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Four Types of Online Dating Sites

Aug 18, 2007
More and more people are using dating services. Despite the media-advertised perils of meeting people over the internet, it is becoming common practice. Wired magazine recently commented that in twenty years it will seem odd not to prescreen people you want to have a relationship with through an online dating service. Indeed, in 2004, online dating services were the largest segment of paid web content in the US.

There are at least four types of online dating services: general dating sites, compatibility sites, niche sites and networking sites.

General Sites

Most general dating sites are free. You usually post a profile, and you can look at other people's profiles. Most general dating sites have features that help you connect with people you are interested in. Look for forums, chat rooms, messenger functions and buddy lists.

There are zillions of these sites, so it may be a bit difficult to sort out the ones that you want to participate in. Get recommendations from friends if possible. Find out if your friends have tried some of the sites, and ask what their experiences were like.

Remember that there is no way to know if the information in someone's profile is true. People do post inaccurate information for a variety of reasons.

Use safe internet practices when posting on dating sites, too. Never give personal information to someone you don't know, and never post your address or phone number in a public forum. Always meet new people face-to-face in a public, neutral place. Use common sense to protect yourself.

Compatibility Sites

These sites charge for their services because they do more than just provide a meeting place. Compatibility sites usually have you do some kind of personality or compatibility assessment and they try to match you with people who have similar profiles.

Most people subscribe to a compatibility online dating site hoping to find a long-term relationship or marriage. E-Harmony is probably the best known of these sites, and they have been successful in helping many people find life partners.

Niche Sites

A niche online dating site is a good option if you are looking to meet someone with a particular interest or slant on life. You may want to spend time with someone who shares your interest in Motocross, or who raises pigs, or who is a square dancer. There are specialty online dating sites for just about any niche you can think of. Some niche online dating sites are free and some are not.

Another way to use a niche online dating site is to find someone who practices a particular faith. Some people prefer to date within their faith community, and niche online dating sites meet their needs.

Networking Sites

Networking sites, such as MySpace, are not internet dating sites, but they are a great way to meet people. And meeting someone is the first step in deciding if you want to date him or her. People often begin dating relationships through a network site.

It's important to remember, however, that dating is not the primary purpose of networking sites. Many of the people you meet there are not interested in dating.

Online dating sites are an excellent way to find people you might be interested in. Some sites help you screen potential dates, too, to find those that you are most likely to be compatible with. Your chances of finding someone you enjoy spending time with are probably better with an online dating service than they are with a blind date... or Uncle Joey's cousin's sister... or the guy your mom wants to fix you up with...
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