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Online Dating Pros and Cons – 5 Best Sites & Tips

Eight months after going through a divorce and becoming a single father, I recently decided to get back into the dating game. My free time, however, is at a premium, considering that I work a full-time day job and run two side businesses from home. I’ve never been one to hang out at bars, so I decided to give online dating a whirl. Let me tell you, it has been an interesting ride to say the least.

Online dating is no longer viewed as taboo. Consider these statistics: In 2010, 17% of people who got married met on an online dating site. One in five singles have dated someone who they met on a dating website. Moreover, many of these sites are completely free, and the ones that charge fees usually keep their rates at reasonable levels. In the end, if you’re looking for a good match, they’re usually worth the investment.

If you’re about to head into the world of online dating, you’ll want to know what you’re in for. I’ll start with a brief overview of how it works before I get into the pros and cons and then offer a few pointers.

How It Works

The process is fairly simple. If you’re using one of the popular free sites, you’ll start by entering some personal data, from height and maybe weight to race and religion. Plenty of fields will be optional, and all of the sites are a little different when it comes to what they ask, how they ask, and what you’re required to answer.

Next, you’ll create a “narrative” for your profile, in which you can explain a little more about your personality, as well as what you’re looking for, like whether you’re seeking a spouse, friend, or someone to date. Finally, you’ll upload a picture of yourself, and then you’ll be ready to go.

Benefits of Online Dating

In my first few weeks of trying out online dating, I discovered plenty of benefits of getting involved. Here are the four most important ones:

1. Convenience
As soon as you finish signing up on a site, if you’re ready to get active, you can literally view the profiles of hundreds of potential matches all in one evening. How long would it take you to meet that many people at a bar or party?

Perhaps more importantly, how much money would you spend on blind dates and bar tabs just trying to have one successful date? If you have a hectic personal schedule or you’re watching your budget, online dating is a great option.

2. Anonymity
When you’re browsing profiles, you’re in the privacy of your home, simply clicking through the site. This means that you can narrow the field of people you’d like to date without the pressure of meeting them in advance.

I am not that picky when it comes to women, but I do have certain pet peeves. With the anonymous web, you can gain some early confidence in the fact that you and your potential partner are at least relatively compatible.

3. Variety
With online dating, you can meet people from all walks of life. Instead of being limited by a particular city’s dating scene, you can meet people from other states or countries, and of any race or religion. You might also be able to get background information like their education history and even income level.

4. Less Embarrassment
To be perfectly honest with you, the biggest issue that I have when I’m thinking of asking someone out on a date is the fear of rejection. With online dating, you eliminate most of this concern.

Once you find someone you want to ask out, you reach out and then wait. If there’s mutual interest you’ll hear back, and if there’s not, you just move on. There’s still some sense of rejection but it’s not as tough to take as a verbal “no.”

Cautions Online Dating

Cautions of Online Dating

If you’re new to online dating, I have two words of advice: Get ready. It is a whole new world out there. I have outlined some of the things you need to watch out for regarding online dating:

1. Cost
While there are some websites that are completely free, most come with some sort of sign-up fee. Otherwise, the no-fee introductory period might be very short, and the “review your matches for free” teaser usually doesn’t come with a free option for contacting those matches.

Think carefully about the expense before you dive in. Generally, the overall experience and quality of the site will be better with paid sites. Right now, however, I’m having some level of success with using a completely free site. In the end, if you find the person of your dreams, the fees will seem completely worth it. Moreover, the amount of money you can save by not having to go on endless dates will easily outweigh the money you spend on a dating website.

2. Lack of Transparency
This is my biggest concern regarding Internet dating. People can put whatever they want on their profile (including photos), so until you meet someone in person, you never really know who you’re about to meet. You have to keep your guard up and make people earn your trust. Don’t be naive or assume that all profiles have credible information. There are many lies in online dating that you need to watch out for .

I have had experiences with women posting pictures on their profile from many years ago when they were significantly younger or looked completely different. So don’t go falling in love with someone’s profile. You won’t get a good gauge on a prospective mate until you meet in person.

3. Frustration Level
It’s still the dating world, and the dating world is often very frustrating. Online dating websites can be more convenient, but they don’t eliminate the challenges of trying to find a mate. You will encounter people who seem genuinely interested in you, only to have them disappear for no apparent reason. You will probably talk to some potential dates on the phone and think things went fine, only to never hear from the person again. If you are jumping into online dating, it’s better to have a thick skin. You will definitely need it.

5 Best Online Dating Websites

To help you get started, here are five of my favorite online dating websites:

match logo 1.
This is by far the most comprehensive website when it comes to online dating. has plenty of members, a great experience, a variety of search options, and a complex database. All of that comes with a fee, rates are competitive. See our review for more information.

plenty of fish2. Plenty of Fish
This is definitely the #1 completely free option. The site is very user-friendly, and you don’t encounter many of the problems that plague most free dating websites, such as fake profiles.

eharmony loog3. eHarmony
If you really want to hone in on finding your “perfect” match, then eHarmony is definitely the way to go. They take a very scientific approach to finding you a mate, and they claim credit for 230 marriages per day. It’s hard to argue with a statistic like that, but you’ll have to pay the site’s fee.

okcupid logo4. OKCupid
I recently discovered this site, and it’s pretty good. Like Plenty of Fish, it is 100% free. Sign-up is a breeze, and you can answer as many – or as few – questions as you’d like when you complete your profile. The more questions you answer, the better chance you have of finding a compatible match. So far, however, I have received a limited number of responses on OKCupid.

zoosk5. Zoosk
This site has recently risen quite a bit in popularity. It is highly integrated into social networking sites, so its appeal among the younger crowd is rising. The site has free and paid options, and what sets Zoosk apart from the rest is that free members can respond to messages from paid members.

Final Word

Let me be perfectly clear, the world of online dating is a cold and hard one. It isn’t easy, but it certainly is possible to find a suitable mate through the Internet. I personally had two experiences of meeting women online which turned into dating relationships, and one of them was the woman that I married. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out in the end, but I can tell you that online dating is a great option for finding someone who is right for you.

What are your thoughts regarding online dating? Do you have a favorite online dating site?

David Bakke
David started his own personal finance blog, YourFinances101, in June of 2009 and published his first book on ways to save more and spend less called "Don't Be A Mule..." Since then he has been a regular contributor for Money Crashers. He lives just outside Atlanta, GA and most all of his free time is taken up by his amazing three year old son, Nicholas.

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