While there’s a lot I could personally contribute to this topic, today I want to share an excellent online resource I found recently.
This is a good summary of options, issues, warnings and other factors to take into account when venturing online looking for love, connection or fun. Can you really find true love online? looks at how online dating sites compare, how to stay safe online, case studies: who’s dating online? and dating scams: what you need to know. Although it’s aimed at an Australian audience a lot of the information is universal.
Let’s look firstly at the issue of using a paid site versus using a free site.
There are so many varied opinions about this, and I acknowledge my own bias, as I have only ever used free sites or apps like OK Cupid and Plenty of Fish – noting that both of these offer paid options as well. The Choice article compares apps/sites and their paid membership rates, but please also be aware that many sites are syndicated or owned by the same corporations. Dating is big business in every country these days!
It’s noteworthy that Choice mentions the many dodgy privacy policies and scams associated with online dating as a business.
Not long ago I was confronted with a 20-screen long piece of legalese jibberish on a ‘dating’ site that neglected to tell me the relevant facts – that this site would use my data (that means my photos, name and text) on any sites they co-own, without informing me of the names or demographic of these sites.
What this meant in practice is that my jaunty, brief profile on a ‘cougar’ site was syndicated to at least 25 seedy, NSA sex and specialist kink sites (eg dogging and married guys seeking sex sites). This is misleading and unethical for all concerned as users of the sites don’t often realise that profiles are syndicated, so expect that I’d be into the same thing they’re looking for. I’d like to say beware of the small print, but in this case the company was plain dishonest.
The other thing to beware of is that MOST dating sites make it extremely hard to take down your profile or exit the site. Many don’t allow you to quit from a mobile phone – they require you to log on via a desktop computer and access a special section, scroll down two-thirds of the page, look for the magic button and blow on it three times, then proceed in Spanish! While this may be a slight exaggeration, it’s true that getting rid of your profile can be stressful and inconvenient. You may have to even email the company and politely request that they remove your profile.
My guess is that a lot of people don’t bother, and so empty, unattended profiles litter cyberspace Datingland like so many ghosts of possibility.
The other obvious warning that Choice offers is to beware of scams. Romance scams are rife on the bigger sites but these days they work pretty hard to remove African scammers, though it’s harder to detect catfishers or predators. This is a good site to browse for an idea of how Nigerian scammers work – reading through this lady’s material is depressing and hilarious in equal measure!
Here is a sobering quote from the Choice article:
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has been investigating online scammers who use dating sites and romance services as a feeding ground. In 2017 alone, Australians lost $42 million to these shysters – although it could be even more as many people are too embarrassed to report losses.
How to stay safe online
Even seasoned daters like myself (I was once an online dating virgin!) need reminders every now and then to keep ourselves safe and sensible. This story recounted my lucky escape from a dating site sexual predator, and though I’ve had some unpleasant experiences, I’m glad to say it’s never got worse than that.
Here is a summary of what Choice recommends:
- Read terms and conditions so you know what you’re signing up to and how much it will cost.
- Set reminders in your phone or diary to cancel your subscription to avoid inadvertently rolling over for a further term.
- Never include personal information such as your real name, workplace, work or home address, phone number or birthday, in your profile.
- Do a reverse Google image search on photos of profiles of people you’re interested in to check for authenticity.
- When you meet somebody for the first time, pick a public place, tell a friend where you’re going and keep the first meeting brief and inexpensive, such as grabbing a cup of coffee.
- Don’t let somebody new pick you up or drop you at your home.
- Never send money to someone you’ve only ever contacted online or over the phone.
In addition I would recommend reading my list of dating tips.
Clientele on dating sites
In terms of dating site demographics, it varies a lot in every country and sometimes in regional areas like states and territories. What I find in my own area is unlikely to apply in yours, so join up and see for yourself.
Another thing to note is that clientele is a moving feast – when I re-joined POF recently, I found the guys in my searchable bracket were vastly different types from my experience 3 years ago, when I was last a member. I met my beloved on POF, something I’d never have conceived was possible. It goes to show that dating is totally unpredictable. You can read the story about my lucky break here.
Larger cities have more options, and some sites or apps just don’t exist in countries like Australia, or their membership is ridiculously small. I’ve found most dating sites in my city have less than 50 matches, and some sites have a lot fewer.
Case studies – read up, bigtime
While this Choice article only includes 4 case studies from real people, the internet is a great place to find people’s stories about dating. Sites like mine, and many others by bloggers who focus on dating, sex and relationships can be found on WordPress or just by searching topics on Google.
If you’re new here having a look at who comments on my posts and you’ll see that many of us form a community of like-minded, supportive bloggers. Thank goodness for my blogging mates – I’d be lost without them! Finding solace, understanding and shared experiences with other people who write about their love lives online can keep you sane, as well as entertained.
Here are some varied quotes from the case study folks mentioned:
Verdict: “It’s been more positive than negative. It’s a numbers game – and good timing!”
Verdict: “It’s a great way to meet people outside your social circle.”
Recommendations: “OkCupid was the best for meeting like-minded people. Tinder was the best for sheer random volume.”
“I think they are actually a brilliant way to meet and connect with people you wouldn’t usually. It’s great to keep chatting on the app [or site] until you’re sure of a connection and then you can transfer to [phone] and then in person.”