Wednesday, May 13, 2009 /

She said…. Are all online sites created equal? - Part 2


I will say that there were some interesting elements to eHarmony (pros and cons) that you may want to be aware of before shelling out the considerable membership fee. On that note, eHarmony is a pay site, where your fees are determined by the number of months you commit to, rather than usage (as is the case with a site like Lavalife). Not surprisingly, you pay less per day the longer you sign up. Further complicating things is the fact that an “instalment plan” is only available if you sign up for a full year (3 consecutive months of payments) – talk about psychological pricing! Now, they do advertise the ability to “view your matches for free”, but this complicates things on two fronts: First, as a “free visitor”, you can’t view pictures for your matches (nor can you communicate with them); and, Second, the “free visitor”/”window-shopper” profiles are not differentiated from the “paying members”. As a result, it may look as though you have a great deal of matches (I would receive, on average, 15 new matches daily), when really only a fraction of them have put their money where their mouth is and fully committed to the process.

On the plus side, eHarmony has a great system of “safe communication” by both email over the site, as well as secure phone contact (even long-distance). They also offer “guided communication”, which takes matches through a series of communication phases consisting of: 5 multiple-choice questions; a shopping list of "must haves" and "can't stands" (Of course, I’m not sure who really CAN stand racists, bad hygiene, lying and cheating to name only a few – but perhaps there are some who would take a card-carrying member of the KKK as long as he brushed 3 times daily???); and finally, the exchange of long-answer/essay-type questions. At that point, if you haven’t offended each other (or died of boredom), you would go to “open communication” (secure email via the site). Of course, you also have the option of skipping “guided communication” entirely and going the “Fast Track” route, a personal preference of mine once I realized how lame I sounded in my “essay answers”. There really is something about back and forth in communication!

So, that’s eHarmony. On the other end of the online dating spectrum is Plenty of Fish, a free site. Now the pro and con (singular) of this site are fairly obvious, the pro being that it doesn’t cost you a thing, and the con being that, because it doesn’t cost you a thing, you tend to have to do more sifting through the riff raff – basically, anyone and their dog (and yes, some people think a picture of their dog makes for a great dating profile pic…hmmm…) seems to have a profile on this site. As a result, signing up for this site gets you your fair share of proposals of the indecent variety (but hey, maybe that’s what you’re after), even when what you are looking for (a relationship or dating or email or friendship) is front and center in your profile. But, if you are not offended by the occasional offer from a married woman, looking to explore her possible bisexuality while her hubby looks on, or someone looking for “one classy lady” to practice his “massage skills” (yes, both of these situations come from my own personal experience), Plenty of Fish, and other sites of its ilk, do offer an economical means of getting into the world of online dating. And, of course, it brought me and Martyn together – and not a moment too soon!

Lavalife would fall somewhere in the middle of the spectrum between Plenty of Fish and eHarmony. It operates very much like Plenty of Fish (but with a much more appealing look and feel, in my opinion) in that you scan the profiles and can chose where your own interest lies. Unlike Plenty of Fish, there are fees involved with this site, but not to the same extent as eHarmony. Basically, you purchase credits that allow you to initiate communication. Once initiated, the back and forth communication is free. As advertised by the site it is “FREE to Join, FREE to Search, FREE to Reply and FREE to Flirt!”. So, you can post your profile, view others, and even “show interest” in profiles without having to shell out any cash. When I was a Lavalife member back several years ago, I never spent a dime and yet, still communicated with people. I’ve been told by many that this is often the case for women on the site – I guess old-fashioned chivalry isn’t dead (at least in the online dating realm)! One benefit of Lavalife is that there are three unique online dating communities: dating, relationships, and intimate encounters. While this certainly doesn’t guarantee you freedom from the types of offers you haven’t signed up for (as many have profiles in more than one community, if not all three!), it does tend to cut down on that sort of thing – unlike Plenty of Fish, where everyone is lumped in together and you have to look specifically at how that one profile field has been filled in.

So, that’s a basic overview of but three of the options out there for your online dating pleasure. The list is certainly not exhaustive, but I hope it gives you a flavour of what you might expect from the spectrum of sites available to you.

Happy Hunting!

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Tuesday, May 12, 2009 /

She said…. Are all online sites created equal? - Part 1

…and the answer to that is a resounding NO!!!

But seriously, this being a blog about relationships generally, yes, but also about a relationship that began through an online dating site (Plenty of Fish, specifically), I thought it would be appropriate and timely to talk about the relative merits and drawbacks of a few of the online dating options out there – from my own personal experience.

Aside from the recognition by both Martyn and I that this was a “successful” online dating experience…because it was how WE ultimately met…the blog to date has probably been more negative and cynical than necessary insofar as describing our experiences BEFORE meeting each other.

Granted, in the numbers game of online dating, you are bound to have a large spectrum of experiences – from the hilarious to the appalling… and sometimes even to the downright scary – before meeting Mr./Ms. Right…or even Mr./Ms. “Seemingly Normal”, to use Martyn’s words. And really, the entire process can help you to learn a lot about yourself and what you want in a partner – or more importantly, what you DON’T want. In my case, it helped me to see that despite my own “shortcomings” – perceived or otherwise – I was actually a pretty good catch all told.

So, how do you choose which forum (or fora) is right for you? I began my online dating adventure through a more “scientific” route. By signing up with eHarmony, the psychologist-created dating site, I chose to put my romantic future in the hands of the “experts” – to let them match me with my “soulmate”, based on "29 dimensions of personality that are scientifically-based predictors of long-term relationship success”. I’ll admit it…I could totally see myself as one half of the next nauseatingly happy couple to be aired as a success story for the site – something to effect of ... “Jackie and Mr. Right were matched in January 2009, married in June 2010, and are currently living in blissful suburban happiness, awaiting the birth of their first child”. Instead, all that MY 2 hours spent filling out the comprehensive questionnaire yielded me was a lot of photo-less matches, 4 “matches” I already knew through work, and one date – and a long-distance date at that.

And still, I can’t say that eHarmony was a complete bust. Aside from the one date with a very nice guy (with whom I knew immediately upon meeting that there was no long-term potential…or spark even…too bad the distance made for 6 weeks of email chat before figuring this out), I was matched with at least 4 individuals who, on paper, would be very “compatible” matches for me – similar lifestyles, levels of education, views of the world, etc. The fact that I already knew, and could eliminate, these four as good matches for me in no way devalues the science behind the compatibility matching process. The reality is that, no matter how contact is initiated (by picking and choosing or by a more scientific approach), a good relationship depends largely on that “X-factor” (call it a “spark” or chemistry or pheromones or whatever) that separates the “friends” from the “more-than-friends”.

… to be continued tomorrow …

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