Online Dating Vs. Social Networking
By Timothy James
The differences between online dating and social networking boil down to this: online dating helps you find a date, while social networking helps you find a friend. People of all ages participate in both online dating and social networking, and many participate in both. When moving between these two worlds, it's helpful to understand the differences.
Online dating sites often require users to pay a fee for their services, while social networks generally provide users with an account at no cost. Users provide basic information, such as birthdates, and may list their likes and dislikes. Unlike social networks, many online dating sites ask users to complete a long list of questions. These sites then use a sophisticated algorithm to match prospective partners and introduce them to each other, though some research shows these algorithms don't work.
While Facebook commands the loyalty of almost 70 percent of adults online in the social networking universe, people seeking to date online divide themselves among many different dating sites. Each of the dozens of different dating sites available target a specific market. EHarmony, for example, focuses on Christian dating, while Atlasphere targets those who love the writings of Ayn Rand. Other dating sites target Muslims, Goths, vegans or even World of Warcraft gamers.
People find love through both social networking and online dating. Social networking can allow you to see a prospective romantic partner's friends and family, and how they interact together. If you like what you see, nothing prevents you from asking someone out on a date through Facebook. Of course, people join an online dating site because they desire to date. According to Match.com, 120,000 couples a year marry after meeting at an online dating site.
Meeting in Person
People meet in person as a result of both social networking and online dating. Facebook allows users to create "events," but these activities often draw together people who already have met. The main purpose of online dating is to facilitate in-person meetings people who have never met. If you wait too long to meet someone in person that you've met online, you may actually damage your chances of a relationship.
- BBC: Cupid's algorithm: Do Dating Sites Know Love's Formula?
- Pew Internet: Social Networking
- Consumer Rankings.com: The 5 Best Dating Sites of 2013
- Los Angeles Times: The Dating Game's Rebooting Call
- EHarmony: Christian Dating
- Happen: Online Dating By the Numbers
- Psychological Science in the Public Interest: Online Dating: A Critical Analysis From the Perspective of Psychological Science