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Hardly a week goes by without another new think piece about online dating either revolutionizing society or completely ruining our ability to have real relationships.But these hyperbolic pronouncements miss a deeper fact: At its core, "online dating" isn't something we just started doing 5, 10 or even 20 years ago.Phishing, fake profiles, and ads for escorts continue this tradition today.

For $3, users could answer questionnaires and receive a list of potential matches, a process that is still used by many dating sites.

1990s-2000s: Second Wave of Mainstream The explosion of the Internet in the mid-to-late 1990s created a new context for personals, and by the end of the decade, they had become relatively acceptable.

() 2010 - Today By 2010, different dating sites existed for virtually every city, sexual orientation, religion, race and almost every hobby, making it easier to find exactly what we're looking for and harder to stumble on someone who exists outside our pre-defined bubbles of identity.

In 2002, Wired Magazine predicted, "Twenty years from now, the idea that someone looking for love won't look for it online will be silly, akin to skipping the card catalog to instead wander the stacks because 'the right books are found only by accident.'" Online dating is the new norm for introductions, replacing the role of traditional personals and in many cases, merging with the functions of social media.

1920s: Lonely WWI Soldiers Seek Pen Pals Personal ads went mainstream again in the early 20th century, when social pressures to get married by 21 (and thus, expectations for relationships) were much lower, thankfully than their earlier incarnations.

Many of the postings were simply calls for friends or pen pals.The popularity of personals paved the way for grifters who soon realized that they could prey on the vulnerability of people seeking love.Scam artists caused a scandal that many newspapers ran with, and personals disappeared practically overnight as public attitudes became more cautious.(Farmers Only continues the legacy to find "where all the country girls are" today.) Some very pragmatic examples of early 20th century personals: HOUSEKEEPER: 18 to 30 years of age, wanted by widower, 40.Have prominent position with the rail company, have 75-acre ranch also house in town; object matrimony if suited; have boy 13 years old, would not object to housekeeper having child. Young woman, reared in luxury, having lost everything and earned her living for the past eight years, is tired of teaching and wishes a home: would like to meet a well-to-do businessman who would appreciate refinement and affection in a wife. If only these two had found each other's personals then.....Even before the Web itself, bulletin boards and newsgroups hosted a variety of ways people could use technology to meet others with similar interests, including dating.

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