So the young dating services hit upon a way to tackle consumer embarrassment: anonymity.

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But while dating online definitely has its advantages, a new sociological study reveals that many dating sites' claims — that their services will improve the likelihood of long-term relationship success — are insupportable.

Erika Anderson sat across from Jeffrey Neu at an Indian restaurant in Manhattan's Flatiron district on a chilly March evening, toying nervously with the scarf around her neck, a sparkly white one on loan from a roommate. She knew his birthday and where he had gone to law school.

They had talked about their careers and their lives in the tri-state area.

And some of the best advantages of online dating are exactly what make it perilous.

A history of online dating In 1995, when the internet was still in its infancy, social dating consultant Trish Mc Dermott joined a team launching a brand new company: match.com, a service to help single people meet and communicate for romance through the internet. "There was a sense that anybody who had to use technology to find love was in some way a loser," said Mc Dermott.

Who would email a potential love interest instead of simply approaching them at a bar or a social event?

The answer could only be the geeky, the unsightly or the awkward.

She, then 25, had even re-read their online exchanges, a miniature study session to brush up on the particulars of Jeff, then 32.

Over dinner, they discussed their food — her first time tasting lamb — and noticed they both had jeans on. Once widely considered a tactic only for the socially inept or the hopelessly creepy, exploring romantic possibilities online has slowly but surely made its way into mainstream American culture.