We are approaching the tipping point where online dating has become completely acceptable. From Grandmas, divorcees, single 20 and 30-somethings, to those that have never had a relationship before, more people than ever are trying online dating. Why? Because it works. 44 million Americans are using online dating sites (about 40% of singles) and more than a third of marriages started online, and those numbers are only going to increase.
I met my husband on Match. He was living in Hawaii and I was living in San Francisco when he first messaged me. Strangely enough he had lived in San Francisco a couple years ago too, but we never met. We both admitted we may not have even been interested in each other if we had met then anyways – I wasn’t looking for anything long-term and he was engaged to someone else. Plus, he was weary of artists because they tend to be flaky, and I wouldn’t have been thrilled to date a military man that was going to move somewhere else in a couple years when I was going to school and just getting my career off the ground. It was the Internet that provided a unique space for us to connect. And at that point I was ready to meet the one.
I had done online dating on and off for the last 5 years. I liked it because I met people that I wouldn’t have otherwise crossed paths. And, for me at least, I found I got more results for the time spent – the amount of success I had finding a guy I wanted to date was usually much greater than when I went out at night. Probably because I tended to have my guard up a little when guys I didn’t know spoke to me. And I didn’t like nightclubs or bars. But that’s me. I can be reserved around strangers, I’m soft-spoken and don’t particularly enjoy loud places because no one can hear what I’m saying (and I think it’s vulgar when women shout), and, as fun as drunk evenings are, when I’m looking for someone to date, I’d rather be sober. The events I attended weren’t great for dating either; often they were related to academics or the people there were among my circle of friends. Because of the unspoken rules about dating a friend of an ex or a friend’s ex (learned that one the hard way), my options there were limited.
So I had my “ground game,” which to be honest was sort of lousy and depended heavily on chance, or fate. And I had my “air game,” which I felt I could participate in a lot more and made me excited. I could put down exactly what I was looking for so there was no confusion, and I could search for men that wanted the same thing, and do it all at my own pace.
There’s so many options online for all kinds of people to meet someone who would be a good fit for them. Here are some examples of commonly used dating sites (not including the countless chat rooms, forums, and other ways people make romantic connections online and then meet in the real world):
– Match: the largest relationship-oriented dating site for vanilla-ish people who may or may not be religious. Reasonably good filters result in relevant matches. For 18 and over.
– eHarmony: primarily used by marriage-minded or religious people that are 21 and over. Generally, because of the selection process, there are fewer potential partners to choose from.
– Compatible Partners: relationship-minded dating for gays and lesbians. An off-shoot of eHarmony.
– OkCupid: the best site for the non-traditional, unconventional, and those anywhere in Queer category, looking for anything from online penpals, friendship, to one-night-stands, dating, relationships, and even marriage. There are many fun questions to answer that help you learn a lot about a potential date without even chatting with them.
– PositiveSingles: the largest dating site for people with STDs; they also have helpful articles, dating tips, and a forum.
To those still hesitant about giving online dating a go, I say, why not? What have you got to lose other than the comfort of predictability? There is someone out there for everyone.
Think you’re too busy? Martha Stewart made a profile so you’ve got no excuses. Actually it can be easier for those pressed for time. Consider the ease and convenience of being able to do searches and write messages when it fits your schedule. Yes, it takes time, especially if you’re serious about finding a long-term relationship. But there’s not a whole lot of worthwhile things that don’t take time and energy. And at the end of the day, what’s more important than our relationships, and the people we love that also love us?
Some people are nervous that the person they are chatting with online won’t look or behave – or even be the same person – that they meet face-to-face. This is a risk, but it’s pretty small, and it usually only happens with people that are 50+ years old who post photos of themselves from 15 years or 20 pounds ago. Younger people don’t do that as much. For example, I would have been 12 years old if I used photos from me 15 years ago, and my weight hasn’t changed that much as an adult. It’s harder to fib just by virtue of our fewer years. Younger people also do Google searches on potential dates and utilize programs like Skype so they can have a live conversation, watch the other person’s expressions, and get to see if the other person is the real deal.
In my opinion people are more honest about what they want online because there’s no reason not to be. There’s no one standing in front of you that you want to impress. You don’t actively get rejected either, because the people that aren’t interested won’t write to you. Instead, your profile does the work for you (at first) by allowing people that are interested in you to find you and say hello. Some people find the number of responses they get from others overwhelming or underwhelming, but often this can be adjusted by removing or adding information or photos to your profile. You can also filter what responses you get, so you’ll only see the people you’ll be mutually interested in.
Basically there are many features that can make your profile more or less accessible and adjust the level of privacy, because online dating is flexible, and it is only going to get better over time.
I wouldn’t be the first person to predict that in 20 or 30 years most people will meet their spouse online, but I just don’t see it going any other way. As technology improves and we get pickier about how we spend our time, and who with, we will cast out larger nets to find our other half.
Featured image of keyboard courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos