SPECIAL REPORT: Looking for Love - MSNewsNow.com - Jackson, MS

SPECIAL REPORT: Looking for love

JACKSON, MS (Mississippi News Now) -

Friday is the day singles hate and couples love. But in this tech-heavy world, some say an electronic message might be just as valuable as a dozen roses.

Over the last decade, cupid's arrow has gone digital. Call it shopping for the perfect mate.

"I said I was gonna give it a certain amount of time," said Emily Soen. "I'd give it six months. Whatever time, energy, money was involved, I was gonna do it. After that, close the account and wipe my hands of it."

Emily says her frustration with traditional dating led her to give online romance a try. And then she got connected with Philip.

"Just in our email communications it just felt like we quickly resonated," said Philip Soen. "So for me it didn't feel like it was a long deliberation."

It's something eHarmony VP Grant Langston says is key to their success.

"The one thing we know about human life in the modern age is the pool of available people, available single people, starts to shrink when you leave college," said Langston.

And college parties,bars and other social gatherings once provided that fuel for the dating fire. Now, the chase takes place across the Internet with instantaneous communication. And maybe Langston's logic makes sense.

"We have reverse engineered, essentially, really great marriages," said Langston. "We took a lot of people who've been married 20, 30 years, we looked at their relationship and we figured out: why are these people really happy together?"

Langston says it took three years of research to come up with 29 variables the company says need to be aligned for a relationship to be long-lasting.

"I think it's match.com or the other one that has 1,500 variables in it, and they tweak it to give it certain weight," said Jackson State Sociology professor Thomas Kersen. "Some of these variables are weighted more than others, and if we can just find the right formula, we'll be able to give you the right person."

Kersen doesn't buy it. "Again, it's this idea that technology can save us, and I'm not sure that it really can, especially in the most intimate way."

That being said, Philip and Emily Soen have been married five years. They say they're proof it works.

"[people] hear words like 'algorithm' and think 'deeply impersonal, powerful presence'...that's what people hear," said Philip. "But the reality is, people designed it...ultimately, it's all about people."

There's also another side to this, a financial bottom line. Eharmony would not disclose how many paying users it has. And when I tried to set up an account, after nearly 50 questions, I couldn't even find a free option to see my profile; just monthly and yearly ways to pay with the promise of a match.

"Casinos do the same thing," said Kersen. "All the success stories that they put up on their walls? what about all of the other ones? It's a marketing thing. It works. We all think we can win that jackpot, that jackpot being someone we love. And I find it hard to believe there's an algorithm to really get at that."

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