If you’re thinking about getting your feet wet in the wild and wonderful world of online dating, you’re probably not sure where to start. And, even if you’ve been doing online dating for a while with mixed results you might want to try a different site and see where that might take you…
The interesting thing I’ve noticed when talking to people about their online dating stories is that the quality of certain dating sites vary by location. For example, where I live, Match and eHarmony dominate. Other parts of the country seem to have much more participation on Plenty of Fish or OK Cupid, for example. I also think that your age plays a factor. Certain sites are definitely geared to 20-somethings versus those of us in our 30-s and 40′s. You might want to talk with some fellow local daters who you feel have something in common with your lifestyle to see what sites are the most popular in your area.
The fact of the matter is that dating is a numbers game if you’re looking for “the one.” And, it’s important to figure out your dating style when trying to determine which site is right for you? Certain sites lend themselves more naturally toward playing the field than others do (you’ll have lots of dates with a wide variety of people). Other sites are very marriage minded and go for quality of the match over quantity of the potential pool of people, some sites narrow even further to your special interests (religion, activities, etc). So, each dater really needs to think through what their ultimate goal might be and then use that as their guide to choosing an online dating site.
I’ve combed through a variety of site reviews and here’s where things seem to be netting out:
Match.com: On Match, you get off and running quickly and the options are endless (15 million members). A quick head shot and the completion of a boilerplate questionnaire are your only tickets to entry. Match.com offers no restrictions on access to other members. There is no filtering done by the system itself, you set simple biographical parameters (age, orientation, etc), and can contact anyone that turns up in the member database. Match.com is the perfect choice for anyone who wants to play the field widely and date extensively.
eHarmony: At eHarmony.com, the matching is done for you. You complete a personality profile and their psychology grounded algorithms pair you with likely matches. Thus, right away, your universe of potential matches is heavily restricted. From there, the system is geared toward a significant degree of “guided interaction” before you ever begin conversing with somebody that you’re interested in. Eharmony is perfect for people who don’t feel comfortable playing the field widely, but rather narrrowly tailoring their search to a particular personality type, and spending an extensive amount of effort on the front end to make sure there’s decent potential in your matches.
OkCupid: OkCupid, is actually the fastest-growing online dating site (with about 1.5 million users in all) and it’s FREE. I think it owes its growth both to the free factor, the fact that it attracts predominantly 20-something daters and its cool matching system. Generally, it attracts mostly casual daters. Any time throughout your membership, you can answer multiple-choice questions about your ethical, political, and relationship views. Then you select the answer for your ideal match and how important your match’s answer is to you (irrelevant, a little important, somewhat important, very important, mandatory). An equation automatically then matches you based off of your responses. Pretty interesting!
HowAboutWe: I had never heard of this one before, but thought I’d throw it in. HowAboutWe is a start-up based out in Brooklyn. It’s affordable (only $8 a month) and at the top of your profile are the words “How about we…” with an empty text box waiting for you to fill it in with a date you want to go on. One you say “How about we go rock climbing? or “How about we enjoy a boozey brunch?,” you search for other awesome dates (as opposed to searching soley on profile information). Of course, you get some information on the daters and can check out their pics, but the idea is that the system will help you “find people who like the same places and want to do the same things as you.” A neat alternative approach.
Opposites Connect: Unlike the more traditional dating sites, this site is fueled on the premise that “opposites attract.” Instead of being scientifically matched with someone who is similar to you this site pairs you with someone who has different interests. Interestingly, for many people, failed relationships are caused by dating the same type of people over and over again. With this site it is almost guaranteed that you will meet a different type of person which you would not normally select for yourself.
JDate and CatholicMatch: While I’m only providing a couple of examples of faith-based dating sites here, if you are looking for a faith-based online environment to start a new relationship there are a wide variety of matchmaking sites for all types of religious beliefs. JDate and Catholic Match operate similarly to Match.com in that you can create your own profile, upload pictures, etc … Catholic Match in particular is very community based with forums and message boards. These smaller niche sites are a great resource for singles who care about religion and/or have a strong sense of culture, community and heritage. The ability to connect with people who share similar backgrounds, traditions and values makes individuals feel more at home and at ease when online dating.
Plenty of Fish: This site got its start in 2003 and is now the world’s largest free dating site. Currently they have more than 30 million registered members, primarily from the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom. There are a variety of people on the site actively looking for a partner – though most seem to be casual daters. The site has all the features that you would expect from an online dating service, including private messages, instant messaging, searching and a chemistry-automated matching system. PlentyofFish also has a unique feature that allows you to prevent communication from certain users that don’t meet your specific message or profile requirements.
So, which site is best for you? What sites have you all tried? Which did you like the best?
Photo credit: Mike Licht, NotionsCapital.com’s Flickr photostream