Dating is the ultimate “hit or miss” proposition: You never know if a date will lead to a meaningful relationship. Perhaps that’s why many of the most popular dating websites are happy to set you up with lots of matches based on your preferences and let you try their services for free. It all comes down to finding a comfort level with what a site does for you and the people with whom it pairs you. Here are some city-specific guides to dating apps:
Here is how to get started with online dating.
Choosing a site
The first step to finding a date online is choosing which site you’ll use to meet people. Here are a few of the most popular dating sites, based on feedback from clients:
- Zoosk – It’s a popular choice among Facebookers, with more than 12 million likes. Forty million users can’t be wrong, especially with a free membership trial and highly competitive pricing options.
- Match – One of the oldest dating sites, Match is also one of the most recognized brands in the business.
- Elite Singles – Elite Singles claims 500,000 new members every month and that “a single finds love every 8 minutes.” Whether you believe that statistic or not, it’s become one of the most successful sites in the online dating niche.
- OurTime – OurTime proves that web-based dating isn’t just for young urban professionals — it’s the leading site for singles over 50.
- eharmony – One of the most recognizable of the dating website brands, eharmony promises “meaningful connections” or you get three months free.
According to Consumer Reports, one of the most important points to consider when choosing a dating website is whether you want to pay or not. Of course, whether you pay or not won’t guarantee you a love match. According to a 2016 survey, Consumer Reports found that paid and free sites are equally popular. There’s no reason to assume that a site that charges for its service means better quality. Success has more to do with how people who use a site respond to and communicate with each other. Some of the most popular dating sites are successful because they make it easy to communicate, allowing you to receive messages from anybody, not just people with whom you’ve been matched.
Setting up your profile
Your profile is the active ingredient in your search, so it’s important that it be truthful as well as self-promoting and flattering. If you’re struggling with your profile, ask for help from friends. Ask how they would describe your strong points and what makes you appealing. Emphasize those aspects of your personality and background that are most relatable and engaging. Be honest and specific, avoid cliches, and don’t be afraid to update your profile if necessary (or if you think of a better way to present yourself).
Communicating interests is a key step in finding a good match, so be forthcoming about what you love to do. If you’re an avid stamp collector, for example, mention it. Also, don’t make up or embellish details just to bolster your image. The more realistic interests and hobbies you indicate, the better your chances of finding a good match. Don’t make quick or lazy choices just because there are a lot of options to choose from — this is information that people will focus on, so be candid and as detailed as possible. Nothing’s too insignificant if it matters to you. Besides, you never know if a fellow stamp collector is on the lookout for someone who shares their passion.
Find out as much as possible about your matches
Once you’re matched, you’ll be able to tell a lot about someone from gut instinct and a friendly conversation. Don’t be afraid to ask questions — that’s what this process is all about — but avoid asking anything inappropriate or too provocative. Have questions in mind based on your match’s bio and photos, but don’t come off as a prosecutor. Ask about hobbies, travel experiences, and their work and education. This should be an organic process, a means of finding out what you want to know. Also keep in mind that learning about a person with whom you’ve been matched is important for staying safe — if you hear something that raises a red flag or if you get a scary vibe, pay attention to your instincts and move on.
A dating website is a tool, not a test. It should be a fun, convenient way to meet people with whom you share interests and personality traits. If you’re new to it, focus on sites that don’t pressure you with an up-front financial commitment — a free trial period is a reasonable expectation. Avoid companies that make outrageous promises, and make sure the one you choose is in line with your objectives, ethics, and expectations.