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Mail order brides are something you hear about but rarely take seriously. Its a sleazy and sad yet comedic idea to find love over the internet and bring a foreigner who barely speaks the local tongue overseas in order to marry them. Tragically, western men are making this a  new cultural phenomenon. With the growing popularity of social media sites overseas, meeting a bride from Eastern Europe (Russia and Ukraine) has become much easier. American men are now using VKontakte, the Russian equivalent of Facebook, to find woman from Ukraine and woo them into becoming their wives. I am sure some of the love is real, but it seems to me that the american men are just providing a means of escape for the woman and an opportunity to make it in the States.

Google Images via CC Creative Commons

Google Images via CC Creative Commons

Adrian Chen wrote an interesting article Ukrainin’ Men: How American Men Are Using the Russian Facebook to Find Brides and this phenomenon. And, although it was written a little under a year ago, I have no doubt it does not still hold some truth. In a way, Americans are using VKontakte like a dating website. They create profiles, can browse women’s profiles, and can talk to them, thus planting the seed for a potential relationship. I have always been skeptical of online dating, and especially mail order brides. I just cannot believe that meeting someone on social media and bringing them to the US to marry can in any way foster love or have motivations other than sex and money.

Men apparently debate on message boards which sites have the best potential brides. With booming social media that is free, men no longer have to pay agencies to find them a beautiful eastern European woman. Oddly enough, men think the matchmaking agencies are corrupt and the women on the sites only want to make money. How is finding them on a social media site any different? Motivations do not become transparent when you make a profile on the internet. With social media sites, looking for a bride is like shopping for something online. Men can browse profiles to their hearts content and when they find something they like, they can reach out and try and form a connection.

Google Images via CC Creative Commons

Google Images via CC Creative Commons

VKontakte has approximately 110 million users, making it the top social media site in Eastern Europe easily. One would expect that there would be a higher success rate than 10% of getting a friend request accepted. This is most likely due to that population of creepy gross American men who slink around the web looking for beautiful women and trying to talk to them. They have tainted the reputation of American men on social media sites. And why are American men choosing European woman over American? Chen believes it is because they are more family oriented. I think it has to do with a fear of strong willed women in America. With women becoming more and more successful, they rely less and less on their significant others. Divorced men probably also flock for VKontakte because it is a low risk, high reward potential. WIth a language barrier, hundreds of miles between you, and talking via chat, there is hardly room for embarrassment or harsh rejection. The worse that could happen is the girl will not accept the friend request.

There are a few success stories of men who were able to find love from mail-order-bride services. Chen writes another article called New York’s Most Famous Mail-Order Bride May Conquer All Media. The article profiles Lera Loeb. When she was 21 she married Steve Loeb, a music producer in New York who was 44 at the time. They have been married for 6 years happily and Lera has become a very successful Ukrainian in the States, no doubt because of her husbands connections and money.

So men, if  you are fed up with American dating sites, go Vkontakte. Social media sites are becoming a more popular way to meet a significant other. Will the ease of communicating over social media breed a generation of shyer people who dread face to face flirting?

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2 thoughts on “I do – Westerners seek love on VKontakte

  1. I agree with the author that meeting a mate over the Internet has always been sort of taboo to me as well. However, people form relationships for many, many reasons. Who are we to judge? After reading the article for class about paid sites who foster the mail-order bride system, I kind of thought to myself: “With Facebook, why pay for this?” So it makes sense that the Russian equivalent, VKontakte would be used as a means to meet your potential mate. However, the fact that American men are finding this site to do so is very interesting, and yes, a little disturbing too.
    When I first arrived here, I kept hearing that men think Czech women are the most beautiful in the world. This is hard to believe, and it leaves me questioning whether or not they have ever traveled to Latin America–but I digress. After talking to locals, the average answer I’ve received was that Czech women appear to be “cold” or even, dare I say, “bitchy” looking, which is an attractive quality that men seemed to be drawn to. However, they have “traditional” values, where they believe they are the woman and it is their job to take care of her man—in every sense of the word.
    After doing some traveling, I’ve come to realize that the Central/Eastern European countries have very similar cultures and values. As the author states, American men might be scared of a strong-willed, successful woman, i.e. the American woman. Therefore, finding a woman with strong maternal values would be easier in Eastern Europe. “With social media sites, looking for a bride is like shopping for something online. Men can browse profiles to their hearts content and when they find something they like, they can reach out and try and form a connection.” It’s like an auction on eBay, or Quibbids!
    At the end of the day, there are women all over the world—not just in Eastern Europe, that would gladly trade their lives in for a swanky apartment in the “Home of the Brave” and many men who wouldn’t mind learning a new language, especially if it comes with a hot new woman, who can make a hot meal and provide a foot rub. I don’t think that social media has destroyed dating. It has simply provided a new way of people who might be shy or busy to meet people. It isn’t very different then the “traditional” way, either. Whether your scanning profile webpages or walking passed the bar stools, a first impression is a first impression. Even if two people meet through social media, it takes a real connection—or in this case, a mutual understanding, to make things last after you step away from the screen.

  2. For the past week, I’ve been thumbing through internet dating pages and researching the online-dating craze for my social media project (I swear!). I’ve spoken with friends, students, professors, and even one of the sites’ founders. In the past, I had the same sentiment toward dating sites as the majority of the condescending world. I thought that they were virtual communities for desperate, pathetic, and probably weird people to find one another, meet, and possibly live happily-ever-after. Also, I figured that they were rarely successful. Back in the states over winter break, however, one of my high-school classmates told me she paid $50 one month to meet guys on the web, since she was fed up with the other 15,000 guys at her school. She recounted some interesting stories about meeting pretty successful men, keeping in mind that they were recent college graduates. She also got a few free meals, so she may have even broken even on the $50. Here in Prague, after speaking with peers and other people, whom I think highly of, I discovered that normal people do indeed experiment with this embarrassing phenomenon. Frankly, although I’ve eased up a bit on my negative sentiments, I still don’t believe it’s one of the the least romantic places to find love.
    Based on the conversations I had last week, for most youth dating sites like Okcupid.com and hotnot.cz are pages that people use for “no-strings-attached” relationships. “Creepy gross American men” use them, but so do beautiful young Czech and American women and men. Dating sites are beginning to shake off some of the negative connotation that they’ve had in the last decade and are beginning to flourish world-wide, especially with the global expansion and acceptance of social networking sites like Facebook, Vkontakte, and their cousins. Simultaneously, while dating sites are becoming more tolerable, social networking sites are also doubling-up on function. Adrian Chen writes about how men use Facebook to find international brides and Phebe mentions how an increasing number of users create Vkontakte profiles for the same purpose. In general, the internet-love industry is seeing some serious growth all around.
    One Czech university student recalls when he was around 16-years-old, a site called libimseti.cz, which was a dating site used primarily by youth to meet strangers and flirt. The site also allowed people to post photos of themselves and to keep in contact with their other friends who had profiles. In a way, it was the predecessor to Facebook in the Czech Republic. In fact, he believes that one of the reasons libimseti has been forgotten so quickly is partially because of Facebook’s recent dominance of the social networking sphere. When I spoke with a 26-year-old Czech woman, who uses several online-dating services, she told me that she preferred international dating sites to meet more men and Western men in particular. Unlike the poor Ukrainian and Russian women that Chen mentions in his article, this Czech is not unsuccessful or weak-willed; she just wants a diverse selection to choose from. The billions Facebook users around the world, make it a very attractive device for those seeking love online.
    Although I don’t think that Facebook or VKontakte are used primarily as dating sites, I do think that it’s popularity for the purpose of meeting potential partners is developing, and I think it could be a good thing. Unlike dating sites, where people can create their profiles, and market themselves in the best way possible, social networking sites have this and more. Social networking sites provide more information, particularly the network that the potential candidate is in. The profile and network can help make or break a potential date, because whom you hang out with tells a great deal about oneself, at least I think so. Facebook or VKontakte activity can also say a lot about a person. For instance if a person posts several inane or extremely emotional statuses, he or she is most likely vulnerable or hungry for attention. If it were me, I’d cross these potential dates off of my list and move on to the next single person.
    Phebe asks if social media conversations will breed a generation of shyer people, who are afraid to flirt in person. Obviously, there’s no way to tell but through time, but I think that it will. Already people prefer to send SMS instead of calling someone on the phone. A few of my good friends have even expressed anxiety over calling a friend’s landline, because there was a possibility that someone other than her friend would answer. Even I prefer to send a flirty text or Facebook message rather than come up with a cute line in person, just because I can take more time being creative and witty. Plus I don’t have to see the other person’s reaction if my line was a dud. Although I could never see myself “falling in love” online, a clever or creative electronic message could spark my interest. That being said, I still don’t think I’ll join any internet dating sites, at least not for now.

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