Is online dating a good idea? If so, which site should I choose?
March 24, 2015 8:41 PM   Subscribe

I'm 23 years old and I have had limited experience with dating in person. I'm pretty busy with school that it keeps me from meeting people I like. Therefore, I've considered doing online dating but I'm a little concerned about catfish and people who just want to hookups. For those of you who have experience with online dating, does online dating have a good pool of people who look for a serious relationship? If so, are paid sites like eHarmony or better than free sites such as OKCupid? Thank you for your response!
posted by missybitsy to Human Relations (31 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
First off, where are you located in the world? I get the sense that what you get out of online dating varies substantially from place to place. This includes both which sites you want to be on; what the online dating "culture" is; and who has it better (in terms of men vs. women).

In any event, I have done some online dating in New York, as both a 23-year-old and a 25-year-old. Here is some fairly standard advice:
  • Yes, many people on online dating sites are looking for serious relationships! Even on sites with more of a "hookup" vibe. I have been to three weddings of people who met on OkCupid in the past two years. I also met my current SO on OkCupid over two years ago.
  • Online dating can be a good idea but it is certainly not a fast-track path to meeting people. It takes a lot of time (see below). If you're feeling constrained by your social circle, it is definitely worth it.
  • As for what site to go on, go to the ones that have the people you want to meet. I am willing to bet at least some of your friends do online dating? What sites are they on? Those are the ones you should be on. Similarly, a lot of people find it awkward when they run across exes' profiles on online dating sites, and it certainly is, but it's also a good sign, since it means that people who you want to date (or at least did at one time) use the site you're on.
  • Don't dismiss sites for being free -- the argument that OkCupid makes, and I think it's a good one, is that paid sites want to keep you paying for as long as possible so they make it more alluring to explore but harder to actually meet someone. For instance, they'll show you lots of super attractive people who definitely won't message you back. OkCupid doesn't do this since it just wants you to be *on* the site a lot. In theory, at least.
  • Expect to go on lots of first dates. You may not be used to going on lots of first dates that don't go anywhere, but that's because if you meet people in real life, you know if you have at least some chemistry with them before having gone on ANY dates! But online, your first date is the only chance you have. So don't invest too much until you meet someone. That also means it is worth meeting people in person sooner rather than later.
  • Since you will go on lots of first dates, try to make them fun. Don't put a lot of pressure on, that will only make you miserable. Instead, why not suggest activities you like to do anyway! (Ones that are in public, of course.) Coffee shop or bar you've been meaning to check out? Neighborhood you've wanted to visit for a while? This may be a good excuse to try some of those things out.
  • You are a woman (I'm assuming?) so you will get messaged by many creeps. Ignore them. You are under NO obligation to respond to all or even most of the messages you receive. Only message people back if you are actually interested in potentially meeting them.
  • Most people in your age group, I am led to understand, are on Tinder. I don't think you should dismiss this out of hand. Even if it is mostly for hookups, it doesn't have to be for hookups *for you*. See above: go where the people you want to meet are. Ignore the rest.
Good luck!
posted by goingonit at 9:00 PM on March 24, 2015 [9 favorites]

I also want to address a little bit more your concern about people who are just looking to hook up with you. I am a man, so I am very much not the authority on this; that said, based on what I have heard from female friends, I want to explain a little more why I think you shouldn't worry too much about this.

There are many women online, too, who are looking for hookups, or who are at least willing to have one-night stands if the opportunity presents itself. If you make it clear that this isn't you -- mainly by not getting physical for at least the first few dates, and by communicating what you want -- the people who aren't looking for a relationship will invest their energy elsewhere. What's in it for them to put in all this effort pestering you when there are so many other people out there looking for the same thing as they are?

Of course, it is still scary to be meeting a stranger from the Internet in person. So be safe! Make sure that you meet them for the first time in a public place and don't keep seeing them if you don't trust them. Past that, you will just have to trust your judgment; even the people you meet offline could be creepy, since sadly there aren't any guarantees in this area of life.
posted by goingonit at 9:15 PM on March 24, 2015 [2 favorites]

I met my husband online, and it's been a great marriage now in its' second decade. I recommend "lurking" on a site at first: Create a profile, but only include the minimum information and no picture. This will minimize the people who will contact you, which will give you a bit of breathing room.

Then look around a bit. Do you find a lot of guys you'd be interested in learning more about in your area? Do most of the guys seem to be looking for a LTR or a hookup? How well are you able to discern their personality and preferences from their profile? Check out several sites, then stick with the one or two you feel most comfortable with. Just get comfortable knowing how to sort through the profiles and find ones you are interested in. Then you can go back in and add more information and a picture to your profile.

I agree that meeting someone before you become highly invested is a good idea, but I don't think you need to limit yourself strictly to people in your area. I married a man from 2,000 miles away from where I lived and it worked just fine. We visited each other at our homes in both places after about six months of online and talking on the phone, spent a lot of time talking about what we each wanted our future to look like, and we found we were in agreement on where we wanted to live.

Who knows? The perfect guy could be out there looking for you - good luck, enjoy and have fun!
posted by summerstorm at 10:37 PM on March 24, 2015 [3 favorites]

I've had friends who originally met through OKCupid eventually get married and are still happy. Me, I found the effort to reward ratio wasn't there. I met my partner five years ago while volunteering together. It worked well for us because we already had a shared activity.
posted by aniola at 10:38 PM on March 24, 2015

I would still say that online dating has plenty of people you would probably like! It's just that I'd rather invest that time in being out and about. Because that works for me. But again, if you'd rather be online, there a ton of people who are also online and who are nice everyday people! More than a ton!
posted by aniola at 10:41 PM on March 24, 2015

Well, I met my wife on Match, so I think it works okay. I tried most of the available sites back when I was looking and have a few lessons learned that may or may not be useful to you.

Best sites in my experience were Match and OKCupid.
eHarmony annoyed the hell out of me because you couldn't just send someone a message and get on with it. They had this really irritating "guided communication" process that was supposedly going to handhold you through meeting someone, but mostly just got in the way. Hated it. Quit.
There's also a free site called Plenty of Fish that might be worth a look.

There was a lot of overlap - I wasn't the only person on more than one site, but they also seemed to have their own sort of personalities and broad demographics that tended to clump there. (Disclaimer: these are very broad generalizations with numerous exceptions for each, this was purely my experience and might not hold true in your area, or you may just decide I'm crazy.)

Match: Paid site, so people willing to pay when there are free alternatives available. White collar, educated, perhaps in their 30s - slightly older than...

OKCupid: Free site, very well put together. Seemed to attract a somewhat younger crowd than Match, like tech savvy urban sophisticates in their 20s.

eHarmony: Paid site, Christians and other wholesome types. People who weren't put off by that infuriating guided communications business. I have no idea...

Plenty of Fish: Free site. For whatever reason, it seemed to skew more working class and small-town/rural. Less educated, maybe a little older.

Regardless of which site(s) you choose, my big lesson was that the ability to flirt and have fun chatting back and forth has no bearing whatsoever on whether you'll click in person. So don't spend much time messaging back and forth. A few messages to make sure they don't give off a "Debbie who loves cats" vibe. (and no, that's not real) and then a low-pressure get together like coffee or something to see if there's any chemistry. Beyond that, you're wasting your time and quite possibly creating an imaginary person on the other end, who isn't going to really be the person you're falling for when you finally meet them.

Good luck! And again, yes, there are good people out there who want something real.
posted by Naberius at 11:05 PM on March 24, 2015 [2 favorites]

I REALLY LIKE okcupid. Their match algorithm is scarily good, with the caveat that you have to put effort into answer questions 'correctly' - skip questions liberally if they seem ambiguous or badly worded or whatever, check ALL of the answers you'd find acceptable not just the absolute best answer (sometimes there really is just one acceptable answer of course), make sure to answer questions from every category (don't be shy about the sex ones!), and be ready to answer at least a couple hundred questions.

For me personally, I meet almost everyone I date and a lot of friends on OKC. I can be really confident that I'll get along swimmingly with anyone above a 95% match or so, and have a (tongue-somewhat-in-cheek) policy of only dating 99% matches

I should mention that I'm a lesbian, so I don't have to deal with the creepy dude factor. However I do have friends who do date men and still have similarly great experiences. (And on the other hand I know a lot of people who don't have good experiences, there is certainly some element of luck involved! And the people you really want to date might just not be on the site, after all)
posted by lisp witch at 11:23 PM on March 24, 2015 [3 favorites]

As others have said, it seems to depend wildly on where you are, and what you're looking for. My recent experiences:
  • Match: Not worth the money, hard to find actual people who respond, sketchy company who will try to screw you with auto-renews and add-ons. Seemed to have a bunch of people looking for hookups, few for actual relationships. I recommend avoiding this!
  • eHarmony: 'Guided communication' is very useful if you have a hard time with icebreaker messages. Seemed to be fairly legitimate, although you can't just browse, you have to take what they give you. Site seems to skew heavily towards older-than-you-are-now, Christian, ready-to-get-married-now people. I enjoyed it well enough, but I'm not the target demographic, so my options were very limited.
  • okCupid: Great if you're a little more confident and outgoing (and you can ignore the creepers/spammers/etc). Very easy to check in with at whatever frequency you want to; never seems to pressure you in any way, and always seems to have new faces. Huge variety of people, but the ones I've talked to and met with have been great matches. Their system for matching you up based on answers to a bunch of questions seems to work real well. Also has the largest user base where I am, and skews young/nerdy/nonreligious.
For context, I'm an early-30's straight man who is definitely not looking for hookups.
posted by Dilligas at 11:26 PM on March 24, 2015 [1 favorite]

If you are especially concerned about safety, I recommend you tell someone where you are meeting.
posted by catspajammies at 12:22 AM on March 25, 2015 [1 favorite]

Nth-ing Safety First. When it comes to meeting or giving out information, be as cautious as your good sense tells you, and then be a little more cautious than that.

Nth-ing that I met my wife through an on-line dating site. Curiously it was a site described to me as "the K-Mart of on-line dating." Maybe that says something about my wife and me, or maybe it just says that this site had the largest pool of people to browse. We married six years ago, so I know nothing about what the various sites are like now.

E-harmony advertised their scientific matching process and blah-blah-blah. Uh-uh! I specified that I was interested in a relationship that could at least possibly lead to marriage and family. I made it clear that I'm a fairly quiet, stay-at-home personality. Among other things, they tried to pair me with a guy who performs as a female impersonator in local bars. You can probably do as well in the free sites.

Good luck.
posted by wjm at 1:03 AM on March 25, 2015

I haven't done the online dating thing much, and I wasn't a fan while I did it, but anyway:

Tinder doesn't have a great reputation, but that's where you'll meet age appropriate guys. As Tinder's gotten more mainstream, it's also gotten a lot less hook-up only and more like an actual dating site. Match, Plenty of Fish, and even OkCupid will probably skew a lot older than you, and from experience, being a 23-year-old woman on a dating website with a men 10+ years older than you will yield an inbox full of creepy messages from guys way too old for you. Like, "I know you probably don't date forty-year-olds . . ." Ugh. Memories!

A lot of my friends are on Tinder, I know college kids who use it, and if I were single, I'd probably give it a shot. OkCupid has declined in popularity.
posted by ablazingsaddle at 1:23 AM on March 25, 2015 [2 favorites]

Almost every single person I know uses online dating, from just-got-to-the-city 22-year-olds to divorced guys in their 50s.

You are guaranteed to get exposed to more men and a wider range of men than you possibly could IRL.

Most people use multiple sites, because they each have a niche but you don't want to confine yourself to only one niche.

How well it works for a woman really depends upon how good-looking you are for your dating market and having a good attitude (being at once open-minded about who's worth a coffee, and utterly ruthless about deleting / ignoring psychos, creeps and losers).
posted by MattD at 5:00 AM on March 25, 2015

I can't tell your gender from your profile, but I know this experience is different for men and women. Women tend to get flooded with low-quality messages and men tend to be frustrated by a low response rate. If you're a woman, your job will be to filter through the barrage of messages; if you're a man, your job will be to write messages that pass the filter for women. Have fun.
posted by deathpanels at 5:13 AM on March 25, 2015 [1 favorite]

The article alluded to above by goingonit, "why should never pay for online dating" was excellent.
(As is the oktrends blog in general).
But it was taken down when bought OkCupid.
Here is a decent article relating to, and on the same topic.

I met my wife through OkCupid. I would recommend it.
The way I used the site was to get past the major problems with the process of meeting someone nice and turning that into a romantic relationship.
The first step is kind of unspoken, but I think is the biggest. You both know that you are looking for a romantic relationship.
You can also weed out people who you just could not date. The OkCupid questions were great for that.
I'd then organise a date as soon as possible, because the site has done it's job. The only remaining thing to learn is if we had an chemistry in person.

I would again, absolutely agree with goingonit above. Go on lots of first dates. Don't get too invested in a person till you've met them. Maybe try treating the first dates as zeroth dates. It's not even a proper date yet because you're just meeting them. Have fun with it, set up real first dates with the ones you click with.
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 5:36 AM on March 25, 2015

Met my wife on (albeit over 10 years ago; things were slightly different back then).

Have a good friend who is dating online right now. He is on ALL the free sites and a few paysites, at the same time.

He enjoys it, but it is off balance for men and women. He may be in contact with two people a week and one date every few weeks, but the women he talks to get 150 messages a day and have a different date each night of the week. (This was the same for myself and my wife 10 years ago, too, so that part hasn't changed.)

I just thought I would mention this, in case it happens to you (either way), and you will understand it is pretty normal.

Anyway, he finds equally as many people looking for hook-ups as he does serious relationships.

The bigger beef I had with online dating (and same beef with him) are people who have these expectations for a great, great person to date, but they themselves have absolutely nothing of quality to offer. Don't settle for these people, even for casual dating. There are plenty more people out there.
posted by TinWhistle at 5:49 AM on March 25, 2015 [1 favorite]

I am a chick and I used online dating a lot for about a year. I hated E-Harmony and my girlfriend and I realised that they just data-mine you and set you up with lame 'matches' - in fact, we fiddled around and realised they matched us on height. It's a pain to get off/away from that site and they keep your photos and profile up way after you have closed it down. Don't join it, is my advice.

I used OKCupid to meet my current beau. We were 99% match which seems ultra cheesy but actually the algorithms on OKC are pretty amazing. Lots of cool people I've been out with had high matches, and even though tons were at 75% or above, I only went out with those who had 95% or more with me.

I think though, that you have to assume that a lot of what people SAY they are and want is a kind of psychological projection. Just as people who write amazing AskMe responses with relationship wisdom struggle mightily in the meatspace of actuality, the people writing on dating sites are similarly constructing 'best practice' in/via words. Sometimes when people tell you their mantra ['hey, I'm all about the good drama!' said Me, wanting this very much, but somehow still being a person who seems to find bad drama anyway] they are telling you the thing they struggle with the most. Beware people who go on about monogamy in their profile. Not one of those guys had ever had single time and had consistently 'overlapped' relationships involving them cheating.

And, oh, being a tall gal, I find it really frustrating that every single guy I have ever met from online dating has fibbed about his height. If he says 5'10", he means 5'8".
posted by honey-barbara at 6:24 AM on March 25, 2015 [4 favorites]

Fellow 23-year-old here--my single peers are most often meeting dates through Coffee Meets Bagel, Hinge, and Tinder. I think the actual websites (Match, eHarmony, and even OK Cupid to a certain extent) are becoming passé, with these apps gaining a lot of traction because they are easier to access frequently and at least for Hinge and Coffee Meets Bagel, less of a crapshoot. Those two services in particular use your Facebook to find people in your extended social network, so you wouldn't be getting messages from completely random people. Anyway I'd say give the apps a shot! There will be a lot of age-appropriate guys on there.
posted by leftshark at 6:25 AM on March 25, 2015

From the Ok Cupid Blog

"Almost universally guys like to add a couple inches. You can also see a more subtle vanity at work: starting at roughly 5' 8", the top of the dotted curve tilts even further rightward. This means that guys as they get closer to six feet round up a bit more than usual, stretching for that coveted psychological benchmark.
When we looked into the data for women, we were surprised to see height exaggeration was just as widespread, though without the lurch towards a benchmark height"
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 7:02 AM on March 25, 2015 [2 favorites]

So, here's my experience.

In terms of matching you up with someone with like values and principles (assuming people bother going through the unlimited amount of questions), I think OkCupid does the best job. (Admission, I met my now-wife on OkCupid). It actually asks you how you feel about a variety of subjects, how you want your potential match to feel, and how important it is to you. I feel like this is a good way of finding out who you would get along with.

I gave a try in the past and I think it is garbage. On one hand, you'd think that people who are actually forking over money are actually serious about finding someone. But the way that the service actually operates shows that it is there to make money first and effectively matching users together is a very, very distant second. Let me explain...

So, you fill out a profile, add a picture, click some check boxes for interests. The search page is positively littered with attractive-looking photos. So you find some people you think might be worth talking to, send some messages and.... well, the funny thing is, you have no idea if these people are active paying members or if they signed up once upon a time and then let their membership lapse. If they are not actively paying, they'll get an email saying "hey, you have one new message from someone interested in you! Pay us $40-something to reactivate your premium account so that you can read it!" So what actually happens is that you send out a bunch of messages and you'd be lucky if anyone actually gets to reads them. You'd be even luckier to get a response.

Secondly, they way that they determine whether someone is a good match for you is utterly idiotic. "Hey, you and this member both enjoy racket sports, you are a match! Hey, you and this member are both fine wine conoisseurs, you are a match! Hey, you and this member are both middle children, you have so much in common!" What that means is that you both checked the box saying you like racket sports, wine, and are neither the oldest/youngest child in your family. Nothing about values, principles, desires, hopes, dreams, etc. They put the barest minimum of thought into doing what their whole purpose of existing is. As an engineering/architect-type person, after seeing how operates, I give it my official piece-of-crap stamp.

Granted, I probably used 5-ish years ago, but that was my experience. I never tried eHarmony, so I can't comment. But OkCupid has been good to me (I met both my wife and a good number of friends) and I really like the job it does in putting like-minded people together. Also, Plenty of Fish is the seediest-looking site since the casual encounters section of craigslist.
posted by JimBJ9 at 7:05 AM on March 25, 2015 [1 favorite]

Paid sites can be more productive because the people on them want to make their match before their subscription runs out. There are a lot of men on the free sites that are there just looking and hoping for some sexy talk. I've only gotten one date off of a free site. I've met dozens of men over the years from It doesn't work for me anymore, though, because I'm 42 and I'm only getting hit on by men who are 60 and over or look 60 and over. Tinder is fun but I've not gotten a date off of it yet.

Any site that you use, you must vet anyone that you meet. Talk on the phone enough times to gather google-friendly facts about them and then check them out to make certain that they are telling the truth before you give out your last name. Do not allow them to friend you on facebook or know where you live until after the third date. Always meet in public places and don't meet anyone who won't give you his full name.
posted by myselfasme at 7:06 AM on March 25, 2015

Also, I'd like to Nth what deathpanels said. The experience on the free sites varies greatly by gender.

As a (straight) woman, you're likely to get bombarded with messages that range from incredibly dull/lame ("whatup girl?", "ur cute", "hey"), downright sleezy (propositions, "nice tits", dick pics, etc), to kind of scary ("Why haven't you written back? Bitch."). Buried in there will probably be some thoughtful well-written messages from some nice people. But the hard part is to not get discouraged by the sea of shit that you'll need to wade through to find them. If you're attractive, multiply what I just said by a factor of at least three. (sorry)

As a (straight) man, your job is to write that thoughtful well-written message that will manage to pique a girl's interest after she just read and deleted 14 shitty messages. It's hard and it sucks.

I got out of the dating game before apps like Tinder got really big, but I understand that they're really popular. If you're in an urban setting, I would give them some consideration too.
posted by JimBJ9 at 7:33 AM on March 25, 2015

A caveat about online dating that I think hasn't been quite addressed:

It's really, really easy to click with someone online and build up in your head this sort of idealized image of who they are. The longer the connection remains solely online, the more entrenched that idea becomes. And thus, the disappointment when you finally meet.

I think, given your question history here, it might be a good idea to take a long and difficult look at whether it's likely to be long-term effective at this stage in your life for you to try to meet people who are invested in projecting an idealized version of themselves in order to attract people. It seems to me that your goals as expressed by you might be served better by meeting people in person--probably most effectively by explicitly asking your friends if they know any nice, single guys you might be compatible with.

This is not to say that online dating is bad! Just saying that it seems like perhaps it may not be right for you at this time.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:14 AM on March 25, 2015 [1 favorite]

I'm a straight cis woman using OKCupid. I used it a few years ago and met four people at that time. Became friends with two and dated the other two. Still good friends with one and ok-friends with the other, but after the dating relationships ended we didn't stay friends.

Got back on again and am having good conversations with three people. Two out of three may be romantic matches; one isn't looking for the same thing I am but feels like a friend.

I'm using it to find friends anywhere with the potential for more and am open to moving.

I'm way older than you and I still get more generic "hey baby" type messages than messages from people I want to respond to. My best strategy has been to message people first and I recommend that to you even more as a younger woman, since you will probably be absolutely deluged in generic messages to sort through.

Plus, men hardly ever get messaged first and unless they are uber-traditionalists, they love it.

I probably won't use any other sites concurrently, since I want to focus on the small amount of friendly people I've met right now and see where things go.
posted by Beethoven's Sith at 9:02 AM on March 25, 2015 [1 favorite]

I met my SO on okcupid.

One thing I love about okc is that reading peoples answers gave me an immediate idea of whether they were racist, homophobic, classist, really great for weeding out bigots. Our match was 99% and I have never had so much in common with someone I've dated. Our core beliefs and values match up and it makes for a really healthy relationship.

I was on there for 2 years before I met him and I found it a real struggle. I am in NYC so I feel like that's important to note. Dating here is a struggle in general. I ended up with a string of one night stands because men weren't straight with me.
A LOT of creeps will message you as others said but ignore them. Go with your gut. If someone seems wrong/like a player, don't take the risk.

That being said, the 2 years was totally worth it. I absolutely love my boyfriend to death. We've been together for almost 2 years. We live together and we're saving for a house.

Good luck! I hope you have fun!
posted by shesbenevolent at 9:22 AM on March 25, 2015 [2 favorites]

I met my partner on OkCupid a while back, but my sense is that younger folks might have moved on to more app-based things. My best advice is to talk to your friends who are doing online dating, especially those who've had a successful relationship though online dating, and use whatever sites they use.

Be honest. If you don't want a hookup, be extremely clear about that. I think on many services you'll get skeevy messages that you need to weed out no matter what, but just don't meet those people.

Remember that you can't be catfished if you don't invest in someone without meeting them. I would say a maximum of 2-3 messages before you suggest meeting in person. If they're cagey, just move on.
posted by rainbowbrite at 10:18 AM on March 25, 2015

I'm getting married this summer to a man who I met on OkCupid.

I think how much you like Internet Dating depends a lot on you personally. First, do you like dating? Or do you simply want a relationship?

I like dating. I like hearing people's stories and drinking beer and eating food and walking around talking. I'm slightly cynical so I don't place too much emotional expectation on a couple of good dates and I'm busy and happy being single. I think if you can view Internet dating from this standpoint it's fun and great.

Something I did find a bit jarring though is that you will often like a person personality wise and know you're fairly compatible, and if you don't find them physically attractive in person it's a bit more disappointing than traditional dating where you find a person attractive and then you learn you're not compatible.

That said, I've had a lot of friends who hated Internet dating, couldn't handle the disappointment of not feeling a connection with people, didn't like the meat market feeling of it, and were feeling constantly worn on by their "failure" at not finding their soul mates.

It won't hurt you to give it a shot. Don't feel like you need to answer every message, if you're a conventionally attractive straight female you will be bombarded with messages, and trying to be nice and polite with everyone wore me down. Send opening messages yourself to people you think you'd be interested in, and only answer messages from people who put a little thought into them. Totally ignore anything gross.
posted by euphoria066 at 10:36 AM on March 25, 2015 [1 favorite]

I've been married for four years and was dating her for two years before that, so I've been out of the dating scene for a long time, and so stories of my experiences may be (heh) dated information.

I met three out of my six ex-girlfriends, as well as my wife, on LiveJournal, which is decidedly NOT an online dating site, and has kind of died in the last few years. I wasn't expecting to find love by blogging, but it just happened that way, more often than not. I guess reading each others' deep personal thoughts is conducive to that sort of thing.

As for the remaining three ex-girlfriends -- one was a friend of a friend in college who I met in person first, one I met through Nerve Personals, and the other I met through OKCupid.

In my experience, eHarmony and match generally led to better dates with more compatible women than the free sites -- even though a relationship never blossomed out of any of them. I found that having to pay for a site tended to separate the wheat from the chaff, in that people paying for these sites seemed to be more serious about finding someone online.

I went on a lot of nice first dates, and even a few second and third dates, with people I met on eHarmony and match, but nothing went any further than that. I also met a real flaker on eHarmony -- our first date was to go see the Wallace and Gromit movie and then she always came up with excuses not to talk to me (dude, just say you're not interested, and I'll move on).

PlentyOfFish -- Hated it. Especially hated the fact that they sent me an e-mail every week which contained my username and full password in clear text. Really? That's not secure.

OKCupid - As an experiment, I ran two profiles, having heard about women getting creepy stalkers through online dating sites. One was a real profile as man seeking woman. The other was a fake profile as woman seeking woman, with no photo posted, which stated unambiguously that I was not actually a woman. The amount of dick pictures and the kinds of responses I received made it clear to me that most men don't read a profile at all beyond the word "female." It made me embarrassed to have a Y chromosome. Expect that kind of crap as a woman.

However, I met an ex-girlfriend of mine through that woman-seeking-woman profile and we were together for almost a year, so that was kind of unexpected. As for the man-seeking-woman profile, I got a LOT of flake-outs who were either generally uninterested in me, or generally uninterested in finding someone online.

Nerve Personals - I don't know if this site is around anymore (I stopped using it in 2003), but I met an ex-girlfriend on here, and we were together for two and a half years, and I also met a very good, close friend of mine (we never dated, even though that's what we were both looking for out of the site, but we became good friends and still are).

Yahoo Personals - Again, I don't know if this site is around anymore. True to its name, I met many Yahoos on the site. The exception was one close friend I am not so close with anymore but still talk to.

Try it! As for being catfished and what have you, there is no reward without risk. Good luck!
posted by tckma at 11:11 AM on March 25, 2015 [1 favorite]

I've gone on great, not-so-great and kind of terrible dates from OkCupid and Tinder. On my second round of paying for, but it seems there are a lot of ghost profiles, i.e. people who once paid for the site but cancelled and now just have a profile up and can't respond to your emails. So far, I have not been successful on Match (i.e. had no dates), though I get the impression it varies depending on the city you're in. For whatever reason the most popular dating site/app varies by region. I've stated in all my profiles that I'm not just looking for hookups, and I don't think it's hindered me. There are people out there looking for hookups but if you're up front about what you're looking for, you generally filter those people out.

I also want to plug It's free to join and it's not a dating website. It's just a way to meet people with similar interests. There are quite a few meetup groups focused on singles of a certain age group. In my experience it's so much easier to go to a meetup and talk to 4 or 5 people and find out if there's a vibe in person. And it's not a date so there's no pressure. Plus you probably have similar interests or you wouldn't be in the same meetup group, or at the same event. Don't discount making new friends even if you're not interested in dating them, or not looking for more female friends. Those people can introduce you to their friends and that's another way to meet new people. Dating apps are fun and frustrating but they're not the only way. Don't be afraid to get out there! Good luck!
posted by nerdylady84 at 2:16 PM on March 25, 2015

Okcupid in my area is good. Lots of young and college kids. match and eharmony has less good reputations. Tinder and plenty o fish are sometimes mentioned positively, and sometimes ultra enthusiastically recommended by my hookup-sketch-acquaintances. Its all a numbers game in the end, and being online gives you a lot of filters to see more people you wouldn't normally see. Can pay off very, very well with luck and effort and luck :)
posted by Jacen at 2:39 PM on March 25, 2015

Different perspective: I kind of think online dating works better for those slightly older than you. I mean, it CAN work for you, probably, but I wouldn't be surprised if it didn't. People tend to go online for one of two general (and opposing) reasons:

1. They want anonymous sex, and treat OkCupid or Match or whatever like a bar
2. They want a serious, big-deal adult mortgage and kids type deal and they are interested in filtering out certain people. They treat okCupid or Match or whatever like a matchmaking service.

For whatever reason, there seem like there are not a lot of people in between. I venture to guess it is because the internet itself generally offers two contradictory things: Anonymity, and depth. Actually going online, making the profile, and typing out the words is work that can reveal a lot more about someone than just first glances might in person. However, a lot of people go online just because they feel like they have something to hide in real life, or want to take advantage of no one knowing their real name and reputation and compromising their social circles, etc.

People who take everything "kind of seriously, but not really" and just want to use online dating to meet more people they may or may not click with and may or may not hang out with and may or may not get serious with, IE in a sort of "friendly" way, are good eggs but hard to find. At your age I would imagine that's what you're looking for.

Online dating really didn't work for me until I was about 25 or 26. Before that it was just creeps all the time. In college, it was definitely considered a little weird to use it instead of meeting fellow students. Might be a reflection of how old I am, or might still be true these days.
posted by quincunx at 4:01 PM on March 25, 2015

I used okcupid for about a year when I was 23/24 (this was about three years ago). It was more or less equal parts fun and misery, but I think overall a really positive experience even though I never found a very serious relationship. I had very little experience with dating and it gave me a lot of confidence and made me more comfortable with daring in general. I also would say that I learned to be more assertive with men which was a very positive thing.

I had a lot of fun on okcupid dates, I didn't personally ever have an awful date, even if i wasn't attracted to the guy it was pleasant enough to chat over a drink for an hour (and I'm not particularly chatty as a general rule). I met lots of interesting people but ultimately I found people to be super flaky and that was frustrating. Dudes just drop off the face of the earth way more often with online dating in my experience. I think some of it is that they just want to hook up and sometimes it's just that they're seeing multiple people so they're not as focused on you as a possibility.
posted by geegollygosh at 7:31 PM on March 25, 2015 [1 favorite]

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