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December 15, 1997


Book Guides Women Through
The Wilds of Online Romance

In the dark ages before the Internet, lovelorn women would sit for hours by the telephone waiting, waiting, waiting to see if He would call.

Now, thanks to the innovation of high speed electronic communications, where gal can meet guy in chat room, post Web personals at the press of a button or instantly bump into prospects in newsgroups and other corners of the Internet, what has happened?

Women sit by their virtual in-boxes, waiting, waiting, waiting to see if He has sent an e-mail message.

That technology changes much but the human craving for love changes little is one of the messages of a slim new book — and popular Christmas stocking stuffer if Santa rewards publisher St. Martin's Press — called Men Are From Cyberspace, The Single Woman's Guide to Flirting, Dating, and Finding Love On-Line.

A new addition to a growing number of books about electronic romance, Men Are From Cyberspace is meant to navigate women through the Internet's virtual mixer.

“The Internet is 70 percent men. The odds are in a woman's favor.”
Lisa G. Skriloff,
Men Are From Cyberspace

The authors are two New York City-based freelance writers. Jodie E. Gould, 39 and happily married, thank you, did most of the writing. Lisa G. Skriloff, single but seriously involved — yes, she met him online but won't discuss him in detail because "he would be mortified" — did most of the research.

About two years ago after a long-term relationship ended, Skriloff, 42, said she found herself in the romance market. In the past, she had relied primarily on personal introductions to meet eligible members of the opposite sex. But Skriloff had been hearing about online dating, and decided to buy a modem, finally install that disk from America Online and see what it was all about.

Her electronic encounters led to real dates with about a dozen men before she and her beau met. It also led to a discovery: Although women are beginning to catch up to men in their use of the Internet, cyberspace is still dominated by guys. "The key point the book makes is that the Internet is 70 percent men," Skriloff said over a cup of coffee in a Greenwich Village coffee house last week. "The odds are in a woman's favor."

But the territory is vast and can be difficult to maneuver. On the World Wide Web, there are probably more than 1,000 personals ads sites, said Fran Maier, vice president and general manager of one of the leading online dating services, In addition there are innumerable singles chat rooms and other serious boy-meets-girl venues on the Web, in subscription online services and in other Internet areas.

And lots of people to meet, with an estimated 45 million adults in the United States using the Web alone, according to Donna L. Hoffman, a Vanderbilt University business professor who studies electronic commerce.

Skriloff and Gould highly recommend turning to hobbyist sites, where people with like interests can meet. Among their favorites is Animal Lovers' Connection, a Web site for singles who love their dogs, cats and other pets.

And for those with a slightly off-beat sense of humor there is The popular public radio auto repair show has a Web site that, among other things, features a personals section in which prospects describe themselves as cars.

Cyberspace romance can be tough not just because there is so much out there to explore. Technology also opens up vast new possibilities for intrigue, Skriloff and Gould say. Suspect your cyber-honey is fooling around? Disguise yourself in a new online persona and try some virtual seduction of the suspected cad. The book describes one woman who did just that.

"She signed on using another name, found him online and entered a chat room that he was in. She flirted shamelessly with him, sent him a private message, and soon he was uttering the familiar phrases and little jokes that she once thought were for her eyes only," the book says.

Related Article
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What are the ethics of this sort of episode — to say nothing of computer features that can tell you whether and when he read your e-mail note, the ability for "he" to very well pose as a "she" online and numerous other questions raised in this high tech smoke-and-mirrors world?

"We think there are parallels to real life," Skriloff says. "If your own ethics would not have you read someone's mail, journal or Filofax, then you are not the kind of person who would take advantage of spying methods that exist online."

Nonetheless, cyber-daters are finding that there are some new rules. In the real world, women — even in the liberated 90's — often expect the guy to make the first phone call. Online, Gould and Skriloff say, the rules of protocol dictate that the man e-mails the woman his phone number, so she makes the first call.

The reason? Safety. Women fearing stalking or worse are more on-guard online than men, according to Trish McDermott, an advice columnist for, and one of the people mentioned in the book's acknowledgments. Therefore, the man should not expect the woman to give out phone numbers, addresses or other such information until the woman is certain the man she has met electronically can be trusted.

And even if the two establish a deep enough bond to want to meet in person, the book — and almost everyone else giving counsel on the subject — advises cyber-daters to make their first real-life encounter in a very public place.

Whatever the new rules, some things don't change. Cybersex may be titillating, but few would say it outshines the real thing. "It's dirty typing and after a while people don't feel like typing," Skriloff says.

And the wait for that "message pending" signal is simply the 1990's contribution to that age-old emotion called lover's agony. "It's just an updated version of staying home to see if the phone would ring," Skriloff says.

DIGITAL METROPOLIS is published weekly, on Mondays. Click here for a list of links to other columns in the series.

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