Last night ITV ran a Tonight special on online dating, called Looking for Love.
The hour-long show offered up a fairly general overview of the subject, meeting those who use online dating, and looking at both the good and the bad aspects of the industry.
It began with the startling fact that at the start of the millennium just 100,000 people in the UK were using online dating – a figure that is now 9m.
This was used as a base for a broad commentary on the industry – looking at its rise, the loss of its stigma, and the social impact its prevalence has had on human relationships.
ITV, and presenter Jonathan Maitland, anchored this analysis with personal stories of those who have taken to the web in search of love.
Engaged online daters, Jude Clark and Richard Smith (Credit: ITV/Tonight)
Maitland speaks to young users of Tinder, engaged online daters, victims of fraudsters and scammers, and a daunted would-be online dater.
He also speaks to Ryan Pitcher, an ex-GlobalPersonals employee, who featured in the BBC and Channel 4 reports on fake profiles in the industry earlier this year.
Pitcher again spoke again of his time at the company but his inclusion, though certainly warranted, in some ways emphasised the deficiencies of the program.
It felt like both a reaction to the BBC and Channel 4 reports and an attempt to offer a wider overview, but by doing so felt somewhat watered down – offering broad strokes social commentary without really delving into the most interesting subjects it touched on.
Perhaps of most interest to GDI readers was Maitland’s visit to Cologne iDate, where he spoke to Mark Brooks and Evan Back from AshleyMadison.
Back gave the show its most interesting exchanges, but just as one felt the show had latched onto a pursuable storyline, it switched attention to a different subject.
Maitland and Evan Back, AshleyMadison (Credit: ITV/Tonight)
While I understand an industry magazine bemoaning the lack of depth in an ITV special may seem predictable, but I imagine those outside the industry might feel the same way.
The show’s best moment came when they looked at romance scams and talked to a victim, Sonia Richards.
Maitland himself said it seemed incredible that given the media attention of such scams, people still fall into the traps.
So it was very interesting when he spoke to DC Mark Newnham, from Devon & Cornwall Police, who said they had found 60 people from Plymouth postcodes sending money to Nigeria – all but one of which were romance scams.
And as they spoke to Sonia, a victim of one of these scams, it offered an apt reminder that beyond the margins, technology and statistics, this is an industry built on very personal foundations.
Watch the program here.