What is the best online dating site? This is a question you’ve undoubtedly asked yourself if you’ve considered venturing in to the realm of online dating. There’s no single right answer. But there is a right answer to a slightly different question: what is the best online dating site for me?
The first question that you need to answer is this: what kind of dater am I? Do I like to play the field and go out with many different people at a time, or do I like to spend a lot of time pursuing a single potential relationship? Neither approach is wrong, but if you can answer this simple question, it will go a long way in determining which site is the best for you.
Take a look at the article Dating Advice From the Field of Ecology: Are You an R-Strategy or K-Strategy Dater? The central premise of the article is that some people function in the dating world by playing the field widely, applying minimal effort to a large number of potential dates, while some people play the field narrowly, applying maximum effort to a very small pool of dates. Both strategies are rational and reasonable approaches to dating. The trick is to recognize that different online dating sites are conducive to one strategy or the other.
Let’s consider a handful of major internet dating sites: eHarmony, Chemistry.com, match.com, and craigslist. There’s nothing magical about this assortment; they simply represent major players in the world of online dating that offer very differing approaches to dating.
Option #1. The Intensive Site
Consider eHarmony first. At eHarmony.com, the matching is done for you. You complete a personality profile and their psychology grounded algorithms pair you with likely matches. Thus, right away, your universe of potential matches is heavily restricted. From there, the system is geared toward a significant degree of “guided interaction” before you ever begin conversing with somebody that you’re interested in. You take the time to ask each other questions from predetermined lists, consider “must haves,” etc.
Eharmony.com is a website that is perfect for people who don’t feel comfortable playing the field widely, but rather narrrowly tailoring their search to a particular personality type, and spending an extensive amount of effort on the front end to make sure there’s decent potential.
Option #2. The Non-Intensive Site
Contrast that approach with match.com, where a quick head shot and the completion of a boilerplate questionnaire are the only prerequisites to participating in the system. Whereas eHarmony may take you an entire evening to get started, you could be flirting with would be dates on match.com within a matter of just minutes.
Match.com offers no restrictions on access to other members. There is no filtering done by the system itself, you set simple biographical parameters (age, orientation, etc), and can contact anyone that turns up in the member database. Match.com is the perfect choice for anyone who wants to play the field widely and date extensively.
Option #3. The Casual Site
You might think that an online dating site like match.com is as skeletal as they come…but you’d be wrong. Though it’s known more as a place to sell that old lounge chair or adopt a stray kitten, craigslist also features a rather popular personals section. Visit it at insertyourlocalcity.craigslist.org, and you’ll recognize just how no frills it is. There are no forms, you may or may not attach a picture, and the content or depth of your ad is solely up to you. Your ad will be up in just a few minutes, and you don’t need an account (just an email address).
The fact that craigslist personals offer such an easy, unstructured approach to dating means that you’re likely to find a lot of users with a rather casual, easygoing approach to dating. If that suits your style and you are turned off by the structure of even a non-intensive site like match.com, then you might want to give craigslist a try.
So returning to the original question, which online dating site is the best one for you? Think of these three options in terms of their “barriers to entry.” The barriers to entry, in terms of time and effort, are quite high for an intensive site like eHarmony. They’re modest for a site like match.com. And they’re virtually non-existent for craigslist personals. Recognize that the barriers to entry are likely to be heavily correlated with how serious the average user takes their relationship search, and pick your online dating site accordingly.
Brockwell, Doug. “Dating Advice from the Field of Ecology: Are You an R-Strategy or K-Strategy Dater?” http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/5518886/dating_advice_from_the_field_of_ecology.html?cat=41. Accessed 8/31/2010.
Why eHarmony? The Science of Love. http://www.eharmony.com/why. Accessed 8/31/2010.
Match.com basics. http://www.match.com. Accessed 8/31/2010.
Craigslist. http://www.craigslist.org. Accessed 8/31/2010.