Screening Mates at Love@AOL

When Robin logged on to Love@AOL, America Online’s site for cyber romance, she did it as a joke. Little did she know she would meet her future husband.

Responding to an ad that read “Looking for a Centerfold,” the former Playboy playmate downloaded her photo with the message, “Ha-ha. You can’t have me,” thinking she would get his goat.

Instead she received a return message.

Written in hot pink and purple letters, it said, “I love you. Call me.” A list of home, cell, pager and work numbers was included.


And they lived, well, we hope they live, happily ever after.

For years, individuals have scanned personal ads in the hopes of finding love, but those using them have traditionally been dismissed as losers or societal fringe.

“You’ve Got Mail,” the hit film starring Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan, is helping to reduce that stigma. It is proof that arranging dates online is becoming just as acceptable a means of meeting people as bumping carts at the grocery store or swapping stories at the dog park.

Home to 130,000 profiles, Love@AOL is the Web’s largest site for photo personals, and AOL says it is growing at the rate of 1,000 profiles a day. What debuted as a special feature for Valentine’s Day in 1996 proved so popular that the company decided to leave it on the site. It was a wise decision. Roughly 1.3 million people visited there in November alone.


“We are marrying the convenience and effectiveness of online communication with the oldest romantic ritual in the world--the exchange of love letters,” says Bill Schreiner, executive director of Love@AOL. “There’s something very intimate about the writings we do back and forth to each other that touch us in a different way than phone calls.”

A 31-year-old health insurance professional with an office in her Irvine home, Diane posted a personal on Love@AOL in January.

“The social aspect of my life had diminished because of the home office deal,” she says. "[I got] to the point where [I had] nothing to lose.”

Navid, now her husband, responded “because she was cute.” Online at the same time, the two started sending instant messages to each other--an immediate form of e-mail available only when the other person is signed on. From there, they began scanning and trading photos.


“One of the cool things about online personals is you can post them and get a response in minutes, as opposed to publishing it somewhere,” Schreiner says.

Three days into their e-mail relationship, Diane and Navid progressed to the telephone.

“It was really exciting because I got to hear Diane’s voice,” says Navid, 27. “It just added another piece to the puzzle.”

And the pieces kept adding up. Diane and Navid were married in Santa Barbara on Sunday.