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Confessions of an Online Dater Print
Monday, 09 July 2007 16:07

Online DatingPerhaps you, like me, never thought you'd be there (or here depending on your perspective)... online dating. Fours years after the divorce, I thought I'd weigh out my options: 1) Meeting men in bars. 2) Friend fix-ups. 3) Meeting the man of your dreams in Harris Teeter. Hmmmm... no, no, and probably not. Okay, maybe just no. So why not take advantage of the easy access we all have to cyberspace from the comfort our own homes? In this day and age of online-everything, why not utilize the tools available for finding the One for you?

My journey in online meeting/dating (and there is a difference) has been somewhat of an ongoing sociology type of project in human behavior. So let me share what I've learned about the most reputable online resources available to ladies (and gentlemen of course, but, hey, this is a girl's perspective). According to a variety of reviews the 3 most popular sites are eHarmony, Match, and PlentyofFish. I have perused and used all three sites. And when deciding which site to use, it's first important to understand the features of each.

eHarmony is probably for people with a lot (and I mean a LOT) of patience. Admittedly, this site is for those folks looking for serious relationships only (i.e. those resulting in marriage.) eHarmony boasts to "move you beyond Traditional dating,"; first, by completing a compatibility questionnaire that one must be prepared to spend some quality time completing. We're talking 258 questions! You don't create a profile on this one; it's all about that survey you complete. You are supposedly matched with someone compatible with you on 29 dimensions. Based on the images shared with me in the 3 months I was a member of the site, these dimensions do not include being photogenic...sorry, I digress. Once matched, you have the option to "correspond"; via a predetermined set of responses or go straight to the direct contact. A photo image is not offered until some significant amount of this correspondence has taken place. Speaking of which, the cost is not prohibitive and easy to renew and/or cancel given if you do subscribe and then cancel, the deal gets a lot sweeter to entice you to return. You don't have any idea who is available except for those potential matches sent to you by the company. Therefore, you may have 15 matches in a month, or be like me, and only get ONE in TWO months. And of course they are still getting your money. (Worth it I suppose, if you are patient and lucky and eventually meet your soul-mate).

MatchMatch is for those who are never married, legally separated or divorced (I think I remember agreeing to those terms) that are looking for dating or long term relationships. My sister calls it the MySpace for middle-aged single daters. There is no "hanging out"; on this one. The idea would be to create a somewhat prolific profile and post a fetching picture in order to allow those searching for someone special to determine if that someone special might be you. The worst feature of this site, in my opinion, is this annoying ability to "wink"; at someone you find remotely connected to. (Though I suspect some men simply saw my picture and hit "Wink at her"; before moving on to "wink"; at fifteen other women. Seriously if it were that easy, those same men would be standing with a drink in each hand at a local dive, wearing out his eyelids at all the women walking by...) I would like to propose one could also access a feature for "poking"; or "thumping"; based on your response to the profile. Okay, I digress again. The cost again is not prohibitive (compared to bar tabs and taxi fares) but beware, as it is automatically renewed if you don't cancel prior to the end of the term. And the longer the term you sign on for initially, the less the cost is overall. Additionally, this site allows you to search for people at any degree. You can simply search for men or women within any age bracket or area you define. You can also weed them out by religion, eye color, or anything else that they would have had a chance to answer in their survey while creating their profile. You can also save any search you want so you can go back and view them later. A bit that annoyed me was that even those men I decided to delete were still there in my "deleted profile"; section. (Come on, I deleted them for a reason!) You can also track who has viewed you. Overall I have found this site the most user-friendly and it is the most like IRL dating as you can get in cyberspace. One unique feature (that can be deleted if you want to take time to figure out how) is that you can read emails sent to you on Match from your regular email. So if you can't check the site from work, maybe you can check your email from work. Just be careful not to respond from work or the potential "matches"; will have your personal email. Additionally, the potential matches have to pay. A paid for site perhaps means a mature commitment on someone's end and helps to deter teenage children from logging on and giggling at their make-believe profile. We should hope, anyway.

PlentyofFishPlentyofFish is a free site but, this site is open to anyone. You can be married, not married, or anywhere in between (whatever that is and I'm learning there exists a great disparity between the two). Unique to this site is the option to have your picture rated by viewers. You can preview your average rating on a scale of 1 to 10 sorted by age category of the voters. Better have your big britches on for this as the results can be brutal. This site tends to be better for those seeking immediate gratification, so to speak, as another unique feature is a built in IM. Of course, this can get a little tricky if being requested for an IM session by several folks at one time while trying to respond to emails. And sometimes you're requested to IM before you've read any part of a profile or seen a glimpse of a photo so you have to search a bit and then determine if you want to engage. The site itself is pretty user-friendly. There's a free feature (opposed to there being an additional cost on Match) that allows you to view who's read your emails and whether or not they have been deleted. Some of the other unique features include an opportunity to recommend someone to a friend and a blog component that allows you to receive feedback from others on the woes of online dating...or at least the one's I read were typically a little whiney in that way. And this site, as aforementioned is totally free, so it's given that there's little commitment on the part of the potential dates...and that may be an important statement in itself. One final difference in PoF and Match, when you delete your account from this site, it deletes all your information and photos in one stop shop sort of way. And easy is important when you're ready to stop.

Both Match and PoF include a considerable amount of anonymity in order to maintain privacy while determining who that One might be. Both of these sites featured pretty much what was advertised (if you're someone who researches first). The "quality"; of men on both of the latter sites has been comparable based on the men I've met. Investment bankers, engineers, telecommunications experts, boat captains...doctors, lawyers...well, you know the rest. Dating stories (I know you're wondering)? Yeah, one accrues some really interesting stories to swap with friends later on...and I certainly have a few of my own. But that will be another article.

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