K. and I broke up a few months ago, and I've been doing the online dating thing recently, with mixed success. Here's some brief notes on the online dating sites I've tried, to hopefully speed other people through this process. I'm 35, male, straight, and live in Los Angeles -- if you differ significantly from that, you may find some of these sites more or less useful than I did. (First link in each mini-review goes to the main site; second link goes to my profile.)
- Consumating.com: Free site. Lots of hipsters in their 20's. Not a lot of women in their 30's. Has a fun, quirky vibe that makes it a kind of fun site to hang out on, but not terribly useful as a dating site. Everyone gets a numerical rank based on their points. (I have 29 points, which puts me in 4348th place.) Relive the unpopularity of high school, electronically. (For some reason they didn't use that as their slogan.)
- OKCupid.com: Free site. Another fun site with lots of games, quizzes, and etc., both created by editors and by other users. Slightly more oriented towards dating than Consumating, but just as filled with 20-somethings. Less of a "cooler-than-thou" vibe than Consumating. The site "gets to know you" by asking you hundreds of multiple choice questions submitted by users, and attempts to match you with people who have similar answers. Not very successfully, in my experience.
- HotOrNot.com: Pay site. Triumph of the shallow. It's all about the pictures. You get less than a paragraph to describe yourself, and the user base does not seem terribly literate. Again, mostly people in their teens and early 20's. HotOrNot started as a site where you rate people's "hotness" on a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being highest. I signed up for HotOrNot in order to find out which of my photos were considered "hot" (or "least ugly") so that I could use the higher rated pics on other dating sites. For that purpose, I highly recommend HotOrNot (and that part is free), but as a dating service, HotOrNot was an "eh" for me.
- Impersonals.com: Free site. Honestly, by far my favorite of all the dating sites, at least as far as user interface and functionality. And the questions they ask produced my favorite of all the profiles I've created. A really cool site, without a lot of BS, and with a good feel to it. The downside: At least in my area and demographic, very few people. And very few additions -- it seems to be foundering. I'd LIKE to like Impersonals -- but there's just very few women (of any age) in my area, and most of them are in their early 20's.
- PlentyOfFish.com: Free site. The MySpace of dating. Meaning it's phenomenally popular, and phenomenally ugly. Good Lord, it's ugly. If you care about user interface, web page aesthetics, or design of any kind, this site will make your eyes bleed. (As an example, they don't crop pictures to squeeze them into a box, they just squeeze the picture into a box -- so everyone looks either anorexic or like a sumo wrestler, depending on the aspect ratio of the original picture.) Still, it has the largest user pool of any site I've tried yet, and the users seem to include all ages. (I'm perfectly willing to date a brilliant and mature 18-year-old -- but I think the odds of finding someone I'm compatible with are much better for women less than five years older or younger than I am.)
- Gk2Gk.com (Geek 2 Geek): Pay site. Decent enough dating site -- not as gimmicky or Ajaxy as OKCupid or Consumating -- fairly standard, in fact, with the exception that the people on it are explicitly looking for geeks. Since I am one, this site goes high up on my list. Niche dating sites are apparently a big draw these days. The matching is no more effective than on any other site -- perhaps less so for me, because although I'm a computer geek, I'm not most other types of geek -- and almost all of the questions are related to zeroing in on what geek hobbies and/or obsessions you have. Geek 2 Geek has one annoying quirk: If you edit your profile (even changing one character in the title), then people are not able to view your profile and you're not able to send a message to anyone until your profile has been approved by Geek 2 Geek staff. Geek 2 Geek does generally approve your changes within 24 hours (even on weekends) but it's still an annoying bit of suckage. (Unlike every other pay site listed here, Geek 2 Geek will NOT automatically renew your subscription -- which is a nice bit of class.)
- Chemistry.com: Pay site. A service of Match.com, Chemistry attempts to do a "scientific" analysis of your personality, and match you up with compatible people. Their advertising targets eHarmony.com, a similar site that has some pretty distasteful limits. (For instance, eHarmony won't serve gay people.) I have my doubts as to how effective the matching is, but the user-contact system they put in place seems to work very well. You get up to 10 "matches" a day, assigned to you by the system. If the system doesn't assign you a match, you can't look at them. (This is why I haven't posted a link to my profile -- as far as I know, I can't.) You tell Chemistry if you're attracted to each of the matches. If you say you are, Chemistry lets them know and lets them state whether they're attracted to you. If they're not interested in you, their name silently falls off your list of potential mates. Because of this, this is the first site I've seen where women will initiate contact with men in significant numbers. (On most other sites, the guy has to send the first e-mail -- the sites let women initiate contact, it's just that societal norms of men initiating contact in meatspace exist on dating sites as well.) Once you both agree that you find the other interesting, you answer some fairly meaningless questions about the importance of various personality traits by moving sliders to indicate importance. The other person does the same. Then, if both parties decide that the sliders match up enough, you take it to the next level. (I say the sliders are meaningless because -- I mean really, if I rate "sense of humor" as important and she doesn't, I'm not going to reject her. I'm going to try and find out if she laughs at my jokes and can make me laugh.) At the next stage, each party chooses two questions (from a list of a few dozen, or write your own) for the other party to answer in paragraph form. Each party reviews the other's answers, and decides whether to take it to the next level, which is e-mail. After e-mailing back and forth, you can decide whether or not to meet in person. As I write this, it sounds HORRID -- but perhaps because I'm a socially awkward geek, this computer-mediated dating really seems to work very well. It takes some of the initial awkwardness out of the introduction -- and dating, online or in person, is awkward enough as it is.