Being Stalked by an Online Dating Site

Online dating! Why not? For those individuals who are unattached—and even for some of those who aren’t—it’s a common New Year’s resolution to find a romantic companion.

In February, we have a rippin’ Battle of the Brands pitting the two major online dating sites against each other, but that of course neglects the niche dating sites that have piled up like holiday calories. There’s Date a Cougar for young men interested in older women, Ashley Madison for married people who want to cheat, Grindr for gay hookups, Blendr for straight hookups, JDate for people who are Jewish, Geek 2 Geek for the nerd set, Plenty of Fish for the unscrubbed masses, and OKCupid for the young and overly-educated (read: Poor hipsters).

Obviously, I’ve been exploring a lot of dating sites lately—on my work computer to boot, which I hope won’t be an HR problem—and I’ve been getting a lot of dating-related banner ads. The site that’s most prominently featured?

And this is baffling to me because while many of my recent search queries have indeed centered around online dating sites, nothing in my search history—I don’t think—indicates that I’m Christian or that I’m at all spiritual. Of course, I signed up for the service—which paired me with a bunch of women in their 50s based out of New Jersey. So, no, definitely not the sort of dating site that’s right for my lifestyle.

That got me thinking: Shouldn’t marketers for services as personal as dating do a better job of targeting? Now, because the banner ads for showed up on my work computer, on which as a journalist I search for a pretty wide range of queries, I accept that some of the targeting elements might be a little skewed. But still: I research a lot of tech queries and government regulations and marketing campaigns. I book travel. Clearly I’m busy. If anything, I would think would be a better ad to surface than

All of that irritation comes from the marketing journalist in me.

But from a personal standpoint—the standpoint of a consumer still slightly wary of online tracking—I’m actually kind of grateful that whichever network pushed Christianmingle’s banners didn’t know enough about me to send ads from a dating site that is actually relevant to my interests.

So for some products and services—say I’m in the market for a new ski shell—I definitely want targeted ads that present me with more options. But for others that are a little more personal, like online dating, I’d want the marketers to step off and let me figure out what I want by myself.

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