Forget the TV testimonials and all the hype about online dating sites. No refined search engine or Dr. Phil endorsement can guarantee that a mug of Mr. or Ms. Right is waiting on the next Web page.
Singles on the lookout for a partner are setting aside Internet searches and returning to perhaps the oldest coupling conduit known to humans: the matchmaker.
Unlike the gossipy Yenta of "Fiddler on the Roof," today's matchmakers are often tech-savvy amateur cupids who run through a range of social circles.
What they have is something that can't be bought or achieved through technology: a personal connection to the single guy and gal.
Relationship expert Jeff Cohen, the author of "Dating Inc." ($14.95, Adams Media), says that the diminished novelty of online dating, along with the perception that not everyone is completely honest in their profiles, has prompted more people to put their faith in a matchmaker and try blind dating.
"In the last five or so years, online dating was huge, but now you're starting to see a shift back to this way of meeting people," says Cohen, who went on 77 blind dates before meeting wife Carol Cohen, aka blind date No. 78. "I see matchmaking as a more traditional way of meeting people. By using a matchmaker or a cupid, there is the sense that you might be getting a more reasonable match."
Amateur matchmaking is rooted in tradition, but it's becoming an increasingly viable way to meet the unattached in a 21st century society where many people don't know the names of their own neighbors, says Helen Fisher, a biological anthropologist at Rutgers University who specializes in the evolution and future of sex, love and marriage. The author of "Why We Love: The Nature and Chemistry of Romantic Love" ($15, Henry Holt, 2004) says that matchmaking never really died out.
With people living longer and marrying later, husbands and wives suddenly finding themselves single after a midlife divorce, and relationships taking a backseat to careers, the amateur matchmaker can play a critical role in the romance sweepstakes. Online services continue to attract plenty of new customers, but the more old-fashioned method is preferable to some people.
In spite of the ongoing hype and general acceptance of online dating, more people still claim the experience of either fixing up friends or going on blind dates than meeting someone through a dating site, says Fisher, the author/anthropologist.
Matchmakers say that those getting fixed up should see it as a compliment, that someone thinks so highly of you, they're willing to pair you with someone they admire. Consider it the dating equivalent of the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval.
However one looks at matchmaking, Cohen, the man who had 77 blind dates before meeting the One, suggests that those searching for a partner give it a chance.
"It's just another vehicle for finding that special someone," he says. "Speaking as someone who had 77 blind dates, the more first dates you go on, the better chance you have of one turning into a second date. Or something more."