8 Things You’ve Always Wondered About Dating Sites
8 Things You've Always Wondered About Dating Sites
November 14, 2020
Dr. R. Y. Langham
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Are you a busy career-oriented young adult, who doesn’t have a ton of time to go out and physically meet people? No problem. You may want to consider dating sites.
But, first, there are some things you’ll need to know. And, I have all the answers for you.
The only way you’ll truly know if online dating is for you is to learn everything you can about it.
Dating sites can be safe IF you take the right precautions. They can also be dangerous IF you don’t. For the most part, it is up to the dater to ensure his or her safety when engaging in online dating. Technically, however, some dating sites are “better” than others when it comes to selection and safety.
More specifically, some sites heavily screen potential online daters before granting them access to their sites while others are more relaxed when it comes to pre-screening measures. In this case, practically anyone can sign-up on the site with no protocols to verify his or her identity. These sites typically have a higher rate of catfishes, scammers, criminals, etc. So, if you choose to remain on one of these sites after determining that it is sketchy, then it is on you to ensure your safety, security, and privacy.
Approximately 48% of young adults (ages 18-29) report having used at least one dating site at some point in their lives.
Ultimately dating sites can be safe depending on what you do or do not do. If you take precautions when engaging in online dating then these sites can be safe. However, if you overshare personal details like your full name, address, social security number, where you work or go to school, where you shop, and/or your location at any given time, dating sites can be dangerous. These things may not seem like a big deal, but they can cause a good online dating experience to turn bad in record time.
Another red flag for a dating site is if it allows anyone to message you. The better sites are designed to only allow those with a mutual interest in each other to make contact. Moreover, sites that have questionnaires to help with the matching process tend to be a bit safer because you are only presented with people who share your demographics, religion, location, passions, interests, desires, and preferences. This narrows down the suitor pool and, by omission, makes the site safer.
Another thing that can make a dating site unsafe is if it allows anyone to see you. In others, if there are no visibility controls, the site may be suspect, especially if it doesn’t offer reporting, blocking, and/or privacy features.
Still, it is virtually impossible to for dating sites to verify the identities of potential online daters. And, it’s usually too costly to do background checks on anyone who wants to use the site. Because of this, there are always risks when using dating sites.
Do dating sites do background checks?
Yes, some do provide background checks.
Some dating sites use background checks to examine the histories of potential members. These checks target specific things such as sexual assaults, identity thefts, murder, kidnapping, or any type of violence. These areas must be “passed” before your profile is approved. It is important to understand that having a “jail record” does not automatically ban access or membership to a site – banning mostly applies to those who have committed a serious crime.
The following sites require a background check of every user or member:
Note: Keep in mind that background checks do not prevent people from creating fake accounts.
Are dating sites even worth it? In other words, are they effective?
Yes, depending on what you are looking for.
Approximately 57% of young adults report having a positive experience on dating sites – with 14% reporting a very enjoyable experience and 43% reporting a fairly enjoyable experience.
If you are looking for a convenient and accessible way to meet new people then dating sites are most certainly worth it and effective. These sites can also be beneficial for those who want to jump into a bigger dating pool filled with people (potentially from all around the world or in a specific city or state) in their age group.
It is common for young adults to be swamped with “adult responsibilities” like college, jobs, bills, a young child or two, and/or household tasks. The result? Little-to-no free-time for socializing or traditional dating. The alternative? Online dating. These sites are also pretty good at providing you with someone to hang with and not necessarily commit to and for those times when you’re feeling lonely and frisky.
Remember, the majority of young adults who participate in online dating have limited time, but still want some human interaction (in any form). Dating sites can provide these things for you. They help you meet new people, which *could* lead to other things – friendships, romantic relationships, etc.
A dating site could even lead to a marriage proposal! In fact, approximately 12% of young adults report having met their long-term partner or spouse through a dating site or app.
If you are looking for a way to meet new people (for whatever reason), then yes, dating sites are worth it and effective. But, beware, not everyone is honest or trustworthy on these sites, so if you are looking for a guarantee of love and marriage or you crave one-on-one interactions, then the sites probably won’t be worth it for you.
Are dating sites worth paying for?
As you can probably tell, I am a big proponent of paid dating sites if (and this is a big one) you seriously want to meet someone – i.e. make new friends, find someone to “hang out with,” date, and/or eventually marry. Now, I don’t believe in paid dating sites that overcharge – you know the ones that have high fees but offer relatively nothing as compared to the free ones. But, I do believe that you get what you pay for when it comes to these sites.
How so? Well, free sites offer you the bare minimum. Seriously. For instance, if someone who has a membership, contacts you on a dating site and wants to connect, you’ll most likely also need a membership to the site to engage with him or her. You’ll be able to see the message in your inbox (as an enticement) but won’t be able to engage with him or her until you also get the membership.
Basically, you get more features when you opt-in for a membership.
Keep in mind that free sites or features are designed to encourage you to pay for more features. The truth is when you go to a free site or opt for only the free features, you miss out on some amazing opportunities to connect with the right person, which leaves you feeling defeated and bored. You end up feeling like you wasted your time, if not your money.
Free sites also leave the door open for catfishes, scammers, and those who simply want to “play around” vs. finding a new friend, lover, or partner. There are very little safety, security, and/or privacy protocols in place for those online creeps that just won’t leave you alone. Furthermore, you may even get married individuals who are looking for ways to step outside of their marriages. But, with a paid site or paid features, your interactions are filtered to ensure you are getting legitimate (or as legitimate as you can get online) online daters. The good news is free features provide you with an opportunity to “try out” the site before you spend money to join it.
I suggest you view paid dating sites or features as an investment in yourself because the only way to get the best dating site experience is to shell out a couple of bucks for a membership.
Which dating sites are most successful?
There are several highly successful dating sites, such as:
Match is the most popular and successful dating site in the US and around the world. The main reason Match has been so successful is that it has aided in more first dates than any other dating site on the market.
Unlike other dating sites, the gender ratio is quite balanced with approximately 49% of its users being male and 51% of them being female. It is available in app and desktop form so it’s a great on-the-go dating tool for young adults with little-to-no free time.
The main reason Elite Singles is so successful is that it caters to educated career professionals – which bodes well for young adults who are busy with their careers but still want a companion or at least a new friend or two to enjoy life with. It focuses on singles that are looking for long-term committed relationships. However, the relationship you forge between you and another person is entirely on you.
This dating site offers opportunities for both heterosexual and LGBTQ singles who are interested in meeting a serious partner. This is a plus because over 2 million individuals visit the site each month. In fact, 165,000 people register on the site each month. And, although the gender ratio isn’t as balanced as Match.com, it is still fairly equal with approximately 44% of its users being male and 56% of them being female. It is available in app and desktop form so it’s the perfect dating tool for young professionals who are looking for love and companionship.
Unlike some of the other dating sites, Zoosk combines social networking with online dating to create an exclusive dating experience for users and members. Zoosk.com is not only affordable, but it also offers a variety of tools you can use to enhance your profile and/or increase your security and privacy.
The main reason Zoosk is so successful is it offers the best free features (i.e. smiles, likes, Zoosk coins, safety protocols, and expert matching tools). It also offers an app and a desktop version, so users can log in at any time.
Zoosk primarily caters to single young adults, who are interested in casual dating situations and romantic relationships; however any individual, regardless of age, can have fun and find love on the site.
This site offers 40 million active members from over 80 countries. It is open to all races/ethnicities, religions, child statuses, weights, heights, education, career, and financial backgrounds, ages, and sexual orientations. Lastly, the gender ratio for the site is evenly split (for the most part) between men (48%) and women (52%).
Note: All of these sites offer free trials so you can “try them out” before opting for a paid membership.
Which dating sites are absolutely free?
Although sparse, there are some 100% free dating sites. Keep in mind, however, that these sites will not be like the more popular paid membership sites.
FDating.com is a 100% free online dating site. It boasts no paid services and can make matches throughout the world. This dating site also allows you to post your profile, use advanced search tools, and send and receive messages.
Keep in mind that you get what you pay for which means you may not have the best online dating experience on this site. You could – but you probably will not. When I pulled up the page on my desktop, the first thing I noticed was that the presentation was lacking. In other words, the graphics were minimal and the page just felt a little “sketchy” to me.
Also, I could not find their safety, security, and privacy protocols anywhere on the site. However, you can search for people who match your preferences (i.e. age, race/ethnicity, country and location, religion, gender, sexual preference, weight, height, eye and hair color, child status, etc.), so there is a chance you could meet the love of your life on it.
However, I suggest you stick with the more popular, successful, and transparent dating sites – even if it means shelling out some money to partake in its paid features.
The dating site, LuvFree, is 100% free which means it doesn’t require a credit card or paid membership to meet new people. LuvFree claims to be free of fake profiles, however, it is impossible for the administrators to know that for sure unless they perform background checks on its users and I am pretty sure they do not. Even if they do, users can use other people’s credentials to fool a background check. To ensure the user is actually who he or she claims to be they would also need video proof of identity. All of these tools can get pretty pricey depending on a site’s user base, and because the site is 100% free, it is highly unlikely they have the funds to perform this level of verification.
The ability to send and receive messages – without a fee
The ability to interact with real users – no catfishes or scammers
An ability to add up to 30 photos to your profile page
The ability to be “invisible” or hide your last log in
A customized friends list
A strict anti-scam/spam policy
The ability to view user profiles and photos
Access to customer service
LuvFree also has a FAQ page to help answer any questions you may have about the site or the online dating process. There are blogs offered on the site, but I’m not sure what their purpose is because they don’t appear to be written by relationship experts and they are on a variety of dating and non-dating topics.
TruMingle is a 100% free online dating site (no subscriptions, no membership fees, no credit card required) that provides free dating features such as unlimited messaging, advanced searching, swipe-matching, chatting, the ability to see who’s viewed your profile, etc. Because there are no fees, TruMingle will never ask for your billing information. And, supposedly, all of their members are real people.
eHarmony is successful for serious relationships because it was designed by Dr. Neil Clark Warren, a clinical psychologist, with the goal of “scientifically-matching” individuals. eHarmony claims to account for nearly 5% of all US marriages. However, this claim has been disputed by the New York Times. As for those in non-married committed relationships, a recent study found that approximately 1 million members between the ages of 20 and 54 reported that they were in a serious relationship with someone they met on eHarmony.
Note: eHarmony recently changed its policies to appeal to marriage-focused 20-somethings and Millennials. However, due to the “black-and-white” questioning, eHarmony may not be the best dating site if your sexual orientation is undefined or fluid.
What are the main differences between meeting someone online vs. in-person?
The main difference between meeting someone online vs. in-person is convenience and accessibility. Going onto a dating site or app only requires a Wi-Fi or data connection, an email address, and a little creativity and initiative. You can literally date on-the-go with online dating, whereas dating in real-life requires face-to-face interactions.
You can’t hide when dating in-person but you can hide when dating online. In other words, you can claim the pictures you post are of you when they are not, and you can pretend to be someone you are not – with little-to-no consequences. You can also “date” a lot of people online at one-time while trying to do that in-person could prove tricky.
In person you get to see who you are dating in advance, but online you really don’t know what the other person looks like unless you Facetime or video chat. Even then it’s almost impossible to determine the little nuances of the other person’s appearance that aren’t picked up by the camera. So, while online dating is convenient and provides you with a way to be who you’d like to or want to be (not reality), it doesn’t provide you with an authentic connection with someone.
The truth is, you can’t physically connect or even completely emotionally connect with someone else until you spend time together. In other words, you can’t be sure how compatible (i.e. physically, emotionally, psychologically, financially, sexually, and/or spiritually), you are until you physically meet someone and get to know him or her in real-time.
Do your research
There are tons of dating sites available. You’ll need to do your research to determine which one(s) are right for you.
Decide if your personality is condusive to onine dating
Dating sites are beneficial for people who are introverted, shy, or simply prefer to be alone (most of the time). Online dating and dating sites give introverts a chance to showcase their charm, wit, and what makes them special in an environment they are comfortable in.
However, if you’re more the extrovert who loves meeting new people and mingling, dating sites may not be the right thing for you.
Decide if it works with your lifestyle
You’re young and fun but you just don’t have time to go out and meet new people. What is your alternative? Online dating. You don’t need a lot of time to do this type of dating and you can be super picky if you want.
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About the Author
Dr. R. Y. Langham
Ph.D. in Family Psychology
Ree has a Master’s in Marriage and Family Therapy (M.M.F.T.) and a Ph.D. in Family Psychology. She spent over ten years counseling families, couples, individuals, and children on adjustment issues such as blended families, same-sex couples, dysfunctional family relationships, relationship issues, etc. Now she writes for famous health organizations and is a published author. Full Bio | LinkedIn