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Predicting dating trends for the future has new resonance these days, as some of my more meddlesome – sorry, enthusiastic – friends are threatening to “fix me up”. By this I mean introduce me to eligible bachelors. By eligible, since I haven’t presented them with a wish list of ideal personality traits, I presume they mean alive. (Actually, I have one non-negotiable criterion. As it says in the immortal disco ditty: “You’ve got to have a J-O-B if you want to be with me.” A fat trust fund is nice, but a sense of purpose is preferable.)

I’m wary about my friends’ intentions, but I’m also retro enough to subscribe to the South Pacific school of coup de foudre – ie: some enchanted evening I may meet a stranger across a crowded room – so I suppose their rooms are as good as any.

As it has been a decade or more since I last played the field, I was pleased to discover the online magazine Tango, which devotes itself entirely to love. And there, honouring the new year’s arrival, was an enlightening bit of trend forecasting peering into the future of dating in this age of technology.

Apparently that no longer means badgering the phone company to test your line in order to fathom why he didn’t call. Rejection has moved on. Now he can not only not call (land and mobile), he can not text, not instant message, not pop or poke or pinch you in Facebook, and not post a video of himself reciting love poems on YouTube.

Generally I’m unshockable. Why, just this week I was consumed with interest by Pamela Stephenson Connolly’s advice about vaginal atrophy. (What a marvellous phrase! I vow to employ it as often as possible in 2008.) Yet even I admit to being startled to learn just how much the world of rumpy-pumpy has progressed.

Sure, I know how sex tapes make their way into cyberspace, and know, too, that amateurs are busy getting down to business in front of home webcams. (I’ve never seen the appeal. Give me professionals any day. I don’t want to see any mistakes.)

But I truly had no idea that there’s a roaring trade in sex toys that can be controlled remotely, via computer. So while your partner’s out of town at that sales convention, thanks to WiFi there’s no excuse for not nipping back to his room to tickle your fancy. (Won’t do much for the diminishing birth rate, but you can’t have everything.)

It’s also predicted that within five years, first dates will mostly occur online, via video. Initially I bristled at the notion, but it’s growing on me. Cyril Connolly might have warned about the pram in the hall, but, for my money, the shared bathroom is the single most potent passion quencher on earth. Video dating means never having to say I’m sorry I had the garlic. And think what a boon it’ll be for people with poor personal hygiene: they’ll score like never before.

We’ll also do more dating in virtual reality, both as ourselves and in avatar form, via sites such as Second Life, which is something of a double negative, since most people present a false dating self anyway – at least in the early stages when trying to seal the deal. And I haven’t even begun discussing the prediction that by 2050 we’ll all be bonking extremely lifelike robots before sending them off to finish the housework. The bigger question is: if we’re dating up a storm in Second Life, what will happen to our first life? Babies denied the human touch fail to thrive. I haven’t seen research supporting my thesis, but experience tells me that if we go too long without loving contact, something dies inside grown-ups, too.

(NewsScotsman)