Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Dr. Neil Clark Warren Bio, Founder of eHarmony

A psychologist and theologian, Dr Neil Clark Warren is the chairman, co-founder, and public face of the online dating service eHarmony. A graduate of Pepperdine University, Princeton Theological Seminary, and the University of Chicago, Warren was a dean at the Fuller Theological Seminary before starting eHarmony in 2000. While many online dating services are either hands-off in their approach -- offering a means of communication and advertisement and little else -- or overtly focus on short-term dating, eHarmony is unusual in that it is explicitly marriage-minded. The site builds on Warren's writing about marriage and relationships, while attempting to further his goal of reducing the divorce rate -- not by discouraging divorce specifically, but by attempting to build stronger relationships, so that more marriages will occur among the truly compatible whose relationships will stand the test of time.

It remains to be seen, of course, whether eHarmony couples will outlast other couples -- the site simply has not been around long enough for there to be a significant amount of data. But it has certainly done well in the meantime, with word of mouth spreading rapidly; it is one of the few dating services prosperous enough to afford major-network television ads. The service uses a lengthy questionnaire in order to determine a customer's personality and measure hypothetical couples according to Warren's "29 dimensions of compatibility" -- which are grouped into "character," "personality," "emotional skills," and "family and values." One major difference between eHarmony and other online dating services is that eHarmony customers cannot browse profiles -- a list of possible matches is provided by the service based on comparisons of questionnaire results cross-referenced with each customer's stated preferences (in terms of age, geography, et cetera), and the user may then browse this subset.

As an evangelical Christian, Warren enjoyed a great deal of support on Christian radio and among "family values" groups, and he has appeared on numerous talk shows to promote both the service and his self-help books. Beginning in 2005, eHarmony began to distance itself from the conservative Christian community while seeking greater mainstream awareness and involvement. The service has come under criticism for its selective practices: in addition to rejecting some customers based on their questionnaire responses, the service is exclusively heterosexual, and is currently facing a lawsuit for excluding same-sex matches. Warren counters that this exclusivity is key to eHarmony's success -- in essence, that some matches cannot be made, when marriage is the end goal (customers are also refused if they are already married, suffer from severed depression, have had more than two divorces, or are under 21).

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