Online Dating Facts

Match.
com, eHarmony. com, Yahoo! Personals, JDate. com, Craigslist. Dozens of high-profile websites are out there to help cybersurfers find "the one. " And if you're single, chances are you've considered joining one of these, but before you do, you should know all of the facts.

Online Personals Ads

Online personals ads are very similar to newspaper personals: you write a description of who you are and what you want, then wait for the replies.
The Web has made using personals ads a bit easier, but also a bit scarier. Craigslist. org is a popular place to post ads that can be tailored to your geographic location, and what you are seeking. Yahoo! Personals is another option. These sites are normally free to use.

Online Matchmaking

Matchmaking is a much more specialized form of online dating, and it is normally not free.
The most popular of these online are eHarmony. com and Match. com, which pride themselves on not just finding you a date, but matching you with someone who is compatible with you on several different levels. You will create a profile and then be entered into a database that other users can search by location, gender, sexual orientation, body type, etc. Online Dating Magazine estimates that people who pay for online dating spend about $239 per year.

Choosing an Online Dating Site

This task can be daunting because so many options are out there.
Identify what is most important to you: to have more dating options or to find one committed relationship. Most sites are geared toward one option or the other, with personals ads being slightly more about dating and online matchmaking being slightly more about committed relationships. Also, do you want a specific type of relationship? If so, consider culture-specific sites such as JDate. com (for Jewish singles) or InterracialRomance. com (for singles looking for a date of another ethnicity).

Finding Potential Partners

Online dating can be a jungle with all of its choices, and finding a good candidate, either from an online personals ad or an online matchmaking site, can be difficult.
A rule of thumb is to be honest--in your personals ad, in your emailed responses to other people's personals ads and in your profile. This doesn't just apply to how you look (the urge to lie a little about your appearance can be great), but also your personality and your desires. For example, if you know that you will never be attracted to a short man, do not entertain the ad of someone who clearly states he is 5-foot-3.

Exercising Caution

Because the Internet provides a great deal of anonymity to everyone, it is important to be safe and exercise caution when meeting anyone who you have correspondence with online.
Calling a person and making sure he sounds similar to who he said he was (you can generally tell a person's gender and age range from the voice) is called voice verifying and can weed out potential spammers or liars. Also, getting a wide variety of pictures from the person, including face, full body, indoor and outdoor will also help you know that a person is real (someone using another person's identity will likely only have one photo). When you do meet, go to a public place and let someone know where you will be going and when to expect you home.

About the Author

Whitney Elaine is a freelance writer in the Washington, D.C. area. Besides contributing to Web sites like BusinessWeek.com, AOL and Parents.com, she's worked for magazines like "Essence," "Heart & Soul" and "Sister 2 Sister." She holds a Bachelor of Arts in print/online journalism from Howard University and has been writing for since 2004.

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