Types of Online Dating

by Ken Burnside

Online dating sites are, in many ways, the new normal. According to CNN, more than one person in four has met someone they're dating through an online service, and dating itself has changed because of these sites. Online dating has its own rules and venues, whether you're looking for someone to go to a movie with or looking for your perfect spouse. One of the first choices to make is what sort of online dating you want to do.

Profile Matching Sites

Online dating has obliterated the old "matchmaker services" that predate the Internet. These sites have you fill out questionnaires and a dating profile, where you describe yourself in your own words, as well as put up a picture. Once your profile is placed on the site, you can search for matches, sorting by interest, religion, proximity or even dietary habits. Examples of this type of online dating site include OKCupid, eHarmony and Match.com.

Preference Dating Sites

While profile-matching sites are great for hitting the largest swathe of potential suitors, people with specific needs tend to have a high signal-to-noise ratio on them. Just because a site advertises that it has 30 million subscribers doesn't mean it has any significant number of subscribers who match what you want in terms of values, religious identity or sexual preferences. Preference dating sites tend to have a smaller pool of available dates and date candidates on them, but a more focused group to work with. Examples of this type of dating site are ChristianMingle, JDate and BiCupid.

Meetup Sites

An aspect of dating sites makes them seem a little impersonal and, to some extent, false. A large chunk of human interaction is based on seeing body language, posture and facial expressions, and on profile-matching sites, there are people who put more effort into refining their "perfect" profile than they did in their college admission essays. Event sites, while they have profiles, also organize movie nights, dinner parties and get-togethers, usually around a theme. For your subscription fee, you get a number of event notifications each month; show up, meet with people, make small chat and talk without the pressure of "living up to your profile page." Event dating sites include TheStir.com and 8MinuteDating.

Social Networking Sites

A number of dating sites have tried to capture the feel of Facebook, rather than specific matching services. They mix and match the social networking look and feel -- for example, running articles that people can share and like -- with the ability to make sharable profiles with parts that unlock as you grow more and more trusted by the recipient. Examples of this type of site include Fetlife.com and TickMe.com. While less slick, sites like PlentyOfFish.com also work on this principle.

Multiple Sites, Single Owners

Many of these different types of dating sites are owned by the same company. For example, Match.com runs TheStir as their event dating site, OKCupid runs BiCupid and sites like AdultFriendFinder have run sites catering to specific niches. What this means is that if you make a profile for one of them, there's a very good chance that when your subscription runs out, you'll be bombarded with offers to join a "competing" site that's run by the same company with the same database of users.

About the Author

Ken Burnside has been writing freelance since 1990, contributing to publications as diverse as "Pyramid" and "Training & Simulations Journal." A Microsoft MVP in Excel, he holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Alaska. He won the Origins Award for Attack Vector: Tactical, a board game about space combat.

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