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"Advertising for a husband or wife has always attracted criticism and the people who did it were always thought of as failures in some way.

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Personal ads went mainstream in the early 20th century, with expectations at a much lower level than their earlier incarnations.Many of the postings were simply calls for friends or pen pals, becoming especially popular among single servicemen, called "lonely soldiers," during World War I.More and more elements of people's lives, including love, have gone online in the last few years, and self-promotion on the Internet in general is now just a fact of life."Short self-descriptions aren't only the preserve of Internet daters, they are also the essence of things like Facebook and other social networking sites," said Cocks."You probably wouldn't talk about it if you were very respectable," he said.

The personals sections of those 18th century newspapers were also useful for gay men and women to meet lovers, back when homosexuality was still illegal (it remained so in the UK until 1967).

The difference between the personal ads of the previous centuries and today's is the age of those using Internet dating sites, according to statistics.

The core demographic of those publicly "looking for love" has been turned on its head, with people settling down and marrying much later (if at all) in Western cultures.

Internet dating is just the modern version of the first "matrimonial" agencies of the 1700s, which helped lonely bachelors search for wives through printed ads, said author H. Cocks, a history lecturer at the University of Nottingham, UK.

In between, the social acceptance of personals has waxed and waned with the times.

From shameful to bohemian and cool It only took a few decades after the invention of the modern newspaper in 1690 for the new medium to become a way for people to meet in Britain.