slowly.”
BlackPeopleMeet.com, is considered the “premier dating site for Black singles looking for friendship, romance or marriage.” The site has nearly 1 million unique visitors per month.
“Whether it’s for fun or for the one, I can’t imagine any other effective or safe way for you to do it. It’s a great way to bridge that gap that’s going on offline.”