Is your idea of a good date dinner, a movie, and a passionate debate about whether Gul Dukat, even though he hurt a lot of Bajorans while commanding Terok Nor, is good or evil? Well, you’re in luck.
“Set phasers to stunning and if that doesn’t work set them to stun!” encourages StarTrekDating.com, one of a number of dating websites that have beamed online in recent years to help Star Trek and sci-fi enthusiasts find love. “If you’re a sci-fi fan and want to meet your Borg Queen or Captain Kirk, try it now!”
“Welcome to a dating community that is light years ahead of others,” teases the homepage for TrekkieDating.com. “Find like-minded friends, romance, and convention dates with other Trekkies TODAY!”
On TrekPassions.com, one 22-year-old user from Texas headlines his profile: “Beam me up…to the attractive Trekkies:)” He goes on to say, “I love Star Trek TOS”—that stands for The Original Series, for the uninitiated—“Makes paying for Netflix worth it all by itself. Come watch it with me? Maybe some NG?” (That’s Next Generation.)
There are a lot of singles in this galaxy, and increasingly they seem to be turning at warp speed to niche dating sites focused on matching users based on hyperspecific interests—like, say, an intense love of Star Trek. In his book Love in the Time of Algorithms, Dan Slater writes that roughly 15 million users in North America alone used interest-specific dating sites in 2011, proof of the shift from the “bookend theory” popularized by Match.com, on which the goal was to win over every “book” on the shelf, to these niche sites. The appeal: they are “judgment-free zones where the like-minded can mingle freely and furtively.”
Count Trekkies among the group giving that idea the Vulcan salute.
“Star Trek fans are nerds,” says Oliver Gough, owner of StarTrekDating.com. “They know what they’re looking for.” Sites like Match.com are too broad for the kinds of hyperenthusiastic people who use his service, he says. After all, these are people who “nine times out of 10 post pictures of themselves Photoshopped on the starship.”
One user, referring to himself as “Spockstar,” confirmed that theory in a recent email, writing that “the Trekkie scene in Australia is getting pretty huge” and that joining the site has helped him find dates for conventions. Another user named Victoria Levitt wrote that she joined the site because has a “soft spot for geeks!” and thought a Star Trek–themed dating service would be the place to find them. “I’ve been chatting with a few guys and I have a date lined up next week.”
Please, Victoria, not in front of the Klingons.
And you don’t have to be fluent in Andorii to enjoy a niche dating website. “It sort of reminds me of every different color of crayon in the crayon box,” says online dating expert Julie Spira, founder of CyberDatingExpert.com. “There’s a different kind of site for everybody these days. Finding something that is unique about yourself that you can share with someone else is really important.”
Care to debate the merits of Deep Space Nine versus The Next Generation? Head to one of the Star Trek–themed sites listed in this piece. Enamored of men with mustaches? There’s a place for you. Perhaps you have a mullet and want to meet people who are into that kind of thing. Look no further. And then there’s MeetaCowboy.com, which speaks for itself.“Nothing is too crazy. Nothing is too strange,” says Frank Farkas, marketing assistant at First Beat Media—which owns a large portfolio of dating niche websites—and creator of TrekkiesDating.com. Still, there’s something about the Star Trek fan community that makes sites celebrating them thrive. “These aren’t people who have just seen a few episodes and moved on,” Farkas says. “They’re hard-core. They go to conventions. They dress up. They worship the show.”
In that regard, Star Trek isn’t just the perfect icebreaker to ease the awkwardness of an online meet-cute. It’s a uniting passion. “Go to generic sites like Match.com or eHarmony.com, and it’s harder to find someone you have this much in common with or someone with an interest you can latch on to that says we’re this similar,” Farkas says.
But not everyone buys that idea. A mutual quirky interest or shared obsession over the same movie predicts nothing about a potential couple’s future compatibility, says dating coach and author Evan Marc Katz. That both parties enjoy Star Trek has no bearing on whether they’re going to be devoted partners or argue a lot or be able to support each financially other decades from now.
“Tell me how many grandparents stayed together because they both like Lawrence Welk,” he says. “You want to go to a Star Trek convention? Go without your wife and have fun.” Putting so much stock in one interest rules out 90 percent of the people you could meet on a broader site that considers Vulcan fetishes as just one of many other equally (OK, perhaps more) important traits. “You end up with these small pools of people and matches where one person is 30 and one is 60, or one is in Greensboro and one is another country,” he says. “I wish all the sites well, but I would never recommend a client join one.”
Still, there are sci-fi success stories. Michael Carter, president of Passions Network, which owns TrekPassions.com, says one of the most routine reasons people write him to cancel their StarTrekDating.com accounts is that they found a match. Spira points to the adorable story of Sophie and Trevor, chronicled on FacebookLoveStories.com. She lived in Indiana; he was from Indiana. They met through a Star Wars fan page on Facebook, began collaborating on fan fiction, decided to meet for an international date in Berlin, transatlantic commuted for several years, and married in 2012. So if you’re a Spock looking for your Uhura, may the force be with you.
But with so many niche dating websites out there—stripper lovers seeking strippers; farmer crushers looking for a man who can wield a hoe—why is the idea of Trekkies looking for love online so fascinating?
“Whenever there’s a site that’s outside a more traditional niche like religion or politics, it becomes easier to make fun of,” says Carter. Of course, the owners of the services don’t mind the teasing. Soon after TrekPassions.com’s launch in 2004, Conan O’Brien caught wind of the site and mentioned it in the opening monologue of his show. “He said the site is going great, and they hope now a girl will join,” Carter remembers. A hundred people signed up in the next five minutes. A link to the site was passed among Star Trek forums, and membership continued to surge. Farkas has a similar story about when Tosh.0 featured TrekkieDating.com on its blog.
“It’s become more fashionable to be a geek in the past five or six years,” says Gough, citing the popularity of TV shows like The Big Bang Theory and the mainstream interest in the upcoming Star Trek film. “But at the same time, a lot of these people are still single, and they’re looking for that payoff.”
So love long and prosper.