Love is in the air, and on the Net

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It’s that time of year again: greeting card stores are decked out in pink, red and white, candy hearts are on sale at the end of every grocery store aisle, roses fly off the shelves by the dozen, and Cupid is a-hunting. Jewelry stores proclaim the only way to “show your love for her” is with a diamond, and teddy bears holding hearts and flowers have taken over gift shops.

For those without a “significant other”, the pressure might be on to get out there and find one, especially at this time of year. This is why many people turn to social networking or online dating sites to find potential love interests. It can be easy to “stalk” or “creep” someone’s profile page, their pictures, and what their friends, colleagues, or coworkers have been saying about them. While these public profiles can provide conversation starters (“So I saw you liked Led Zeppelin/Hootie and the Blowfish/The Spice Girls…”), they might lead to an inaccurate judge of character.

On many social networking sites, people remain “friends” with their exes. This can be a difficult situation, so consider being sensitive about what you post. If you’ve just recently broken up with someone, it may not be the most diplomatic idea to post 20 pictures of yourself canoodling with a new paramour—but if you do, remember to adjust your privacy settings to control who gets a detailed look into your love life.

For those who are still searching for love, look no further than your cell phone. There are many applications that have been created to provide the battlefield of love with military intelligence. Mobile dating applications, such as MeetMoi and MIT’s Serendipity, alert potential matches when a compatible mate is nearby. Users provide information about their interests, and these services use GPS capabilities of their cell phones to locate other compatible users nearby, letting you know about that special someone buying a coffee ahead of you in line. These applications, however, may use your personal information to serve up targeted ads—perhaps about flowers or engagement rings.

If your matchmaking efforts have been in vain, you may be tempted to try a novel approach: genetic testing to find your perfect partner. You send a genetic sample, such as a cheek swab, to a company that determines your match with other members based on factors such as immune system genes. Unfortunately, there is little evidence to suggest that romance lies in your DNA, and releasing your genetic information can expose you to serious privacy risks.

Other applications are set in place to find that special someone safely. Funbers is a phone application that allows people to give out an alternate phone number that they can then use to screen calls. If a date went terribly wrong and they haven’t quite got the hint, Funbers allows the user to send out busy signals or out-of-service messages to make it clear. On the darker side, for those who are suspicious of their loved one’s past new applications from BeenVerified and Date Check allow the user to do a background check on their loved one from their cell phone. A better approach to this suspicion might be to simply ask your partner about his or her past. It is very important to trust your partner, but also to respect their privacy!

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