Martha Stewart and

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Martha Stewart and

You know Martha Stewart can run a company, spot a weed from a herb and whip up culinary treats, but like many of us, she needs help getting a date.

The 71-year-old grandma told Matt Lauer on the Today Show she plans to create an online dating profile to join in on the fun. She already has some geek cred: her early embrace of technology helped restore her career. But is she really serious about pursing an online romance?

“Well, I had a long-time boyfriend that ended a couple of years ago,” she told Lauer. “And I haven’t found the next Mr. Right.”

Websites like Popwatch gave her some advice on filling out a dating application. Writer Hillary Busis, for example, suggested she put “whitest woman alive” for ethnicity, “cleanliness is next to godliness” for religion and, in response to her stance on smoking, “Do you mean trout? If so, yes.”

All joking aside, Stewart signed up on, using her real name and photo. On her profile, she writes she likes cooking, gardening, movies, museums and travel. She also loves to watch House of Cards, listen to rap music and exercises more than five times a day.

She’s looking for man that’s intelligent, established and curious, as well as lover of animals, grandchildren and the outdoors, and relishes those with adventure and new experiences that can teach her new things.

That doesn’t sound like most profiles, but she isn’t the first grandma to venture into online dating. In fact, she’s part of a growing wave seniors flocking to sites to find meaningful companionships, serious relationships and even marriage — making them some of the most active Internet daters these days.

Silver Surfers Look for Love Online

You know that cliche. When you ask people what they want in a partner, they say they want to find someone “to grow old with.” But what happens when you’re single and already old? Like Martha, you go back to square one.

Motivated to find a companion and encouraged by family members who don’t want them to be alone in their golden years, seniors are turning to the Internet, which is now second only to mutual friends in helping them find a partner. The elderly are the fastest-growing demographic in online dating. EHarmony said 15 percent of its active members are age 50 and over.

Advocacy group AARP, meanwhile, is helping its members find love, too. Kickstarted by an idea that its 37 million members would jump at the opportunity to post, “Beach, anyone?” its dating site, powered by “How About We,” connects seniors by the thousands.

For seniors, the stakes are often higher, since the benefits of dating extend beyond basic companionship to health and longevity. “Your social circle and social interactions really are directly correlated to your level of happiness,” Sami Hassanyeh, AARP’s chief digital officer, told NPR. “And when you’re happy, studies show you stay healthier longer.”

Online dating is also a popular way for seniors to meet people, but the possibility of predators complicates matters. Many aren’t especially tech-savvy, so they’re particularly vulnerable to meeting liars and cheats. Washington’s Attorney General even has a section on its website giving seniors safety tips for online dating: avoid inviting people who want just money or the opportunity to inflict physical or emotional harm.

Still, possible pitfalls aside, how effective is digital dating in finding true love?

A Brief History of Online Dating

Stewart has always had great timing — except for that whole insider trading fiasco — and she’s joining online dating is at its peak. Just over a decade ago, bulletin boards and newsgroups played host to a variety of dating activities, before the first major Internet dating site,, launched in 1995. Rivals were popular at the time, but they were along the lines of “mail order bride” services.

Digital dating really expanded in 2002 when social networking debuted, first with Friendster and MySpace, and later with Facebook. People use them to connect — in business, friendship and community, to name a few — reducing the stigma for online dating and making it more popular for rivals like Plentyoffish and eHarmony, among others, to enter.

Over 40 million Americans have tried online dating, and the average user spends around $240 a year, according to In fact, 17 percent of U.S. couples that married last year met online. And the fastest growing segment? Yup, the 50 and over demographic, which grew by more than 40 percent last year alone.

Online dating is more appealing and accepted now, and the “senior shift” is a good example of how the industry continues to transform, especially as more sites focus on niche audiences to stand out in a crowded market. In addition to sites dedicated to the elderly, there are sites focused on specific interests, cities, sexual orientation, occupations and religion.

It’s About Chemistry — and a Bit of Math CEO Sam Yagan was certainly pleased to welcome Stewart to the club, but he didn’t exactly promise she would find her the man of her dreams online. “What we know we can get you is some great first dates,” he told her on the Today Show. “I think finding a soul mate for you might be a bit difficult, but I think first dates are easily doable.”

She’ll likely have to kiss a lot of frogs to find her prince, but her odds are just as good as anyone else: online dating is primarily a game of numbers and algorithms. Serious data crunching behind the scenes has as much to do with success as a shared interest in dogs, movies and walks on the beach. For example, at Ted Talks, OkCupid co-founder Christian Rudder says his site uses carefully-honed algorithms to crunch data, creating compatibility ratings to match daters.

Modern Love: Matched by Phone

Finding love isn’t easy. Dating apps are a dime a dozen, but a handful of contenders make it easier and faster to meet like-minded singles. If you’re like a lot of people, you find the idea of mobile dating bewildering. But it’s the wave of the future. Dating sites are declining in popularity, and people are turning to smartphones to find dates: around 14 million singles last November used mobile devices in their romantic quests, double the rate from a year earlier, according to USA Today. If you’re curious, the following apps offer a range of approaches to the next frontier.

You have things to do, people to meet and you want a date, like, now. You don’t have time to browse through a million profiles, poke or message and wait on people you’re interested in. What to do? Tinder, a free iOS app, promises a faster way to find Mr. or Ms. Right — or at least Right Now Nearby. The premise is simple and straightforward: sign up with your gender, sexual orientation and location. Tinder will then ask to sync to your Facebook account. Once you accept, it creates a profile for you. Then the fun begins.

Swipe through profiles of singles in your area, and vote thumbs up or down on each one. When you vote “yes” on someone who voted “yes” on you, you both enter a private chat where you can get to know one another — and possibly exchange information to meet. Tinder says it’s better than online dating because it’s more like meeting someone in life: someone catches your eye and you approach. If you see someone intriguing, you can figure out if you have anything in common.

It’s basically speed dating on a smartphone: it’s quick to set up and easy to use. The interface and design are similarly lightweight and streamlined yet perky. You won’t find depth, but it promises speed and convenience. If you’re worried about the Facebook integration, the app is very careful. It uses Facebook data just to match singles, and shows you only friends of friends, which avoids potentially awkward run-ins. In addition, it won’t publish any activity to your Facebook page, so nobody will know you’re using it. A lot of people are using Tinder — important for any dating service to succeed — and with half a million active users a month, according to the New York Times, you may just find love in that pool — or at least someone fun to have a drink with for a night.

Crazy Blind Date is the mobile version of OkCupid. Like the dating giant, the free iOS app uses personality profiles and advanced algorithms to match you. There’s a unique twist, though — rather than wading through profiles to choose who you like, you set a time and place and the app finds you a blind date.

You need an OkCupid account to use the app, then to fill out a fairly detailed questionnaire. But once you do, you set up your availability — up to a week in advance — and the app finds people to fill those slots. Unfortunately, you can’t see who you’re matched with, but you can communicate with them about logistics and indulge in some getting-to-know you chitchat beforehand. It’s all done through the app, which is nicely designed, with an upbeat, clean interface.

If you’re an adventurous risk-taker or just looking for a little companionship while out on the town, Crazy Blind Date is for you. But if you’re conservative or just a bit shy, it won’t be for you. Despite being allied with powerhouse OK Cupid, with years of experience honing its algorithms, you’ll have to put your faith into the app’s ability to find someone with a spark. It’s not for the faint of heart, but sometimes in love you need to take a little risk to reap the reward.

Tinder and Crazy Blind Date offer speed, ease and convenience, hallmarks of an increasingly mobile culture. And those apps promise playfulness and adventure, but too many losers can make it seem like a meat market. Sometimes you just don’t want to cut to the chase — the chase is often part of the fun, after all.

Enter Coffee Meets Bagel, which appeals with a more controlled environment. After you sign up for a profile, and fill out a long questionnaire, the service sends you one match a day each afternoon. Then you have one day to decide whether to “like” or pass on them. If you both decide yes, it connects you via text without giving away your phone number.

The approach marries a Groupon-like schedule with the convenience, along with more flexibility and privacy. You can choose to connect your Facebook data to your profile, for example, and choose to see only friends-of-friends. Or you can keep stay private and anonymous. If you’re cautious and want a bit more discretion, just want to avoid the overwhelming process of mobile dating, the site is perfect for you.

People have been looking for love since the dawn of time. Each technological revolution brings about a new way to meet and connect with people. Whether through matchmakers, dating sites or now with apps, smartphones, just maybe, might make it a bit easier — if not a little more interesting.

Unlike match-making from days of yore, this go-round is more about math than chemistry, something Stewart would know if she asked author Dan Slater, who married her niece. Slater spent years studying online dating for his new book, titled, “Love in The Time of Algorithms: What Technology Does to Meeting and Mating.” A former legal affairs reporter for the Wall Street Journal, he logged a few of his own cyber-dates by the age of 31. In his book, he lays out the conflict between the romantic ideal of love by online daters and the mathematical approach computer geeks take in setting up these sites.

“I don’t believe a computer can predict long-term compatibility or long-term relationship success,” he told Julie Spira, cyber-relations and netiquette expert. “Online dating is getting better at predicting who would get along on a first date. As the technology evolves, it’s a good chance that it will get even better.”

That suits seniors just fine, since a growing number of them don’t want marriage — they just want companionship. In a sense, seniors — with their life experience and their measured expectations — benefit the most from online dating. And Martha, no doubt, has advantages on her side as she makes her foray in digital dating. “This is a subject that has been on Stewart’s mind for a long time,” Slater said. She’s talking up her latest book, “Living the Good Long Life: A Practical Guide to Caring for Yourself and Others,” so I don’t doubt it’s true.

Still, it doesn’t take a mathematical genius to figure out the buzz for We’ll have to see if she finds a partner — she vows to let the cameras in on her adventures of the heart. Regardless, the former M. Diddy is putting a very public face to a growing trend, and, being a romantic at heart, I’m hoping she — and the throngs of others looking with her — finds true love. If not, Larry King is still on the market.

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