Looking for Love (Online)

Ack! Valentine's Day is here, and you're without a date! What to do?

I used to get a few single friends together, drink champagne, and watch Sex in the City. You can opt to embrace the solitude, either through doing something that only you like doing (folding origami stuff), or by listening to Mary J. Blige and weeping your eyes out. Or, you can post a personal ad, and get yourself a date.

Many consumer-focused groups and other websites have already rated online dating sites. I don't feel like anyone who writes these articles has actually DATED, much less dated online, so I'm here to offer my perspective on a few of the top sites.

1. Craigslist - Free

I started looking for love online when I lived in the Bay Area in 2000. Craigslist was still limited to that one metropolitan area, and was largely used by techies and start-up types, which meant that everyone there was more or less, educated, literate, and fairly trustworthy. Unfortunately, the general population soon discovered Craigslist, which means that personals ads often read like this:

Looking for Affectrionate, atrractive and down-to-earth Princess - 40

I drive, I have a 2 dogs,2cats,fish and a bird the never stops talking he is funny. Any ways if u want to know more just ask.

Despite the fact that the Craigslist dating pool is now extremely diluted by illiterate mouth-breathers, there are some good people to be found on there. But you have to search. Now is actually a good time — even if you are boycotting Valentine's Day, you'll find that the number of personal ads on Craigslist spikes around V-Day. Go ahead and peruse the site and see what you can find.

Craigslist is also great because you don't have to create an account to find a date — you can just reply to other people's ads. Most importantly, and the reason why I discussed it first, Craigslist costs nadda. You can't get cheaper than free. Don't believe me? Post an ad offering a perfectly good, one-year-old, flat panel, 17" television set for $50 and see how many people offer you $3 for it.

One tip for all online dating: Create a nice, anonymous email account that does not include your real name or any personal info. There are some crazies out there.

Cost: Free.
Time investment: Considerable, there's a lot of wading to do.
Hand-holding: Nope, you're on your own.
Grievances: Some weird, weird people out there.
Exclusivity: God, no.

2. Gay/Lesbian Singles Online - Mostly Free

Okay, I haven't used this site, but they seem to be fairly trustworthy — they won't spam you or sell your info to anyone else. There are plenty of listings, which is good, because other sites have a real dearth of gay postings. Craigslist, in particular, is a difficult place for lesbians to find love - many cities just don't have that many postings, and the ones that do don't share photo. Gay Singles Online and its gal-only counterpart, Lesbian Singles Online, offer some hope for the Sapphic searcher. 

Cost: They claim to be free, but seem to offer paid premium memberships.
Time investment: Medium — not as bad as eHarmony.
Hand-holding: Nope.
Grievances: None from me, but some experienced online daters might want to provide feedback.
Exclusivity: It would probably help if you were some flavor of queer.

3. Match.com and Yahoo Personals

These, I totally avoid. Once I learned that both companies have been accused of sending false emails to people looking for love, I abandoned the idea of using them. Taking advantage of the lovelorn isn't okay. Homey don't roll like that.

4. eHarmony - Not Cheap

eHarmony is famous for using really long, drawn-out surveys and Jungian archetypes to determine your best match. When I first signed up for eHarmony out of curiosity (could they really match me with someone good?), I was informed that there was no one within 100 miles of my home that would be even close to a good match for me. I sort of figured that that meant that I was either impossible to deal with (maybe) or that eHarmony had a really small dating pool.

Turned out that the latter was correct, because when I signed up again a few years later, I found that there were dozens of men that apparently matched me in every conceivable aspect of my personality. Which was kind of good, but also kind of frightening. eHarmony is really aggressive about informing you that you have a new match, and after a while, I found that I had to narrow my definition of "acceptable" to slow down the onslought of available men.

I never actually met anyone off of eHarmony, and closed the account when I became overwhelmed by the wave of communicating men. I felt cheated, first because eHarmony is really expensive, and second, because I had spent hours going through all of the surveys and questions and explanations, and I never really managed to go on a date. I can't blame eHarmony for this. But I can blame for the whopping price, the miselading emails (the ones that tell you to come back for only $19.99 a month, but negelect to mention that that's only if you sign up for another 12 months).

Cost: Not frugal — roughly $50/month, less per month if you buy more months.
Time investment: Intense. Many questions to answer.
Hand-holding: So much so that you might forget how to feed yourself without eHarmony there.
Grievances: Mainly the price, but also the fact that founder of eHarmony has, in the past, beeny against same-sex coupling.
Exclusivity: Yes — the people on here make enough money to spend at least $40/month looking for a mate, and you are matched based on a very extensive list of factors, so you are less likely to get stuck on a date with someone who has an entirely different value system than you do. Also, someone who can afford hundreds of dollars per year in online dating expenses probably has most of their own teeth. Still in their mouth.

There are many specialized sites out there that cater to every type, and new ones are popping up every day. Explore your options! Date! Love! Go now!

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Guest's picture
Angela Kriger

Down To Earth Princess... I have found my new self-identity.  Although I'll admit, I'm all about funny birds that talk too much.  That's the problem with online dating, I just never could decided between all of the gems!

Will Chen's picture

Hey, I LOVE affectrionate women.

True story.  I signed up for Yahoo personals once and the very next day I got 50 messages!  I was so excited.  Girls love me.  They really, really love me!

As it turn out 99% of the messages came from girls from other countries asking me if I have US citizenship.  Well, you know where that's going....


Andrea Karim's picture

Russian mail-order brides! My favorite!

I actually got hit up a few times for citizenship, too. I LOVE those emails. They're even more entertaining than the "Hi my nam Dave lik ur ad ur funny hahaha lol maybee coffee sumtim dontworrie i only hav 2 kids lollolololol".

Will Chen's picture

Those two kids are doomed.

Guest's picture

eHarmony is just a piece of work. A friend of mine told me about someone he knew who got matched up through eHarmony, and on the very first date the new "couple" got into a fight. :-/ I've never managed to forget that.

I once filled out their questionnaire, but then declined to cough up the $60 fee. To try and get me to, eHarmony would send me emails saying they'd found my soulmate. Now, I work in entertainment and am, quite honestly, funny for a living. eHarmony's picks for me are always like a plumber or a tax accountant who lives 40 miles away. Hello, I'm in Los ANGELES, where there are over 6 MILLION PEOPLE?? There's NO ONE ELSE who works in my field or resides closer than Rancho Cucamonga?

Add to that the fact that the eHarmony questionaire is COMPLETELY humorless--who would want to date anyone who takes it seriously? If their questions actually reflect your mega-earnest mindset, I not only don't want to settle down you, I don't even want to be stuck in an elevator with you for more than two floors.

If you actually want to have fun dating, I think eHarmony could be eHarmful.

Guest's picture

I have personal experience with eHarmony. I do not have a college degree and as such did not receive as many matches as my brother did, who does have his college degree. eHarmony in my opinion is for people who are dead-serious about dating, not casual daters like myself. Only did a one month membership, so nothing really lost. Found another eHarmony review that seems to be a bit more glowing than most.

As for Match.com.....I think it is a place where the only way you will get a date is if you take off your shirt or show cleavage. I didn't have that much success with match.com

Yahoo personals served me best. I have been told by several people that Yahoo Personals seems to attract "normal" people. Not sure what they mean by this, as I found "normal" people on every dating site that I have tried so far.

Guest's picture

I have only tried online dating once...it didn't have a good outcome. I really don't think that it's a good way to meet the love of your life. I know for some people, it has worked, but I found the love of my life the "old-fashioned" way. LOL