Looking for love in all the online places
This column originally ran in ComputorEdge on February 25, 2005
Twice last year ("A lot of fish in that ocean," "'Quirky writer seeks cute librarian'") we looked at various online dating services, covering between those two columns big players in dating like eHarmony, True, Match.com, Yahoo! Personals, LavaLife, American Singles, Cupid Junction and Animal Attraction (meet someone based on pet-owning compatibility!).
Well, one of the big wire services New York Times or Associated Press, I can't remember which recently did a story on online dating. Turns out it's even bigger than I had realized.
As more and more outfits jump into the online dating scene, offering services with varying levels of selecting potential mates, creating a unique niche is becoming tougher.
While eHarmony and True are the two big players in helping people find serious, marriage-minded prospects via in-depth personality and values profiles, there are other sites that are geared toward specific communities. Shared values and cultural perspectives can be just as important as personality profiles in determining a relationship's chances of long-term survival, at least according to all the studies that bombard us in the media.
CatholicMatch.com and JewishMatch.com both exist to help people find others of their faith. Being Catholic, I joined CatholicMatch.com and while I've not gotten to the point of dating anyone there yet, it has been a remarkably welcome and comfortable environment, and I'm developing several rewarding online friendships. There is more than just singles listings here the Community Rooms feature dozens and dozens of ongoing conversations on all kinds of topics, mostly church-related.
Not being Jewish, I didn't join JewishMatch.com wouldn't have been appropriate. But the site's home page seems professional and well-organized, and like most sites, you can join for free only having to fork over money when you find someone you want to communicate with.
JDate.com also caters to the Jewish community, and claims to be the largest online Jewish dating service. Again, I didn't fill out a profile or do searches, but the home page is polished, professional and well-organized.
For Protestants, there's BigChurch.com. I didn't join this site, either, but it also seems to be professional and reputable.
BlackPlanet is oriented toward the African-American community. Larger than just a dating service, it does seem to include singles ads among its other services. (Again, not being black, I didn't join but did look at the home page.) Like CatholicMatch, BlackPlanet has other features to provide a total online community rather than just a place to meet that someone special.
Gay.com is similar to BlackPlanet and CatholicMatch in its organization around a community, rather than just dating. There are news updates with articles of interest to the gay community, listings of businesses serving the gay community, and even online shopping. (Didn't join this one, either. In fact, CatholicMatch.com was the only new service I joined this go-round had the hardest time remembering which ones I'd joined for the previous articles and months later was still getting occasional promotional e-mails.)
Online meat markets
Of course, not everyone who is single is looking for marriage or commitment. Some just want to have fun, and there are more options for that than ever before.
FriendFinder is a fairly popular site for finding dates similar to LavaLife or CupidJunction. Not quite as classy as Match.com or Yahoo! Personals, FriendFinder seems more geared toward the 20-something crowd.
A little more bold is its sister site, AdultFriendFinder. This is like LavaLife's one-night-stand area: If all you want is cheap, meaningless sex, AdultFriendFinder is your place. Charlie Sheen could be their spokesman.
Nerve.com is an erotica site that also includes personal ads. More artistic and classier than AdultFriendFinder, the listings in Nerve are no less provocative but on average a whole lot more imaginative.
Still a fun-oriented (as opposed to relationship-aimed; not that relationships aren't fun ... never mind ...) site, but less explicit than the above sites is DreamMates.com. It's quite comparable to LavaLife or CupidJunction whether there are a lot of other singles nearby you only you can determine, but if you're looking to get out and meet new people it seems worth a visit.
Yet more mainstream dating services
While Match.com and Yahoo! Personals are probably the two largest of the mainstream dating services (those that seem to take into account both young singles just looking to date and enjoy single life, and those who are looking to meet someone special), AOL's Love.com has to be taken into account. Built to interface with AOL's AIM instant messenger client, Love.com is a fun, breezy social setting, geared more to people who enjoy the single lifestyle than those looking to settle down. The categories aren't real deep, but it's an easy interface to get around in and seems to have a nice, large user base. Using the same engine as Love.com is Fark.com, a kind of left-leaning, edgy online community (although one reader has e-mailed me to point out that conservatives are welcomed and numerous on Fark as well!). Not as many singles there as on Love.com, but artsy, creative types may have better luck here than elsewhere.
Date.com looks kind of cheesy at first, but it is a comprehensive dating service more than a meat market. It seems to have a pretty large user base, so finding folks near you should be easy for most folks.
In two weeks, we'll visit even more online dating services. Really.
© Copyright Jim Trageser
All rights reserved