Singletude: A Positive Blog for Singles

Singletude is a positive, supportive singles blog about life choices for the new single majority. It's about dating and relationships, yes, but it's also about the other 90% of your life--family, friends, career, hobbies--and flying solo and sane in this crazy, coupled world. Singletude isn't about denying loneliness. It's about realizing that whether you're single by choice or by circumstance, this single life is your life to live.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Online Dating Pros and Cons, Part I

Secretly, in the privacy of your computer-lit room, you've been wondering about it, haven't you? "Yeah, yeah," you've been thinking, "all these stats on alcohol abuse and crime safety and health insurance are well and good, but what about the juicy stuff? What about the dating sites?"

A few days ago, Singletude presented some tips on creating a social networking profile. A more direct means of meeting singles, especially for dating, is, of course, any of the online dating sites that have blossomed over the past decade like desert flowers springing to life over every inch of thirsty ground. Lately, you can't turn your mouse around without an ad for "Beautiful Russian Women" or "Born-again Christian Singles" flashing in your face. (Yes, I am equally guilty of contributing to the morass of dating site ads, and believe me, if Google ran ads for singles products other than dating services, Singletude would feature them in a heartbeat.)

This is not to say that online dating is uncool, unsafe, unsuccessful, or any other adjective prefixed by "-un." There was a time when it carried a stigma, but that time is rapidly fading into a quaint memory of the Information Superhighway's pioneer days, the era of dial-up, chat rooms, and Prodigy. Now your email inbox is as good a place for an introduction as the bar down the street. Nevertheless, the prospect of conducting your first conversation on AIM can be intimidating to those who've never tried it. To help you evaluate whether you want to dive into the sea of cyber dating, let's take a look at the pros and cons of online dating services, starting with the pros:


1. Dating online is a timesaver. In our fast-paced world, it can be hard to eke out time to stop at Starbucks for breakfast, much less hang out there all morning waiting for the perfect match to walk through the door. Online dating services allow you to bypass the bar trolling and love-me-love-me-not flirting and cut right to the chase. You can browse dozens, sometimes hundreds of profiles from the comfort of your own home, shoot off a few emails, and meet the next night for drinks. Furthermore, because you can contact multiple prospects at once, you don't have to waste a whole evening chatting up one hottie just to get a number.

2. The Internet makes accessible a large pool of dating applicants, many of whom you might not meet in the "real world." What a long way we've come from the days of happily settling for the neighboring farmer's bucktoothed, dimwitted daughter because she could at least bake a mean cherry pie! Nowadays, online dating services have made distance almost moot, facilitating introductions between potential partners who live hundreds, even thousands of miles apart. With more singles at your fingertips, you're that much more likely to find someone else who loves Barry Manilow and mullets as much as you do (provided such a person exists at all).

3. Online dating sites eliminate ambiguity. If you've ever seen a cutie in the supermarket and wasted those few precious moments in her company craning your neck at her ring finger, you're familiar with this problem. Dating sites take the guesswork out of who's available for what so you can concentrate on the more important steps of the getting-to-know-you process. No more working yourself into a tizzy agonizing over whether he's into you. If he likes you, he'll send a "wink" or an "icebreaker."

4. Online dating services allow for increased selectivity. Imagine if you walked into a club and everyone had their vital stats printed in bold letters across their chests. What if, drawing closer, you saw that they were wearing detailed bios of themselves, including such finer points as their diet and exercise habits, religious affiliations, and favorite hangouts? Wouldn't it be so much easier to gravitate toward the person best suited to you? Through the use of comprehensive profiles, this is what dating sites enable you to do. Just enter the search criteria that are important to you, and the site will return page after page of profiles that match your preferences. Thus, you can pick that fellow lover of Barry Manilow and mullets out of a sea of faceless strangers, and you can screen out everyone who wants to burn every last copy of "Copacabana." :) In all seriousness, meeting a compatible significant other at a lounge or party is a crap shoot. Sure, physical attraction will announce itself immediately, but you could spend all evening talking and still not find out that someone's interests, values, or beliefs are incompatible with your own. Searchable profiles give you the tools to find someone who you know is at least somewhat compatible with you before you spend time and money on a date.

5. When you meet online, you don't go into a date blind. You have some warm-up time via phone, email, and/or IM. Thus, when you do meet, you avoid the awkward silences that arise when you have no idea what to say to someone and end up blurting out the tail end of an inner monologue about your ex. Initial online contact is especially helpful if you're too shy to relax and have fun when first meeting someone. In addition, it's a good way to protect yourself against bad apples, whose rotten core you can sometimes sniff out in advance of a dinner date you'd have to climb out a bathroom window to escape.

6. Written communication fosters more personal exchanges. Many of us find it hard to open up to a new acquaintance face-to-face. The semi-anonymity of cyberspace can encourage singles to freely share their deeper thoughts, feelings, and experiences with each other, which makes it easier to get to know who someone really is beneath the social front we all present. The flip side of this is that it also makes it easier to withdraw from a relationship that isn't working out, which some might find a pro or a con, usually depending on who's doing the withdrawing!

7. Subscribing to an online dating service can save you money. Depending on the dating site you choose, you may be able to score any number of dates at little or no cost to you. For instance, Plentyoffish prides itself on staying free of charge, while Lavalife lets you reply to anyone at no cost and initiate contact for a fee of $1.20-1.80 per email depending on the package you select. And most of the sites that charge upwards of $20.00 a month significantly reduce that fee if you purchase a long-term package. For example, Yahoo! Personals charges $25.99 per month but $13.99 per month for a six-month commitment, charges $24.95 per month but approximately $8.33 per month for a year's subscription, and charges $59.95 per month but only about $20.83 a month for a year. Even the most expensive dating sites allow you to meet multiple matches per month for the price of dinner and a movie for two...or less.

So now that we've established how many great reasons there are to wade into the online dating pool, you must be wondering what the downside is. Singletude will cover that next time!

Have you ever tried online dating? What are some advantages to dating online? Can you share any positive experiences that you've had?

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bobbyboy said...

Ironically, you touched on a point that many don't seem to realize.
Although there is the common advice that all are given about scams and fakes and safety concerns (Which does exist), it is safer to get to know someone online then to just meet them blindly in say a bar.

I like all the points you make Elsie and I'm sure you will make equally valid points on the negative aspects.

Patiently waiting ;)

Dreamer said...

I just blogged about this topic. Please check it out and let me know what you think!