With the coinciding rise of both social networking and online dating, their intersection might not seem too far away. Dating site Zoosk even markets itself as a “romantic social network.” Zoosk is indeed social, designed to introduce you to local singles specifically interested in dating. Facebook is also social, but designed to help you interact with people you (for the most part) already know, and also carries no inherent implication of romantic interest.
Facebook seems like it’s trying to bridge this gap by offering messaging to strangers, which charges you a dollar for a chance to make a random connection. Shortly after their Pay to Message Strangers feature, Facebook also introduced the Graph Search feature that shows you who shares your common interests in your area (among other things). You both live in Tucson, listen to Muse, and watch Parks and Rec. Why not pay a dollar for a shot at love?
But here we hit a wall. Within a romantic confine, there is a certain acceptability (even necessity) of interacting with people you’ve never met. Facebook, on the other hand, is designed to keep you in touch with already established relationships, developed from face-to-face interaction. Receiving a message from a total stranger can feel like a huge invasion of privacy, especially when money comes into play.
But dig this: in a sense, Facebook already is a dating site. Or at least a site that daters use. If you meet someone at a party, for instance, you can add them on Facebook instantaneously (if you have a smartphone) or wait until you get home that night. The face-to-face interaction coupled with the wealth of knowledge you’ve gained from being their friend on Facebook allows you to determine if you’d like to follow up. And all without having to awkwardly ask for their phone number on the spot!
Facebook is very good at being a neutral social networking site. People can use it to connect with and learn about interesting people and/or long-time friends. But it may never be completely comfortable to ask out total strangers on Facebook.
Ok, we know we’re behind on this one. But better late than never and it’s about time we got around to telling you about a new book that was released recently called Data, A Love Story, by Amy Webb. It tells the tale of how Ms. Webb tested and fussed with her online dating profiles and searches in order to help her find Mr. Right. She creates multiple profiles for fictional men to help her figure out the site, expanded her geographic search, analyzed other women’s profiles and pictures and applied SEO methodology to her profile.
The other important thing she did was figure out how to take advantage of the site’s algorithm. Sound complicated? Well, it only gets worse: The way to do that was to figure out exactly what she wanted in a guy. And now we’ve made it sound too easy. She created a complicated point system with each characteristic weighted for its importance in her ideal date and then applied it as she searched and filtered results.
But even if you’re not using a mathematical formula to do it, figuring out what you want in a mate and how to keep your priorities in mind isn’t as simple as it sounds. It’s easy to get distracted by your desire for someone to share your love of sci-fi and to forget that you’re willing to forego romantic evenings of alien movies for someone who will be willing to love your pet ferret as their own. Things like this can be a huge waste of your time, money and emotional energy. That’s why even if you don’t create in-depth spreadsheets and mathematical formulas for calculating the worth of a potential match, it still requires some thought.
Unfortunately, not everything can be searched for on an online dating site. Not even by using the advanced search option. The site will never be able to tell you who will get your sense of humor because your sense of humor can’t be categorized and fit into a check marked box. Here’s where the keyword search comes in. Chances are good that if there’s a popular TV-show or movie (or even a cult sensation) that reflects your sense of humor, the kind of person you’d like to attract may have listed it as one of their favorites too. That’s why getting specific in your profile is just as important as in your searches. Be creative and experiment and make sure to use all of the tools that the site has available.
In fact, that’s probably the most important lesson that Amy Webb offers to online daters: Experiment and put in the effort. Don’t try to shortcut any part of the process. You’re going to put a lot of time into dates so it’s worth putting a lot of time into the other parts of the process including figuring out what you want, perfecting your profile and try new kinds of searches.
As you may have guessed, there’s a surge in the numbers of people who sign up for online dating sites in January. For some, it’s probably the result of New Year’s resolutions to put themselves out there and be proactive. But for plenty of others it’s the sneaky approach of Valentine’s Day just around the corner. You want to preempt it. You don’t want to be alone but chances are good that you don’t want to be stuck in that awkward situation of dating but not quite in a relationship where you can shower your love with romance just yet.
Today is two weeks and one day from Valentine’s Day. Is it time to lock yourself in your room until after it’s all over? Not quite yet.
Step one: Forget about Valentine’s Day. The idea of a day that you can only celebrate if you have a date can be pretty high pressure. If you let it get to you, you may start to rush things or begin to despair. But keep in mind that your love life will continue even on February 15th. Valentine’s Day is not a final deadline so you can just keep trying even after it passes. As Valentine’s Day approaches you may even find that the people who are still active on the online dating sites are the ones who are more interested in a relationship and there are fewer people just hoping for a date for the big day.
And in the meantime, there are plenty of great ways to celebrate even if you don’t have a date. Your Valentine can be anyone you love, even if it’s not romantic love. Consider making a homemade card to send to your mom, taking your best friend out to dinner or planning a nostalgic day of fun with a sibling.
Of course there are still two weeks to go and if you haven’t closed up your online dating account by now, you may still have a date before then. And that’s ok. It may seem like it’s a tough time to start a brand new relationship but it doesn’t have to be. The key is to stay calm and communicate. Valentine’s Day only gets difficult if you start trying to guess what’s in another person’s mind or expect someone to read yours.
If you’ve been seeing someone long enough that you think they may have expectations about Valentine’s Day, just ask them. “Valentine’s Day is coming up and I’m not sure what that’s supposed to look like at this stage. Do you have any ideas? I’d love to spend some time with you but I want to make sure we’re on the same page.”
If you haven’t met in person yet or have only met once, this can be a great excuse to move things forward as long as you keep it casual. “Valentine’s Day is next week and I was wondering if you’d like to do something fun together.” Have some informal activities ready to suggest. The same goes for gifts. Since it is Valentine’s Day, you have an excuse to show off your cute and thoughtful side but make sure to keep things light: Show up to the date with a single flower or some chocolate kisses to share but steer away from a dozen roses and a fancy candy gift box.
If your relationship hasn’t moved offline yet, Valentine’s Day may not even come up. But if you decide you want to go that extra mile and try to sweep someone off their feet a simple email message will do. Just remind them that it’s Valentine’s Day and wish them a great day.
I do a lot of research and reviews about dating sites but I think it’s time to let all of you know that in fact I’m very happily married. I write about dating sites the same way I write about web hosting services or really expensive digital cameras: My calling is to help you find the best but as much as I may want one it just doesn’t fit into my lifestyle.
However, there are times when researching new products for a consumer review site can create temptation. Check out the Tablets category if you need an example. And while I have no interest in actually going on dates, there are a lot of dating sites out there that just seem like tons of fun to get involved in.
The most obvious of these is MySingleFriend.com which has you making a profile for your single friend. As I see it, this removes the worst part of online dating: describing yourself. Instead of walking that fine line between appearing confident and appearing arrogant, let someone else do it for you. I’d like to think I’d come off a lot better if modesty wasn’t a factor. “I wouldn’t know, but my friends say I’m brilliant.”
The next is Trek Passions. Now, I happened to be lucky enough to have found someone who got me hooked on Star Trek without going through this site but if you’re a single Trekkie, Browncoat, cyberpunk or Dr. Who fan this is the place to be. And if you don’t know what any of those things I just mentioned mean, it’s definitely not for you.
Along similar lines is Datecraft, a dating site for players of World of Warcraft. Again, if that doesn’t mean anything to you then you can skip this one but if you’re already a player, wouldn’t it be nice to find someone who shared that? I think it could save a lot of trouble for people who find out that their significant other may want to spend a little bit of time not in front of a computer. After all, who needs that?
Then there’s one that I wish I could qualify for: FarmersOnly.com, which is a little misleading. It’s not actually only for farmers. Instead it’s for people who love country living and want to find someone to share it with. And while I’d love to be able to live out on a farm, I think I’m a little too attached to the pizza place around the corner to ever consider it. Y’know, it I was dating.
If you loved The Parent Trap as much as we did (and let’s face it, who didn’t?) then you may not be against the idea of kids scheming to get their parents married. Well, now there’s an open platform for it. MyLovelyParent.com is a UK site for single parents where the children of the singles can set up their parents’ profile and even conduct initial searches.
The site was started by two adult brothers who wanted to find a companion for their 69 year old mother. Despite the expectation that primarily the site will be used by adults helping out older parents, any child over the age of five can sign up a parent. There are a few options. Either kids can browse profiles and send recommendations to their parents or actually set up the first date.
This is just one of a number of online dating sites that offer unconventional methods, including a similar one that lets people set up their friends. For many people who are still hesitant about online dating, especially if they are re-entering the dating world after being widowed or divorced, it can be helpful to have someone else doing the legwork. And who would know you better than the kids you raised?
There’s an added bonus for parents who worry about how their dating life could affect their children, of any age. This method lets the younger generation be invested in their parents’ love-life and makes sure that they are ok with the people their parents are dating, or at least are willing to give them a fair chance. It also seems safe to assume that the members of this site will be a self-selecting group of people who take family seriously and have good relationships with their kids. They will be people who can understand and are happy to share the joys and complexities of having children.
The more I think about it, the better an idea this sounds to me. But that depends on your dating style. Who do you let get involved in your dating life?
With Mother’s Day just passed and Father’s Day around the corner, online dating sites are making sure not to forget about the single parents out there. Some are even offering special deals or gift certificates for people with kids and most provided some tips, stats about single parents or even just nice greetings. But a lot of them have been focusing on the other side of the coin: men and women who are dating single parents.
How quickly to meet in person and let someone into your home-life is a complicated question for online daters but gets even more complicated when there are kids around. Mother’s Day and Father’s Day tend to bring this issue to the forefront and sometimes to a crisis. That’s why the advice most dating sites give is to start off by keeping your distance.
For most people, this is a day to spend with the kids and sometimes only the kids. There’s even a chance that your new flame’s ex will be part of the festivities instead of you and that’s to be commended. After all, mother’s day and father’s day is a good time for exes to appreciate the mother/father of their children, even if you are no longer in a romantic relationship with them. If you are invited to join in, make sure to give your date and his or her kids space and let the kids call the shots.
However, even if you won’t be spending the day your relationship may have progressed enough that some recognition might be nice. But keep it simple: you wouldn’t want to out stage any macaroni picture-frames that may be in the offing. Flowers or a card are good bets and if you think it’s appropriate to take it a step further, considering something that shows you appreciate that the kids come first. A gift certificate for kid’s portraits or tickets to a family friendly event on some other day of the calendar are a great way to celebrate together without stepping on any toes.
The well-known dating websites PlentyofFish.com and True.com are being sued for using someone’s image in the marketing messages used to promote their sites without permission. Although the practice of using images belonging to others with their consent takes place every day on the Internet, it’s the context here that has turned with issue into a PR nightmare for these leading dating brands. The image they used in their promotional material was that of Army Lt. Peter Burks, who was killed in Iraq in 2007.
The photo used was taken from the non-profit website, the Unsung Hero Fund, created by the family of Lt. Burks. The charity was started soon after Peter Burks’ death and sends care packages to soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. Allegedly the dating sites had an advertisement that displayed Lt. Burks’s photo with the headline “military man searching for love.” Both sites stated that they have taken action to deal with the matter.
While I’m sure this issue will blow over and will not hurt either brand in the long run, I believe there’s something to be learned from this incident. Many dating sites use photos in their promotional messaging to show potential customers a ‘sampling’ of the types of singles they can meet on their sites. From a marketing standpoint, this seems like a logical technique since people want to know who they can expect to meet once they sign up for a dating site subscription. But as a customer, once I see a photo of someone that catches my eye who I can meet on a particular dating site, I might be inclined to sign up and search for that person. So if marketers place photos of people that are not real customers and are nowhere to be found on their sites, it’s deceptive to consumers. The fact that in the case of Lt. Burks it was allegedly done with a fallen war hero obviously makes it all that much worse. But either way, it’s wrong.
I hope all the dating sites out there learned a lesson from this incident and will check to make sure that images of users they claim are their members are indeed active members. But as consumers we must be aware that deceptive advertising is alive and well, so let’s all exercise a bit of caution when responding to marketing messages.
I hereby apologize to those consumers out there searching for the perfect gift for the picky significant other in your life: We just can’t help you. Try searching the internet and you’ll find loads of recommendations and advice about picking the perfect Valentine’s Day gift and I don’t need to repeat them. Anyway, with the weekend almost here, your shopping time may be running out. Most importantly though, getting the right gift is about showing how well you know your valentine and (as great as our research can be) we just can’t do that for you.
Instead, we’re giving some tips to the singles out there. The blog on chemistry.com is providing some great ideas for how to pamper yourself on Valentine’s Day, because there’s no reason you should miss out on the fun!
Just think about the kind of things you would do for someone else on Valentine’s Day, and then turn the tables. For example, breakfast in bed is a classic romantic idea but chemistry.com suggests getting yourself a fancy cupcake and having dessert for breakfast. Fresh flowers can brighten up your home no matter who buys them. Try lighting some candles, picking up your favorite book and lounging in a bubble bath. As the blog’s author points out, there’s a lot more space to stretch out without having to share. It’s also a great opportunity to go on any outings you’ve been dreaming of, like taking a spa day or signing up for a class which can be done on your own or with a group of friends.
That brings me to another idea. Remember in kindergarten when you made Valentine’s cards in school to bring home to your mother? I think it’s time to go back to that tradition. Let Valentine’s Day be a time to appreciate the special people in our lives, even if there’s no romantic attachment. Surprise your best friend with a delivery of balloons, cook a special dinner for your roommates, or regroup with a sibling by trying out a new restaurant together.
Valentine’s Day can be special no matter who you spend it with, so don’t let the holiday pressure you into anything impulsive. There’s plenty of time until Valentine’s Day 2013, so spend the year finding new ways to meet people, choose the best online dating site for you, and be smart about making the most of this Valentine’s Day and next year’s!
If you’ve been following our blog, you know that even the Department of Homeland Security is involved in online dating safety. Now lawmakers are getting involved. Illinois may be following in the footsteps of Texas and New Jersey with new legislation that would require online dating sites to publicize clearly on their site whether or not they do background checks and if members who are found to have a police record may be in the dating pool. They would also be required to prominently post safety warnins and tips, reminding users not to give out financial information or home addresses and to use caution despite the use of background checks. Companies that provide misleading information or not enough information about their practices could be fined up to $50,000.
A number of the major online dating sites already perform background checks, including eHarmony and Match.com. If the bill passes, eHarmony will simply add the text that is required to the pages seen by members from Illinois zip-codes. The information is already included on their Terms & Conditions page anyway.
Of course, this would not be foolproof. A man recently accused of sexually assaulting two women he met on a dating site has no criminal record and would still have been allowed on the site without any problems. In fact, some members of the Illinois legislature said that they would not support the law unless it required sites to use the most thorough background checks available and others are concerned that the new measures would allow people to drop their guard.
So the message seems to be fairly clear- no matter whether or not the law passes (if you live in Illinois), be cautious. This kind of legislation can help to make dating sites into safe environments, but it’s up to the users themselves to keep their eyes open and use common sense.
Alright, the Department of Homeland Security may not be the most unlikely but it’s definitely at the top of the list. The information was announced by Ticonderoga Ventures Inc., a sponsor of the iDate Super-Conference. Tom Miller, chief of communications for the DHS United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team (CERT) will be speaking about deceptive dating tactics in a panel discussion on January 24th. The session is meant for the operators of dating sites to help them prevent fraud.
Mr. Miller is an expert and this appearance is just part of a larger campaign called “Stop. Think. Connect” meant to promote online security.
I for one, find it encouraging. It is nice to know that dating security is in the hands of such authorities on online safety. As it is, dating is an experience to make even the most confident person feel vulnerable and it is comforting to know that someone else is providing protection from fraud. All online daters have to worry about is finding Mr./Ms. Right.
Of course, even with the help of experts like Mr. Miller, it’s worth doing some research yourself. Check online for warnings and safety tips and don’t be shy about reporting anything suspicious to the site’s operators. They all offer some form of personal support and can give you advice if you’re not sure how to proceed.
This is also a place where Consumer-Rankings.com online dating privacy and security reviews can come in handy. There we list the measures that each of the top sites lets you take to protect your privacy, including hiding your profile and location, blocking members and contacting other members from hidden numbers.
Read up on each one before making your choice and between your own precautions and the efforts from experts, online dating can easily be both safe and fun!