Monday, November 10, 2014

The Price Of Modern Romance - Should You Pay For Online Dating?



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By Helen Young

Online dating and cyber-connection is fast becoming the new norm when it comes to finding ‘the one’. Once considered vaguely shameful and slightly pathetic, nowadays the stigma associated with online dating is rapidly disappearing, and more and more of us are finding love through a screen.

Indeed, it’s estimated that if the number of relationships which begin online continues to rise in line with the current trend, well over half of couples will meet over the internet in a mere twenty years. However, as with any new trend, the online dating scene can be confusing.

Like so much that is based on the internet, the online dating scene is still in its infancy, meaning that new sites trying new things, and new innovations on existing sites, and a huge variety of formats and modus operandi exist out there, jostling with each other as the phenomenon tries to work out its place and rules of conduct in a world to which it is relatively new.

For the novitiate, this can all be very confusing. One particularly difficult decision is whether to sign up for a dating site which costs money, or whether to go for one of the numerous free options available. There are marked advantages and disadvantages to both.

Paying Sites

Paid dating sites are often chosen by those who are taking the dating game seriously. There is a general perception that, if one is paying for a service, one is more invested in the dating ‘project’ as a whole and is likely to be looking for something more emotionally lasting.

While this may not universally be the case, it seems reasonable to assume that the majority of people who are willing to spend money in the pursuance of a partner are more likely to be more actively engaged with their profiles (after all, why waste the money?), and more likely to be seeking an emotionally fulfilling relationship than many of those who browse free sites.

Paid sites also frequently offer particular advantages which free sites lack – greater data protection, for example, and the ability to refine searches to a greater degree than can be done on many free sites.

They are also less crowded with adverts, as they get enough revenue from clients to be able to eschew much advertising. There’s also the very relevant factor that, as users have to identify themselves through credit or debit card details, you can be relatively sure that all users are genuine love-seekers, not scammers or ‘spambots’. And, as you’re paying for a service, you can demand a certain standard for your money – which comes in very handy in the unlikely event that a ‘date’ does turn out to be a scammer.

There are drawbacks to paid sites, however. First and foremost is the money you must pay. Often these sites can be quite expensive and, given the nebulous nature of love, there is no guaranteed result for your money. Second is the fact that many of these sites are highly specialized, which reduces their client pool considerably. If you want to have the opportunity to meet a wider range of people, then a free site may be a better option.

Free Sites

Free sites offer a much larger pool of potential partners to choose from, and often give more opportunities to communicate widely through a range of media (phone apps, for example, are becoming more and more common). They’re a great option for people new to the online dating game, who want to get a feel for the concept and see if it gels with them.

There have been many success stories from free dating sites – indeed, the statistics of lasting relationships garnered from free and paid sites does not indicate that either type is more likely to garner success than the other.

One downfall of free dating sites – at least, if you are looking for something more lasting – is that as it’s easy and cost-free to sign up, many users do so out of curiosity, or looking for friendship, or after something a little more casual than a long-term relationship.

This is great if you’re looking for something along those lines too, but it can make free dating sites something of a chore to trawl through if you’re after ‘The One’.

Furthermore, some characters on free sites can be less than appealing – women in particular have reported problems with male users who feel that the fact a woman is on a dating site entitles them to pester her with lewd comments, sometimes verging on violence, whether she is interested in them or not. You’re also more likely to find fake profiles on a free site – set up as a joke, or a scam.

However, if you’re prepared to weed through the less desirable characters, then free sites do also offer an enormous variety of serious, genuine users with which you could hit it off!

'Freemium' Sites

If you’re hemming and hawing between the two extremes, but not particularly convinced by either, there is a third option. There are some dating sites that now allow users to set up a profile and get exploring for free, but offer extra features at a price. Whether or not this offers the best of both worlds or combines the faults of each format is up for debate, but it certainly makes an attractive proposition for many.

One could pay, for example, to gain an enhanced search feature, enabling you to search for users by location or common interests. Some sites demand payment for you to message or otherwise make contact with a potential match – which may seem somewhat exploitative when taken at face value, but, on the other hand, ensures that you are much less likely to be contacted by timewasters. Anyone who pays to message you must be genuinely interested, and are unlikely to pay to pester you with stalker-ish messages should you reject them.

There are disadvantages – the sites have a vested interest in getting you to pay for the premium service, and may therefore disingenuously attempt to convince you than you’d get more out of the paid services than you actually would.

Some may even try to tell you that your page is getting more interest than it is in order to encourage you to pay for the full package. However, if you want to be able to get a feel for the way a site works before committing to it, freemium sites may be the way forward.


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Helen Young a freelance writer who helped to put an interesting guide to online dating together with her (now) husband, Dominic - the couple met on an online dating site and romance blossomed for them.






1 comment:

  1. tahhhh!!!!!! I paid for match.com for 6 months and I didnt see anyone worthwhile. abegi...Im sticking to the free sites.

    ReplyDelete

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