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This led to the site’s requirement that all members be college-educated young professionals, and for men to have received their degrees from a list of select schools.
Some have called Sparkology elitist, but its exclusivity is dubious: It currently allows alumni of 1,558 colleges to join. The website’s faddish celebration of social science disguises a service characterized by outdated attitudes regarding dating and gender norms.
Frustrations like these are what led me to Sparkology after Googling “best online dating sites” one night following a particularly bad date.
Take, for example, Sparkology’s subscription system. Women pay a monthly fee, whereas men pay each time they message a woman and can only send a certain number of messages per month.
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The idea, which is based on the focus group research, is that men on Sparkology will write higher quality, more personal missives than men on other dating sites who can contact as many women as they want free of charge.
That system, however, has created a certain entitlement among male users—as though you owe them a reply, since they spent to send you a message. When a man sends you a message, Sparkology will email you the following: “Remember, he used one of his limited and pricey Sparks to send this special message specifically to you.
But what I found most off-putting about Sparkology’s version of online dating was the constant assertion that the men on the site were “real gentlemen” of a higher quality than other dating sites (wording taken from the Sparkology FAQ page)—and that, because they’re paying to talk to you, they therefore deserve increased attention and consideration, even though you’re paying to be on the site too.