With usernames that aren't particularly sexy - think Veganqueen and Positivelyidealist - and profile pics that would hardly qualify as arousing - a man struggling with a mud-lodged SUV in Sudan and another hunched over in a canoe in an East Indian bog - do-gooders are finding new ways of hooking up through a burgeoning crop of online dating sites.
There are humanitarian aid workers, who exchange war stories, medical advice and
impassioned blog posts on subjects such as China's oppressive regime on Humanitariandating.com. There are raw foodists and animal-rights activists who connect on Planetearthsingles.com. And there are "vegan vixens" and "eco warriors" who "simply want to make a better world" - and flirt - on Ethicalsingles.com.
Tibetan Buddhist prayer flags billow on the homepage of Humanitariandating.com, which now counts 3,300 members from more than 100 countries. Much like Facebook, Humanitarian Dating includes photo albums, friend lists and privacy settings. But unlike Facebook, it is rife with thoughtful blog posts and profile pics of members carrying out humanitarian work - not posed, lecherous or drunk.
"I just think they're a much nicer group of people on my site," said Robert Simpson, a 37-year-old emergency program co-ordinator from Australia. He launched the not-for-profit site with his wife, Tamara Prinsenberg, in 2006.
The two met during Doctors Without Borders briefings eight years ago in Amsterdam, where they now live together with their son, David.
Mr. Simpson says dating is a challenge for many aid workers because they are scattered around the world on contracts.
Elijah Spencer, a 25-year-old New Jersey man who is finishing his medical studies in Mexico after working there in free mobile clinics, has met two women, he says. But one lives in Mexico City and the other in Wisconsin. Distance has made intimate connection difficult for Mr. Spencer, as for many NGO workers.
C. Stern, 40, had more luck: She found her crush on the site five months ago, a man she had long "admired" for his reunification programs in Liberia. Ms. Stern, who asked that her full name not be used, runs a gifted program for displaced children in Liberia: She was thrilled by the chance run-in with her peer online. Aside from a "spat" the two suffered last week after Ms. Stern refused to turn on her Skype camera during a late-night chat, the online relationship has been going on for several months.
"There's definitely a much higher level of drama. At the same time, you still fight about the same stupid things," she said.
But unlike a typical boyfriend who might complain about his day at the office, the men Ms. Stern meets on the site text her messages like, "What are the symptoms of meningitis?"
Ms. Stern says it is all part of the appeal.
"My relationships in the past have been with very steady, emotionally even men, not independent risk takers. What I'm finding on Humanitariandating.com is that the men are actually more like me in temperament. And while it's a better match lifestyle-wise, it definitely results in more power struggles."
Most who use ethically-minded dating sites deny a superiority complex: They say the sites simply attract others with similar interests.
"Particularly in the activist organizations ... it becomes a culture within itself and sometimes it becomes difficult to relate to other people. They have trouble going back into their own societies once they've finished working overseas for a while," Mr. Simpson said.
Susie Bissell says that while people who "want to make a better world do not necessarily make better boyfriends or girlfriends, they are likely to be better suited to each other."
Ms. Bissell launched Ethicalsingles.com in London, England, in July, 2007. The site now has about 700 members.
"The common values of compassion, justice and foresight in our members set us apart from other sites," Ms. Bissell said.
Ethical Singles is built around an extremely detailed matchmaking search. "Organic farmers" and "pacifists" are asked about everything from their interests, which include astrology, bird watching, discos and volunteering, to their eye colour, build - slim, stocky or a few extra pounds - and even social class.
Equally rigorous is Planetearthsingles.com. Launched by former Mount Shasta, Calif., dating consultant Jill Crosby on Earth Day 2006, the site now counts more than 32,000 eco-friendly members. To join, members must answer an essay question on their passions and beliefs; they are also encouraged to complete a compatibility test and a "sexual IQ" form.
Asked if she feels environmentalists make better boyfriends and girlfriends, Ms. Crosby said, "Yes, definitely. How people conduct themselves in the world is a direct reflection on how they will behave in a relationship."
Ms. Crosby admits that meeting fellow environmentalists "can be a slight challenge." The turnoffs with non-environmentalists are numerous and include "a hamburger at McDonald's, not recycling, wasting water or driving when walking or biking would do just fine."
Jane Luna, 39, met her husband Frank, 36, through the site. Ms. Luna, a volunteer co-ordinator for a grassroots therapy-dog program for cancer patients in San Diego, was captivated by his profile pic and the self-deprecating video he posted. As well, his essay mentioned his love of hiking, biking and recycling. Ms. Luna e-mailed soon after.
The two went on several dates and celebrated their six-month anniversary in October.
Before Planet Earth Singles, Ms. Luna was trying her luck on Match.com, a generic dating site where the shirtless pics left her cold. On one date, she cycled with a man who threw three plastic water bottles in the garbage cans they passed. After Ms. Luna gently suggested he put them in his backpack for later recycling, the man said it was "too much of a pain."
Many of Ms. Luna's friends were surprised to hear that she had found a husband on a niche dating site aimed at green souls.
But Ms. Luna said the ability to scout dates for their attitudes toward Smart Cars and composting on Planet Earth Singles was vital to finding her soulmate. Now that she's found him, she's off the site but "grateful for it."
I am a: Female
About me: I barely survived growing up wild in the deep south, moved myself to Hollywood for the beautiful life, and stumbled into ecstasy in the heart of West Africa. I now split my time between Los Angeles and Africa, as a writer/producer who also works in post-conflict strategies. I do well by doing good. I love being offgrid and online.
I am a: Male
About me: I'm a medical student currently finishing up my degree in Guadalajara, Mexico. I love the outdoors, traveling, extreme sports, third-world public health, working with people, learning different cultures and using medicine to help those less fortunate.Report Typo/Error