Making your heart go a-Twitter

Twitter and dating might seem like a perfect match. Making contacts is effortless, and it’s easy to check out someone anonymously. And with the site registering 110 million tweets a day in January, there would appear to be no shortage of potential soul mates..

But is Twitter a viable forum for finding true love? Can you really get to know someone through 140 characters or less?

Many seem to think so. “Twitter dating is here,” an article on Examiner.com announced in May 2009. People “date” on Twitter by communicating via their individual profiles or through specific Twitter dating websites. Several have come (and gone) in the past two years.

As Valentine’s Day approached, I decided to venture into the Twitter dating sphere to see what was it was like for the average singleton. The idea of making a romantic connection through Tweets seemed impersonal, but I was curious nonetheless. One of my first intended stops is MyTweetheart.com. A 2009 post by social media strategist and consultant Alan Underkofler initially drew me there. “Your next love is just a tweet away,” he wrote in reference to the site. An offer too good to miss, I thought. The site was founded in 2008, and according to Underkofler had more than 2,500 followers within three months. It was also nominated for the Mashable Open Web awards in the “Dating and Romance” category in November 2008.

Trying to log in now, though, provokes a “Fatal Error” message. The founder did not respond to calls for comment, but Underkofler did. While initially a Twitter dating enthusiast, he says that MyTweetheart failed for the same reason as several other Twitter dating sites: a lack of commitment. “Social media entrepreneurs are really great for starting things and not finishing them,” says Underkofler. Setting up a successful dating site, he adds, “takes time, energy and consistency. I think if the founders had invested in all three of these ideas they might have had real successes.”

I persevere and stumble upon plentyoftweeps.com and immediately sign up. The site, created by Brad Bollenbach, launched in November 2009. Bollenbach met his girlfriend, Alicia, on the site. “I liked 199 girls on plentyoftweeps, before finally meeting the girl I now live with, the girl I will almost certainly marry,” he wrote on his blog.

Bollenbach’s success story buoys me, but after a fruitless few weeks of being a registered member, there has yet to be any activity on my account. To find my best match, I would apparently have to upgrade to a Premium account with a $29.95 monthly cost.

Bollenbach did not respond to requests for comment about the apparently slim traffic to his site but on his blog he admits that plentyoftweeps “hasn’t yet been a runaway commercial success.”

I finally get some responses when I sign up on Luvtweets.com. The site was founded in 2009 by Richard Gale, the former head of marketing at Playboy and now brand manager for The Sun, a British newspaper with one of the biggest circulations in the world. The website promises it has cornered the online dating market: “We know why other dating sites suck, and we’ve fixed it.” I am not entirely convinced. I browse through a few member profiles and then receive (at last!) my first Twitter dating message. “My name is Miss Juliet,” the writer says. “I saw your profile today and became interested in you, i will also like to know more about you and i want you to send a mail to my email address so that i can give you my picture for you.”

A second message, from a “Phil Prince,” certainly gained points for creativity but, again, was not an offer I would be taking up: “Words begin with ABC. Numbers begin with 123. Music begins with do, re, mi. And friendship begins with you and me! Will you be my friend?”

I decide to consult a dating expert: Julie Spira, author of “The Perils of CyberDating.” “You don’t need a dating site to strike up a conversation with someone over Twitter,” she says. “I’m not really surprised they haven’t worked. They just aren’t necessary.”

April and Terry Simpson would agree. They connected on Twitter via a mutual friend, and were married in February 2010. “We tweeted our vows,” said Terry. “And I tweeted ‘you may now kiss the bride’ before I did it.“ Their son, Jimmy, was born in August and has had his own Twitter account since the womb.

But Twitter romances don’t always turn out so well. Mark Davidson, who met his girlfriend Daisy on Twitter, proposed via Twitter in May 2008. I read about this proposal on a number of blogs and contacted Mark for an update. “I’d rather let sleeping dogs lay dead,” he said in a Facebook message, adding that “if you would like to go out on a date with me before your deadline, you should have plenty enough material for several articles and possibly a separate article for Psychology Today.” Unsurprisingly, Mark and Daisy didn’t make it.

Neither did I. My search for romance on Twitter went nowhere. Although many have found true love this way, I am inclined to agree with Terry Simpson who says, “There’s nothing like meeting someone in person.