Best and Worst Places to Date Online: An Unashamed Review

Unlike a lot of singles, I am not shy about my online dating. I’ll openly admit that I date online, because I think it’s far less pathetic than complaining that I haven’t met anyone, because I’m not even trying. I go to bars. I drink. I flirt. I have nights out with Gail and Catherine. I try to talk to people at church, if I don’t have to rush to the library immediately afterwards. I mingle at work functions. I wear dresses nearly every day of the week, so I always look like I’m putting in more effort than I really am. In short, while I do date online, I also have a full life. I think that if more people would openly admit that the two aren’t mutually exclusive, all of these attached people, who met in the days of Central Perk and MacLaren’s, would stop assuming all online daters look like this…

I’m always amused by how many women hesitantly admit to online dating after hearing a few of my stories. Read some statistics, y’all! It’s what the cool kids do: read statistics AND date online, that is.

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So, because of my openness, it’s not uncommon for people to ask what sites I use. Recently, I realized that I’ve used just about all of them. I’ve also realized that my readers, who often come for the online dating humor and stay for my inability to take anything else seriously, might benefit from an honest, experienced review. In addition, I’ll add one simple piece of overall advice. Always buy the bulk pack on any online dating site. It takes time to meet someone with whom you have any chemistry, even if it’s just online, and even more time to set a date to meet. The objective is to go on as many first dates as possible, until you find someone with whom you’d like a second date, so never sign up for less than six months. It won’t be worth it and you’ll end up wishing you’d just spent that extra $20, when your 30 days are up.

Plenty of Fish

Highlights:
It’s free.
You don’t need a screen name and can window shop anonymously.

Plenty of Fish is the Xanga you created in the 9th grade and completely forgot. It’s a mess and no improvements have been made to it in the two years I’ve been on it, which is a lifetime when it comes to the Internet. The Advanced Search option will remember everything you specify except religion, which I have trouble believing is an accident. The matches given appear to be completely random, because they rarely even fit the desired age range listed, let alone relationship status or common interests.

When you create your profile, you’re allowed to add up to 8 photos, the first of which must clearly display your face. This isn’t enforced particularly well, so you still get matches who appear to be muscle cars or white domestic shorthairs. The standards for your matches are set remarkably low with questions like “Do you have a car?” and they don’t have a character limit under the About Me section, so you’ll spend a lot of your time screaming “JUST FILL OUT THE FUCKING PROFILE!” at the computer, because that’s the 14th time you’ve seen nothing but “Ask me.”

That being said, I’ve met some nice guys on Plenty of Fish, who were genuinely seeking something serious. I’ve also met some bags of dicks who asked if I’d like to buy some weight loss supplements.

Summary: It’s free, so why not?

OKCupid

Highlights:
It’s free.
It’s set up much like many paid sites.

OKCupid is a much more impressive effort at a free dating site than Plenty of Fish. Here, you lose the ability to anonymously window shop, unless you make a fake profile, but said profile comes complete with the option to answer user created questions and compare them to those of others. These questions can be really useful in discerning political, faith, ethical, or even sexual differences. They can also be bizarrely personal and inappropriate, so your abortion dilemma may be directly followed by an ass to mouth dilemma. Fortunately, you can skip questions and your answers can only be read by those who have also answered. Unfortunately, it’s suuuuuper awkward to go on a first date with a man, when you know he’s tried anal.

Each match on OKCupid comes with a percentage, based solely on the aforementioned questions. I’m not a statistician, but I’d still recommend taking these numbers with a grain of salt and reading individual responses. Some questions are less important than others, particularly if you answered them a while back, after binge watching Bewitched and deciding that the man really should be the head of the household. There are a lot fewer men on OKCupid who’ve left their entire profiles blank, but it’s still a free dating site. This means plenty of unemployed and/or married men, so it pays to read every bit of information given.

Summary: This is a great introductory to online dating, because it doesn’t cost a dime, but comes with an interface similar to paid sites.

Tinder

Highlights:
It’s a free phone app.
You sign in through Facebook, but it won’t post to your page.

Tinder is just the place for “ask me” guy. It requires nothing but a Facebook login, from which it pulls your age, gender, About Me, and a few photos. The last two can be edited. Once you’ve logged in, you’re given photos of users in your area and age range, which is set to everyone as an alterable default. Each photo allows you to swipe left for no and right for yes. If you tap the photo, you’ll get any others that have been added and if you’re super lucky, a short bio. Most of these are blank, but some include helpful tidbits, like the fact that this guy is in a plural marriage or wants to “see your tits.” That’s right, you’re basing all interest almost purely on appearance. It’s a great way to feel better about yourself if you’re even mildly aesthetically pleasing. It’s also a great way to view an accidental dick pic.

The real problem with Tinder is that no one takes it seriously. You’ll see guys from other sites, where they’ve put in real effort, and they’ll leave zero information here. The perks of online dating, like weeding out the unemployed and guys with No Fat Chicks paragraphs, don’t apply. If you do try to use it as a legitimate dating tool, you have to cover all of the important things in conversation and you’ll feel like an ass when you stop talking to a guy, because he’s just an assembly line worker or has two different baby mommas. Unless you’re looking for a hookup, Tinder serves no real relationship purpose. We’re all just bored and shallow and this is where we hang out now, because there’s no cover charge and we don’t have to wear pants.

Summary: If you need a laugh, it’s free, so why not?

Catholic Match

Highlights:
While the service costs the same as most sites, proceeds benefit the Church.
There are approximately 28 people in my area.

Catholic Match requires subscribers to answer questions specific to the Church, such as whether they accept mandates on contraception and are free to marry in the faith. In theory, it would’ve been a great way to find someone who lined up perfectly with my religious beliefs. In reality, Catholic Match was a terrific opportunity to view the profiles of the 14 Catholic men in my area and age range, who haven’t been called to the Priesthood. If I lived in a different part of the country, say Massachusetts, which has the largest concentration of Catholics in the nation, I’d be on kid number three by now. Get it? Because we’re Catholic? Anyway, here in the South, Catholic Match was just far too specific, as I imagine JDate would be, as well. I don’t regret trying it, because the proceeds benefited the Church, but I also did not get even one date in my six months as a paid member.

Summary: If Catholicism is important to you, make sure that there’s more than one place in your city to buy a Rosary, before subscribing.

Christian Mingle

Highlights:
It costs about the same as other dating sites.
Choices are fewer.
You’re encouraged to be pickier about things, when you wouldn’t normally care.

I tried Christian Mingle, because I figured I’d be religious specific, without being denomination specific and get more results. Sadly, it’s just like any other dating site, only judgier. Even if you wouldn’t typically mind denomination or relationship status or children, it’s hard not to notice and form opinions, because the information is displayed so clearly in a religious environment that encourages you to find a religious match. You fill out the same profile that you do anywhere else, only you’re asked which church you attend: quite specific information that you shouldn’t divulge to strangers who might be crazy. There are chat rooms and message boards available to subscribers, but they don’t work well and there are free Christian social networking options all over the Internet. However, they can be helpful for questions like “What is wrong with my profile?” and “Would you date a virgin?” Additionally, the staff encourages responses to every message, regardless of interest. Come, now. We all know the rules of online dating: whoever loses interest first, wins. Also, no one wants the Thanks, but No Thanks email. That’s just rude.

As a divorced, 26-year-old, Catholic girl in the South, I’ve no idea what I was thinking when I decided to try Christian Mingle. Again, even when you wouldn’t care about such things normally, Christian Mingle is pressuring you to find a very specific match. If I’m going to date a Methodist, why not find him on OKCupid? We’re in the Bible Belt. It wouldn’t be that hard. I suppose that one of the reasons I decided to try this site was the sheer number of men only interested in hook ups. I figured a Jesus-centered dating service would at least get me respectful men. WRONG. I never had a single date from Christian Mingle and one of the two men I ever texted asked, completely off topic, how short my shortest dresses were and if I enjoyed giving and receiving massages.

Summary: If you’re a single, virginal Christian girl in the South… you probably don’t need Christian Mingle, because there are plenty of opportunities in this area to meet other Christians and they’re free.

eHarmony

Highlights:
It’s the most expensive mainstream dating site.
There is no browsing. You can only look at assigned matches.

eHarmony will spend your entire subscription period telling you that there is no one out there for you, because you’re just too danged picky. No really. Despite my acceptance of all denominations of Christianity (ubiquitous in these parts), all races, and all men who will consider having children, several times a week, I still get an email telling me that my distance limitations are just too specific. At the moment, they’re strictly set at 60 miles. I live in a suburb of a thriving metropolis. Sixty miles in any direction gives me a lot of people… but no. eHarmony can’t find anyone in a 60 mile radius that could be a possible match. If I loosen the parameters, I get men in other states, which is not a minor thing in the middle of the country. This ain’t Jersey, folks. I can’t just drive to New York to meet a great guy. When I do get matches (maybe once a week), they’re usually identified as not being quite what I was seeking, which means they’re younger than I, have no photo, or might want kids. In fact, the one man I did meet was awful. He was one of my least compatible and worst dates ever. Consequently, several times a week, eHarmony gets an email telling them how much they suck and that I’ll never recommend them or subscribe to them again.

Summary: If it’s given as a gift, say thank you, but don’t expect to mean it, unless you’re perfectly willing to relocate for luuuuuuv.

Match

Highlights:
Online coupons and bulk rates make it reasonably affordable.
Matches must be able to afford the subscription fee.

My first year of Match.com has just expired. I signed up for the 6 Month Match Guarantee one year ago, after my GP acted shocked and amazed that I wasn’t getting laid, right before my birthday. Thanks a heap, Doc. I wasn’t already having trouble with entering the last half of my twenties. Anyhoo, the guarantee required that I contact at least five new people each month, keep my profile visible, and always have a photo displayed. Included, was a monthly progress bar, verifying what still needed to be done. After six months, in which I admit I really didn’t even use the subscription, I was offered a free six month renewal and accepted. Because of a coupon code I found online, I paid only $76 for the entire year. Yes, I’m still single, but I must say, it was worth it.

Match.com combines the best features of all of the above sites. By charging a fee, it weeds out most “students” or unemployed men. By keeping the fee affordable, there are still plenty of matches available. Each match has a percentage, rating compatibility. Though daily matches are provided for approval or dismissal, they don’t necessarily match up with your specifications. While you can’t cater said matches to your choice of height, relationship status, or religious denomination, you can easily perform and save searches specific to all. Important information cannot be left blank, so there is no “ask me,” and instead just the occasional “I’m only filling this out, because there’s a character limit.” Dude, why did you pay for this?

One thing Match offered that no other sites did was Stir Events and I even went to a couple. While they would’ve been more fun with a friend, they weren’t near as horrible and awkward as they sound. They were free, you could bring friends for free, they often included a drink for each person, and were held in popular venues in the city. I have every intention of renewing and actually using my subscription, in the next month.

Summary: If you’re going to pay for online dating, this is the only site I recommend. Take advantage of the Stir Events. It’s a free drink.

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11 thoughts on “Best and Worst Places to Date Online: An Unashamed Review

  1. Yeah, Christian Mingle sucks. In my area it’s mostly guys with face piercings and heavily tatooed arms. The one guy I texted with wanted to either meet in a bar with all his friends or at his apartment for a first date and kept insisting I send him a pic. I thought he was a little creepy so I never met him. Online dating can be the worst but I’m still trying.

    • I’ve had worse luck dating in person, than online, and appreciate the ability to decide someone’s not right for me PRIOR to meeting, so I don’t hate it. Some sites, though, aren’t near what they’re cracked up to be.

  2. Pingback: Best and Worst Places to Date Online: An Unashamed Review | TinderNews

  3. Totally agree with eHarmony as a well-marketed Dating Fail, from my experience.

    1. It’s super expensive. You THINK that’s going to mean fewer guys that are unemployed, or just trolling/not serious.
    2. It’s got this ridiculously long personality profile and highly-marketed matching approach. You THINK that’s going to mean you end up with fewer HORRIBLE matches & dates, and less BS in the whole process.

    The reality is that you get fewer matches (even here in Jersey, and even without denomination-specificity), and you are so shocked at how BAD most of the matches & dates prove to be that you start to decide that if THIS is the type of person you are HIGHLY COMPATIBLE with, then permanent singleness is no longer just an acceptable outcome… it’s genuinely preferable. And that maybe, just maybe, that says something about YOU that is so horrible that … wait? Am I paying to be made to feel this bad about myself?

    Or at least, that was my view. YMMV. LOL

    Quick point though: if you live in NJ and get matches in NY, that’s usually not OK either.
    1. On the map, maybe it’s 20 miles. Not bad, right? Wrong. That’s 2 hours, traffic to make you cry, an $18 toll, and parking fees. [Or the train, but the trains schedules, like the passengers, get sketchier as the night gets later.]
    2. If they’re in NYC, they probably don’t have a car. So the commute will be entirely one-sided.
    3. If they’re in NYC, they sometimes have “extreme NYC superiority complex” which does not exactly make for a great love match with non-New Yorkers.

    • Agreed. EH just makes me feel like I’m obviously that unlikeable, in part because I get almost no matches period. I also feel like I’ve seen every person on eHarmony on OKCupid or Match, so WHY did I pay so much for a subscription? They aren’t more likely to respond on a different site. It’s just got a brilliant marketing campaign, as you mentioned.

      I had not considered the traffic and tolls issue of Jersey to New York. My work is 16 miles from my apartment and it takes me 25 minutes to get there, with 35 cents in tolls. I guess I have a skewed view, there. Lol.

  4. Match.com for the win – its by far the best. I’ve been on Match and Eharmony since last March. I’ve met 12 from eharmony and 18 from match. Although most matchers admitted to have slid over from EH and most EH’s admitted switching from Match (calling it a meat market, 50+ messages a day etc).

    I am a GUY and all I have to do is log into Match, search around for 10-15 min and then log out. By the next morning I’ll have messages in my inbox. Try that on POF…lol

    • Yeah, I prefer Match by far. I hardly even check eHarmony, because I know I won’t have any matches. I agree, it’s not so hard to get messages, but I usually don’t even bother to talk to the 22 year old “Student”, when he messages. Lol. If we’re not compatible, I won’t bother.

  5. I have tried most of those (no religious based sites) and I got so tired of spending HOURS trying to perfectly craft not only my profile, but any first/follow up messages to a guy to get back one word answers/or the same “Hey, what’s up?” stuff I get on Tinder. While definitely a hook-up app (no argument there), it is hysterical and if you have a friend on it too, you can drink wine and tandem Tinder. While not wearing pants… ;D As did a gentleman in my area, on his Tinder profile pic, while wearing only an apron.

  6. I’ve tried Tinder (even went on a date) but I don’t think matches based entirely on appearances are a good idea. Maybe it’s not as prevalent anymore, but I want to try meeting people the old fashioned way…of course, when I’m 30 and still single I’ll likely change my mind. 😛

    • Once you’re out of college, online is kind of the only thing left, especially if you don’t do bars. It’s really not so bad, but Tinder is definitely the least successful version. Lol.

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