There is an unsettling and growing trend that is emerging from the internet as people seek out inappropriate and adulterous relationships with the help of websites whose sole purpose is to provide a vehicle to accomplish those relationships under the guise of anonymity.
With a quick search of “online dating” a number of websites appear which focus on niche segments of society as well as sites which seem to be targeting a very specific type of relationship.
The online dating business is growing fast with industry experts claiming that global revenue is in the area of $4 billion annually with the U.S. responsible for $1-1.5 billion.
According to Online Dating Insider, a website concerned with online dating, an estimated 30 percent of those using online dating platforms are already in a relationship and some sites have tens if not hundreds of millions of members.
Ross Williams is the CEO of Global Personals which is one of the largest online dating companies in the world. His company owns 14 sites including; Meet Locals, Just Widowers, Just Divorced and Fling.
But the majority of their revenue comes from selling the applications and programs that other start-up dating sites use to grow their business, which are known as “white-label” sites.
"We provide the technology, customer care and database for other brands to put their label on it and market it to consumers," founder Ross Williams said.
There are the real-world consequences for those families which are disrupted and spouses who experience the heartache caused by having an adulterous partner. When considering relationships which are founded through these dating forums a value is not placed on the person but on “what” the person has.
Psychologist May Taylor, in an interview with the BBC’s “You & Yours,” spoke of the commodification of relationships occurring nowadays. “Online is about selling yourself and saying who you are,” but not how one is defined by values, a moral following or even character, rather they are rendered in terms of physical characteristics as a measure of determining the value of a person.
She explains that people who go online do not tell others that they are over-weight or that they are shorter than what is stated in there profile, they market themselves to be more “attractive” because “what’s valued now is youth.”
Behind this explosion of pseudo-relationship building sites are companies whose sole purpose is to commodify the understanding of love and relationships as a way to turn a profit on the misguided actions of those who pay to see who in their area might be interested in them for a discreet encounter.
Mark Brooks from online personals watch, a news site dedicated to the online dating community “if you think about the kind of people that are using mobile dating they are more adventurous, and yes probably a bit more amorous.”
But do relationships that form as a result of these websites offer truly satisfying experiences or are users more concerned with satisfying certain urges rather than forming a lasting relationship based on mutual respect and understanding of a person.
When responding to a statement referring to the commodity of love Williams explains that “it is about empowerment and choice…it not always about finding Mr. or Mrs. Perfect, it is a fun activity.”
But those websites which promote or facilitate promiscuity such as Fling.com and AshleyMadison.com whose tag line is “Life is Short, Have an affair,” are actually enabling these sinful practices.
In an email sent to The Christian Post, Jackie Elton, CEO of Christian Connections, explained that affair promoting websites step onto ethically shaky ground when they target people specifically for adulterous relationships, while at the same time gaining large profits, “It is very sad that people are prepared to turn adultery, a cash generating business.”
She continued, “Many of the sites are no longer prepared just to be found by people looking online for extra marital affairs, they are actively targeting people who may not have thought seriously about them otherwise.”