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The Net Gets Personal

April 26, 2001|ROBERT BURNS | robert.burns@latimes.com

"Chains of Love" is a new show on UPN in which one person is chained to four others of the opposite sex--the goal being to narrow the four down to one for the perfect match.

The show proves people will do just about anything for a date. For those enamored with the Net, that means thousands upon thousands of online personal ads, mostly with photos. It's no wonder these people don't have the time to get out of the house and meet someone.

Almost every portal and e-mail site has a personals section, from Yahoo (http://personals.yahoo.com) to Excite (http://personals.excite.com). Also out there are huge personals pages such as Match.com (http://www.match.com) and Cyberdating (http://www.cyberdating.net).

A lot of the sites are free, but some do charge, mainly for responding to the ads. Voyeurism is still a bargain. Match.com, for example, charges a whopping $24.95 per month. Gay and lesbian site Planetout.com (http://www.planetout.com) recently started charging a $49.95 annual fee.

There are three ways to enjoy these kinds of sites. The first is to narrow the search to as close to home as possible and see whether you recognize anyone from the neighborhood. Not that you'd want to date them, but you'll know who's looking.

Second is checking out the dating pool in very obscure places, such as Selangor, Malaysia, or Rankin Inlet, Northwest Territories, Canada.

And third is strolling through the "other" category, which is usually for relationships that don't fall into men seeking women, women seeking men, women seeking women or men seeking men. Sure, you'd think that wouldn't leave much out, but you'll find more than enough material for a new Showtime series.

There are also plenty of specialty sites. After all, who'd want to date someone who doesn't share their exact world view? Christians have their own sites (http://www.meetchristians.com), as do Jewish singles (http://www.singleandjewish.com).

Too mainstream? Pagans Meeting Pagans (http://members.delphi.com/strix1/index.html) has personals for a variety of nontraditional religions (but heavily Wiccan), all apparently united in a tenet against good Web design. Sample ad: "Just another lonely wiccan who would love to connect with others of like mind. I practice a blend of Scots Gaelic and Dianic. I've danced with the Faeries and have ridden the same Dragon for years . . . 8, to be exact." Righto.

Astral Hearts (http://astralhearts.com) is for the "metaphysically minded" single. Even clairvoyants need help once in a while. But is channeling really a hobby?

If you're a vegetarian, as most of Europe is right now, there's Veggiedate.com (http://www.veggiedate.com). The site is so PC you don't even have to pick a gender for your search. But you can rule out anyone who isn't as vegetarian as you. That's a good thing because those vegan-lacto-ovo couples almost never make it.

Kind Planet, a "community celebrating life," has personals at http://www.kindplanet.org/connections.html. We didn't get very far into this one because the search criteria asked essay questions, such as "What is love?" and "Describe your first meeting or date with someone you connect with here."

Of course, if you're really kind, maybe you want to put a little joy in someone else's life. Someone like a prisoner. Inmates for Penpals (http://www.inmates-for-penpals.com/index.html) does have personal ads (with photos yet), but it was a little too "Oz" for us.

There are hundreds more personal ad sites out there, but right now we feel an overwhelming need to exterminate every cookie we picked up on this surf. And then we're going out.

Robert Burns is an assistant Business editor at The Times.

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