Okay, boys and girls, today we are going to talk about online dating.

Okay, boys and girls, today we are going to talk about online dating. Yes, this involves the dreaded Match.com., eHarmony and any other match-making websites that comes to mind after the barrage television and radio commercials that constantly inundate your life.

    First and foremost, it is time to lose the stigma of saying, "I met him/her online". Big deal. Isn't it better than saying, "I met him/her at the local bar at ten minutes to two in the morning after we had both been drinking excessively"? With the way our world currently works (especially in small town northern Minnesota), it is really hard to meet someone special just hanging around town (not in an intoxicated state at the local pub) or at the office. Enough already with the snickers and whispers when you hear that someone met "on the Internet".

    According to statisticbrain.com, more than 40 million people in the United States have tried online dating. When this number is compared to the 54 million single people in the U.S., it shows that online dating, whether you agree with it or not, is extremely popular and apparently works, as 17% of marriages in 2012 resulted from Internet love connections.

    Like, love it, or think it needs to go far, far away and never come back, online dating is here to stay, with more and more specific dating websites popping up all the time. There are sites available for just about every religion, age group, cultural background, or even peculiar hobby (ie. people who love comic books and action figures enough to dress up in costumes and attend conventions).

    Critics of online dating have been known to call sites "virtual meat markets", meaning those looking to meet someone judge online profiles specifically on physical traits. Welcome to the real world. This is not exclusive to online dating. Single people on the hunt for a partner judge others by the appearance no matter where they meet. Physically attraction is important in a romantic relationship. Why should we shame those who dismiss online profiles that don't measure up to their desired attributes when it happens all the time in "real life"?

    It is hard not to agree with warnings on dating sites that tell users to take precautions when sharing personal information and especially when meeting in person for the first time. It is true that you don't really know the person you have met online, no matter how many e-mails you've sent, texts you've shared, and phone calls you've had. They could be a serial killer that filled your mind with lies. Then again, they could be a really great girl or guy next door type that is honest to a fault. Unless you put on your detective hat and perform an extensive background check, interview landlords from the last 10 years and require references from employers, family and friends, you can't know what you are jumping into. But, isn't this the case when you meet someone the "regular" way, as well?

    All in all, it seems that online dating is just another way to go about meeting your next boyfriend, girlfriend, or mortal enemy. You have the potential to connect with someone whose path you never would have crossed if it weren't for technology. That just may be the best part of it all. Get out there and meet people in any way you feel comfortable. You never know where it might lead.