Feature

Dating ghostwriters: The future of online romance?

Busy — or insecure — singles are paying "Virtual Dating Assistants" $600 a month to manage their online dating strategy

Although online dating is designed to make the pursuit of love far more time-efficient, it seems some singles can't even find the time to log on. Voilá, says The Washington Post, witness the rise of the "dating ghostwriter." For a fee, a staffer at Atlanta-based Virtual Dating Assistants will canvass online romance sites and send flirtatiously formulaic messages to dozens of potential matches. Could this dreary scenario really be the future of online romance? (Watch a local report about Virtual Dating Assistants)

How much does Virtual Dating Assistants charge?
For $600 a month, the Atlanta-based firm guarantees two dates a month. While that may seem steep, a company spokesperson calls it comparable to the "$5,000 or more a year" charged by professional matchmakers.

How many assistants are there?
This particular company employs 45 "Cyranos-for-hire," paid for every "positive response" he or she elicits from a potential date. But "dozens of profile-writing shops" have emerged in recent years, says The Washington Post.

Who are the clients?
"Almost always" male. Virtual Dating Assistants says 80 percent of their clients are guys.

How do Virtual Dating Assistants operate?
First, they interview the client and draft a profile on approval. Then, they start writing messages using a well-versed "charming" style. "He's never needy — always charming and a little flirtatious," says one of the ghost-writers of the online 'persona' he's created. "He keeps his missives short and usually includes a question or a subtle challenge. He's witty, a touch aloof and not overly complimentary." Basically, says Sadie Smith in Jezebel, he's that "elusive asshole that women apparently want."

What do clients say about it?
For those who find online dating too time-consuming, it can be an excellent choice. "Richard," a Virtual Dating Assistants client interviewed in The Washington Post, says it doesn't make sense, "just from a cost-benefit analysis," for him to do things "that are purely almost secretarial." Another says it's a good way to avoid the shame of being "routinely rebuffed" by browsing daters. "Most women you e-mail don't respond. Some look at your profile and don't even read your message before deleting it."

What do potential dates think about it?
I can sympathize with the "pain of rejection," says Smith in Jezebel. But, speaking for most women I know, I can tell you that "finding out we've been courted by a surrogate is going to lead to a much harsher — and more personal — form of rejection."

Sources: Washington Post, Jezebel, Newser

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