Oct. 17, 2013 -- Are you a lovelorn farmer? A passionate Persian? A smoldering smoker? An Ayn Rand fan hoping to hook up with someone else Ayn-inclined? Then there's likely an online dating site for you, where you can find a fellow farmer, Persian, smoker or Objectivist (as subscribers to Rand's philosophy are called).
Welcome to extreme niche-dating online.
The Niche Dating Directory offers hundreds of sites sliced and diced every which way, for every conceivable type of love-seeker: HIV-positive, HIV-negative, bodybuilders, the deaf, American Indians, Indian Indians. Indian Indians who live in Indiana.
The appeal of these sites, those who use them say, is obvious: Why not just cut to the chase? If it's important to you to date only other people who are gluten-intolerant, then why tolerate anything less?
As the GlutenfreeSingles's site explains, "Living a gluten-free life can be challenging, especially in a world where gluten-soaked foods are just about everywhere. At GlutenfreeSingles, you are not alone!" Here, "You never have to feel awkward or a burden" and can find gluten-free dating partners."
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The Niche Dating Directory was started by two friends, one with celiac disease and the other with gluten intolerance, who recognized the need for a dating service for singles with similar afflictions. By creating the site, its founders say they hope to help the 3 million people with celiac disease find "long, fulfilling gluten-free relationships."
Likewise, Smoking Passions exists to help smokers light one another's fire. Self-described as "specifically for singles who love smoking," it caters to romance-seekers "tired of people making faces when you light up."
The maestro of online niche dating is Michael Carter, who operates (as of today) 246 dating sites under the umbrella of Passions Network Inc. He calls what he offers super-niche dating.
"We've got probably some of the more unusual ones," he tells ABCNews.com.
Stache Passions, for example, is a Carter-created site for mustache wearers and the people who love (or aspire to love) them. Like all of Carter's sites, Stache Passions is subdivided into still-more-specialized subgroups, so that someone seeking love with a mustache-wearer can zero in on exactly the type of mustache they prefer, for example, Dali, Walrus or Pencil.
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Carter says about 3.5 million people have created profiles on his sites. Any single site is free to join (and is supported by advertising). People who want to join more than one site -- or for that matter, join the entire network -- pay $4.95 a month. Asked if his operation is the largest of its kind, Carter says, "I can't imagine there's anyone who's bigger."
He explains the appeal of super-niche dating this way: It's easier to break the ice with someone else if you have something in common -- a thing for vampires, say, or bodybuilding or ice-fishing. "It gets you over that first hurdle," he says. "With a generic dating site, how do you say hello? What do you talk about?" If, however, you sign up on Vampire Passions and find somebody in the Barnabas Collins subgroup who looks cute, you say, "Whoa, how about that Barnabas Collins?"
Carter says he's amazed by which sites manage to catch fire.
"Brony Passions is probably the most unique site I have. It's for people who are into the cartoon My Little Pony."
When someone first suggested the idea to him, Carter says he thought they were pulling his leg, but he looked into it. "It's mostly guys in college." On its first day in operation Brony Passions registered 10 Facebook "likes." On its third day, the number rose to 3,500.