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witness the rise of the "dating ghostwriter." For a fee, a staffer at Atlanta-based Virtual Dating Assistants will canvass online romance sites and send flirtatiously formulaic messages to dozens of potential matches.

Could this dreary scenario really be the future of online romance?

(Watch a local report about Virtual Dating Assistants) How much does Virtual Dating Assistants charge?

For 0 a month, the Atlanta-based firm guarantees two dates a month.

While that may seem steep, a company spokesperson calls it comparable to the ",000 or more a year" charged by professional matchmakers. This particular company employs 45 "Cyranos-for-hire," paid for every "positive response" he or she elicits from a potential date. Virtual Dating Assistants says 80 percent of their clients are guys. First, they interview the client and draft a profile on approval.

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For those who find online dating too time-consuming, it can be an excellent choice.

"Richard," a Virtual Dating Assistants client interviewed in , says it doesn't make sense, "just from a cost-benefit analysis," for him to do things "that are purely almost secretarial." Another says it's a good way to avoid the shame of being "routinely rebuffed" by browsing daters. Some look at your profile and don't even read your message before deleting it." What do potential dates think about it?

Maybe it's just me, but I've always found online dating sites a bit artificial.

(Yes, I am old enough to remember the development of personal ads in the newspaper—this applies to them too.) Look at this way: I consider myself a very introverted person, not fantastic to look at, and even I seem to meet fascinating, intelligent, attractive women quite often.

Statistically speaking, I'm sure most of the millions of people who use online dating sites must be less introverted than me, so what can be their problem?

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  1. Silive reporter interviews three women who endure everything from obscene sexual requests to scandalous photographs as they navigate the online dating scene. Charley Ferrer says face-to-face intereaction is the way to go. MOVING FAST IS CREEPY For the last four months Elizabeth Geoghegan says she hasn't found anything promising about her digital dates.