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Be Mine Online

Today, more than any other day of the year, hearts are touched for the first time or possibly broken forever, sparks fly and rejections consume the lives of University students. This Valentine's Day, however, students can check out who's checking them out without the risk of rejection. Welcome to eCRUSH.com.

This is not the matchmaking site for the weak of heart. It is a free service that uses computerized technology to answer the age-old question: "Would he or she go out with me?" in a safe and rejection-free way. Instead of blindly matching up strangers, like other personals sites, eCRUSH plays the role of an electronic note passer and icebreaker between two possible lovebirds.

Through a short and uninvolved process, users register for free on eCRUSH and, through the secrecy of their own PC, enter the names and e-mail addresses of their romantic interests. Then, eCRUSH sends an anonymous e-mail to the secret crushes under the name maggie@ecrush.com explaining that someone listed them as their "eCRUSH."

Flattered or disgusted recipients are encouraged by "maggie" to return to the site and enter their own eCRUSHes. A match occurs when two people list each other.

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    Instantly, "maggie" sends an e-mail to both parties saying: "Love is in the air ... or at least on the Web! An eCRUSH of yours feels the same about you - the two of you have matched up!" Instructions then lead users to the site's "Match Lounge," where the mutual eCRUSHes' names are unveiled. The site advises users to "Try not to steam up the computer screen too much."

    The site has done the dirty work and now allows the user to make those sparks fly.

    If, however, a match is not made, both parties remain anonymous and avoid the humiliation of unrequited love.

    "Let's face it, if you don't have a significant other, Valentine's Day can be 10 times worse than a typical Saturday night alone," eCRUSH.com President Karen DeMars said.

    While eCRUSH attempts to break the ice for some lovers today, there still are those who will remain dateless. Others will contend that this holiday is over-commercialized and is just another excuse for producers to sell insane amounts of chocolate hearts, balloons and red roses.

    "If you do have a date," DeMars said, "you're under tons of pressure to spend a small fortune on cards and candy. To counter this, we've created a special section that welcomes lovers, loners and penny pinchers alike."

    Special Valentine's Day-related features now appearing on the site include Virtual Candy Hearts (because the site claims the real ones taste like chalk) and Virtual Valentines that reflect a range of sentiments from the traditional "Be My Valentine" to the downright bitter and pessimistic "Valentine's Day is for Suckers."

    Don't forget, the basic eCRUSH concept works year- round for crushes of any kind, whether they are inspired by a holiday or come straight from the heart.

    Since its Valentine's Day 1999 launch, more than 1.5 million people have joined the service, resulting in over 300,000 matches. Singles Clark Benson and Karen DeMars, high school friends but not lovers, founded the San Francisco-based site, which gains its support through advertising, licensing and sponsorship.

    According to spokeswoman Kristen Whipple, the Web labeled eCRUSH "a sticky site," one where people do not simply go on, register and leave. They keep coming back.

    "There are a lot of people on this site, with an average time being 17 minutes, which is huge," Whipple said. "We are constantly adding new features to attract new users and bring already registered users back. Our record number of crushes sent is by a 16-year-old male who has sent 249."

    Site features include a number of fun and unique pages such as Advice Girl - a straight talking, bring-your-own-couch pseudo-therapist of the Web who shares her voice of reason on dating sob stories, confused love triangles and the run-of-the-mill "how do I get him to notice me?" questions. Horror Date is another feature that compiles a list of user-submitted worst date experiences. Celebrity Fantasy Crush is a real-time list of the top 10 most crushable celebrities (dominated by boy band stars), while Throw Me a Line is a celebration of pickup lines used and abused by eCRUSH users.

    But even with the site's record number of visitors, not all are convinced that these less than traditional crushes are the way to go.

    "This is just another thing that the Internet is taking over and making more impersonal," first-year College student Jess Melnicove said. "It's more flattering when the person who wants to get to know you isn't hiding behind a screen and a fake e-mail."

    Third-year Engineering student Bryan Dick agreed.

    "It's a little flattering, but at the same time too anonymous and sketchy," Dick said. "If you have a crush on someone, just sack up enough courage and tell them yourself. Don't go through an Internet site."

    So not everyone at the University is sold on eCRUSH's plans to revolutionize the age-old art of saying "I love you," but it sure adds some excitement to the overflow of junk mail students receive.

    Whether you end up indulging in this newest fad and sending an eCRUSH or remain traditionally romantic, just remember - Valentine's Day is just another day.

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