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Online Dating Battle: What's Wrong With Dating Services Rejecting Unsuitable Suitors?

Wouldn't you be angry at an online dating service that hooked you up with somebody who was currently married, or had been divorced half a dozen times?  Aren't these companies responsible for recommending only appropriate people to their clients? 


EHarmony, one of the nation's largest online dating services, doesn't want to saddle its members with dates who won't help them find lasting love.  The company rejects a substantial percentage of people who apply for membership – and is getting kicked in the teeth for being responsible.


According to a May 13 Washington Post story, eHarmony asked NBC and People magazine last week to stop running questionable attack ads sponsored by online dating competitor Chemistry.com. EHarmony claims some of the ads imply that they reject people out of racism or religious bigotry. As of Friday, NBC has failed to respond.  People refused outright, reportedly saying it wasn't taking sides and would continue to run the ads.


Post staff writer Paul Farhi reports that eHarmony has rejected more than a million of the 13-plus million people who have applied for membership since the company began operations in 2000. 


30 percent of eHarmony's rejections are because an applicant is married, wrote Farhi.  27 percent of rejections are because the applicant is below the minimum age of 21.  9 percent give inconsistent answers on the application.  Farhi labels as “controversial” several other reasons for rejection: people looking for same-sex partners, people younger than 60 who have been married more than four times, and people who suffer with severe depression.


EHarmony chief executive Greg Waldorf told Farhi, “We were founded with the mission to find happy, lasting relationships for people….It pains me that we're being put down or criticized for ensuring that we're doing the best job possible for our members.”


Chemistry.com's attack ads feature photos of models stamped with the message “REJECTED BY eHARMONY.”  “Was it my bangs?” the ad in People magazine's May 21 edition asks.


Chemistry.com's ads assert that eHarmony rejects people for one of several reasons, including homosexuality – but some ads, according to eHarmony, falsely imply that people were rejected because of their race or religion.  A TV ad features a black model who says he was rejected, and a print ad shows another black model asking “Was it my love for Buddha?”


Chemistry.com's operating philosophy contrasts sharply to that of eHarmony.  Chemistry.com's ads tell applicants “come as you are.” General manager Mandy Ginsberg told Farhi the company is “very accepting, nonjudgmental…Philosophically, we believe that anyone who's looking for a relationship is entitled to a relationship.”


The Post story does not mention whether Ginsberg believes Chemistry.com has any obligation to shelter its members from people who aren't good candidates for marriage.  Chemistry may pride itself on being “nonjudgmental,” but the company's “free love” attitude comes at a cost: the refusal to exercise wise discernment exposes members to risk. 


By continuing to run Chemistry's ads, NBC and People are enabling an irresponsible company to unfairly bash a responsible one.  


Brian Fitzpatrick is senior editor at the Culture and Media Institute, a division of the Media Research Center.