Monday, February 11, 2008

Traces Left Behind

Back when I was single and frustrated with shadchanim, I decided to give Internet dating a try. I did some research and came up with a shortlist of the sites I wanted to try out, and enrolled on each for a few weeks to determine if the given site would prove useful. With most sites proving unproductive, I generally ended up deleting my profile upon finishing my trial period. When I did finally settle on one site as my site of choice, I decided to maintain a profile on a couple of the other sites regardless, since I was getting hits on them and figured a little extra exposure could not hurt.

After I got engaged, I dutifully went online and tried to delete any traces of my online dating identity. Some sites made this process easier than others. However, I persevered, devoting several hours to the supposedly simple task of deleting my profiles, placing phone calls and writing numerous emails in pursuit of my goal. In the end, only one site was so technically deficient that my profile could not be deleted. So I informed my now-husband and left things at that. I assumed the rest of my dating past was history and assumed that I could sleep well at night knowing that my online profiles could no longer generate hits.

Alas, my sleep-filled nights proved unfounded. I have been receiving stray marketing-related emails sporadically since I got married from the various sites from which I had disassociated myself. However, recently the frequency has increased dramatically. And I believe that the reason for this increase is rather insidious, namely that the longer someone is inactive on a dating website, the better the chance that these emails might find someone who is once again back on the market.

Disgusted as I was by having received the latest email, as well as why I may have received it, I decided to investigate the matter further and logged into the website that generated the email. I wanted to see what was in fact going on with my profile, that same profile I had devoted so much time and effort already to deleting. Imagine the shock I felt when I saw that my profile was not in fact deleted, but had instead only been marked as "suspended" by the website administration. In order to delete my profile- which I had already deleted- I had to log in and email customer service. But, logged in as I was, I was unable to successfully send the email; their sever rejected my half-dozen attempts.

As yiddin, we need to pay close attention to our behaviour. We need to contemplate the ramifications of our words and actions before we say or do, because our behaviour has halachic ramifications. When these dating sites are emailing me, they are failing to uphold their end of our agreement. By retaining my email and profile information against my explicit instructions, they are betraying the code by which we, as frum yiddin, are supposed to live. But even worse, by emailing me when the chances are overwhelming that I am now either married or in a relationship en route to marriage, such communications are dangerous. Dangerous is strong word, but I believe it to be appropriate in this instance, since these emails have the potential to wreak havoc on Shalom Bayis or destroy trust in a fledgling relationship that would otherwise result in chuppah.

So, to all the supposedly frum dating websites out there, please focus less on marketing and more on providing kosher customer service. Maybe when your websites are administered properly and feature adequate technology, you will no longer run the risk of doing aveirahs (disrupting Shalom Bayis, misrepresenting yourself, misusing personal information, etc.) instead of mitzvahs (marrying off couples). Because whatever you could possibly lose materially from a lower number of emails will be rewarded in spiritual dollars. As a frum website, I hope in the end the latter dollars become your true objective.

1 comment:

  1. BS'D

    Ah.... when we log onto the Internet thinking of joining one of those online shiduch services, we are like the Titanic, unaware of the size of the icebergs we see.

    The problems in getting off these service are huge. I also had the same problems, and though I am married now, bli ayin horah, close to 2 1/2 years, I know I must be on at least some of those services. I still get their eMail, and still get all their notices.

    The first year, I took the time to try to contact them and BEG them to delete my profiles, but often to no avail. One of the reasons they are so hard is that they are actually reluctant to say you are no longer a member. Better to call you an "inactive" or "suspended" member. By keeping you on their membership list, they can advertise a larger membership, and can charge their own advertisers more, since they are charging for those banners according to the size of their membership.

    This is a common ploy used by many organizations. Non active members, even members who have resigned are kept on the rolls to make the organization appear stronger.

    But, it does not end there.

    Once you place your profile on one of those websites, other new websites, "borrow" you to create their original membership. They show all these existing members the very first day they launch their website. Did anyone ever ask, "If you are brand new, where did you get your first 5,000 members?"

    I found my profile on numerous sites I had never heard of. Friends told me they saw my profile on XXXXXXX site, a new Frum dating site. I never was there, never heard of it, never in my life gave them permission to use my profile.

    Heck, a good Internet search for my name could give you information that is 10 years out of date. There too, I have tried to contact them to have my information, especially my name deleted, but they said they can't do it!
    Why, the information is simply uploaded from CD's they buy full of data. They never touch this data.

    So, be careful anytime you post a profile.

    But with the "Jewish Dating" websites, I stopped bothering with all of them. I just stay off those websites, and no longer let it annoy me.

    Oh, now, over 2 years after my wedding, and almost 3 years since my engagement (and requested removal) I still get an occasional letter from a former "potential" ... Last year, I received a nice letter from former "potential", a California physician. She wanted to know if I was still "available" even though my account was suspended. I wrote to her that I was married. She replied, asking me if I think it will work?!?! It sounded like she wanted to "wait for me to get divorced!"

    I deleted it, and that was the last one I read. I now just delete without reading, or at least delete as soon as I know what it is.

    I used to take the time and reply, telling them how I am happily married now, etc., I now no longer even bother. When I see it is from someone from XXXXster, I just delete it.