Online Dating FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions about Online Dating

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What is online dating?

Online dating services allow singles to meet and communicate over the Internet, in order to facilitate a romantic connection. Typically, in order to use an online dating service, you start by creating a profile with basic information about yourself such as gender, age, location, and interests, and at least one photo. Most online dating services allow you to browse or search through a database of member profiles, although a few, such as and eHarmony, only allow users to view profiles of matches who have already been deemed compatible by a computerized matchmaking system. Members can communicate by sending messages through the dating website without revealing any personal contact information.

What other features do online dating services offer?

In addition to hosting a database of profiles and allowing members to exchange messages through an internal communication system, online dating services typically offer other features designed to make the process of finding a compatible match as easy and comfortable as possible. Most include an option to indicate interest in another member without having to write a personalized message. These indications of interest may be called "icebreakers," "winks," or "smiles," and sometimes allow the user to select from a list of pre-written phrases. Many services allow users to exchange instant messages in addition to emails, and some offer a more gradual, guided communication process. Some include dating and relationship advice. Most online dating services send periodic emails suggesting lists of potential matches. In addition to these fairly standard features, many online dating services differentiate themselves by offering a more unique feature or set of features.

Do online dating services work?

People use online dating services for many different reasons, with varying levels of success. Many do find what they are looking for, whether that is a casual date, a committed relationship, or an intimate encounter. But for the most part, users who find compatible partners are the ones who are willing to dedicate time and effort to the process. While an online dating service can make the search for love far more efficient, it can't do all the work for you, nor can it create potential matches out of thin air. Your success will likely depend on your dedication, as well as the number of available singles in your area.

Who uses online dating services?

In recent years, online dating has become thoroughly mainstream. A decade ago, these types of services may have been viewed as a last resort for the shy and socially awkward, but that is no longer the case. The ease, convenience, and efficiency of online dating has attracted a diverse array of users. While gender ratios vary from one service to another, surveys have found that, overall, there are roughly equal numbers of men and women using online dating services. While you can find plenty of users as young as 18 on any matchmaking website, the majority of users fall between 35 and 55. Many people who turn to an online dating service do so because a demanding career leaves less time for dating.

Is online dating safe?

There are a few inherent risks when meeting strangers online, but as long as you take basic precautions and use common sense, online dating can be at least as safe as traditional dating, if not safer. One issue to consider is the security of the data that you include in your profile. It is a good idea to check the terms and conditions of any website before posting information about yourself. You should also consider how exposed your profile will be, and how much personal information you are comfortable exposing to the public. Since you can contact matches through an online dating service's internal communication system, there's no need to reveal your address or phone number. When you do communicate with other members, keep in mind the possibility that any stranger could be a liar or a scammer. Proceed with caution and listen to your instincts. Don't enter into any financial arrangements with anyone you've just met. Don't feel obligated to meet every match in person. Wait until you feel comfortable, and when you do schedule a first date, choose a well lit, public place, and tell a friend where you are going.

Can gays and lesbians use online dating services?

Yes, most of the top online dating services, including those reviewed on, do offer same sex matching. One exception is eHarmony, which did recently create Compatible Partners, a seperate service that caters to gay and lesbian singles. has not reviewed Compatible Partners, due to its very small user base. Most popular dating services allow users to search for same or opposite sex matches, but few are designed to cater to bisexual users. One possible solution would be to create two accounts on the same service.

What if nobody responds to my messages?

Unfortunately, many users will not bother to respond to messages from matches who do not fit their criteria, and some receive so many messages that it becomes impossible to respond to every single one. Don't take unanswered messages as a personal rejection. Instead, consider whether you are pursuing matches with compatible desires. Most online dating services allow you to see what other members are seeking in a match, so you can gauge whether they are likely to reciprocate your interest. It's perfectly acceptable to communicate with several matches at once, so don't hesitate to indicate interest in multiple matches simultaneously, increasing your chances of receiving a response. You might also tailor your messages and profile in order to make them more appealing. For example, overly aggressive messages or messages with poor spelling and grammar are less likely to receive a response.

How can I make my profile more appealing?

It's important to create a profile that represents you in a flattering light. Poor spelling or grammar tend to make a poor first impression, so use proper English, not Internet slang, and proofread your profile carefully. Many users do not take the time to read profiles that do not include a picture, so be sure to upload at least one clear photo of yourself. Mentioning specific interests is a good way to attract attention from matches with similar interests. Most online dating services offer more detailed and specific advice on how to make your profile as appealing as possible, and some even offer services to help improve your profile, for an additional fee.

How long should I talk to someone before meeting in person?

Meeting every potential match right away would be unwise and inefficient, but waiting too long can also be a waste of time. Once mutual interest has been established and you and your match both feel comfortable, it's a good idea to plan a date in a public, well-lit location, so that you can determine whether there is a spark. To email back and forth for weeks or months before meeting, only to find that there's no spark, can be frustrating and disappointing. If you are looking for a date or a relationship, you want to avoid inadvertently devoting too much time communicating with a match who isn't looking for anything more than an online flirtation. It depends on the frequency of your emails, but for most people, it makes sense to wait at least a few days to a week, but not more than a few weeks or a month.

Can I join more than one online dating website?

Absolutely! If you do try out multiple online dating services, you may notice that other singles in your area have also posted profiles on more than one website. Since most online dating services allow you to create a profile and browse potential matches for free, it makes sense to check out more than one before deciding which is best suited to you and your goals. Once you have an idea of the features and the available matches, you can feel more confident when purchasing a subscription.

Do online dating services have guarantees?

Most online dating services do not offer guarantees, since it's impossible to ensure that users will put in the effort necessary to find what they are looking for. does offer a guarantee to new users who sign up for a six month subscription. If you don't find someone special during the first six months, you'll be eligible to receive an additional six months free. In order to take advantage of this guarantee, users must create a truthful profile that includes a primary photo, and keep it visible for the duration of the first six months. Users must also communicate with new matches throughout the first six months, sending emails through to at least five different members each month. In order to receive the additional six months free, you must go to the 6-Month Guarantee Progress page within your account during the last week of your initial six month subscription, and confirm your eligibility.

What do your "Lady's Choice" and "Guy's Choice" awards mean?

We've supplemented each of our reviews with the paired perspectives of a man and woman who signed up for the services, both individuals are in their mid to early 30s and live in a large city. We asked them to rate and review each site based on their experiences with the profile creator and matchmaking or searching functionality. The sites rated highest by each, got the respective rewards. Now, this shouldn't mean that men should only sign up for one, and women the other, but we thought it was an interesting way to compare the sites.

How did come up with its online dating reviews?

Our in-house reviewers have joined and tested every online dating service you see here. In developing the ratings, they looked for services that offered the best features and the most matches. Our reviewers created profiles, took personality tests, and tested the matching and searching features provided by each service. They also tested the email and instant messaging features and explored the unique resources available at each dating website. Finally, they consulted with other users who have attempted, successfully and unsuccessfully, to find someone special using an online dating service.

Top Online Dating


Bottom line: Large and active group of users, intelligent matching system based largely on similar tastes and interests

Bottom line: Quirky and straightforward approach to online dating; tons of personality quizzes help match users with local singles

Bottom line: Emphasis on guidance and deep connections, larger users base seeking committed relationships, some people are not accepted

Bottom line: Fun and playful; great social features; premium features somewhat available without a subscription

Bottom line: Customizable experience, overwhelming & frustrating interface, best for people with flexible relationship goals and a lot of time on their hands

Bottom line: Emphasis on flirting and chatting, good for casual dating, slightly more explicit content, interface cluttered with ads

Bottom line: Instant gratification — a simple "yes" or "no" to users' Available upgrades for more substantial features; app-based service.

Bottom line: Constant stream of speed dates, matchmaking "system" yields poor results, nonstop harassment to subscribe

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