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Web Search Guides

by Judy Bates, Associate Editor

I.  Overview Of Topic

Online dating services are an incredible phenomenon. Today, online or Internet dating sites in the U.S. are getting over 50 million visitors a month. There are now hundreds of dating sites on the Web. Why such tremendous growth in this business? Simply because it's an easy, efficient way to meet members of the opposite sex. Anyway, it certainly has to beat the old-style singles services, bar scenes, etc.

However, before you get involved in Internet dating – a world of its own – take ten minutes to read over this Guide. I have a few important suggestions for you that may save you a lot of frustration. I also have a few important warnings to keep you out of trouble.

There are two main types of online dating services, the so-called megasites, like Match.com, AmericanSingles.com, and eHarmony.com, and then there are the specialized sites.

The megasites cater to everybody, young and old, nationwide, and have hundreds of thousands of members. The specialized sites, on the other hand, focus on narrower niche markets – like Christian singles, black singles, Jewish singles, thirty-plus singles, senior singles, etc. It's really just a matter of preference whether to join the huge megasites or a small niche site, or both. One thing they all have in common is that they will charge you a membership fee – soon after your “free” sign-up.

Well, you probably know how these online dating services work. First you complete a profile (some call it an “essay” but please don't write an essay) about yourself and your interests, etc., and then you upload your ridiculously-flattering photo of yourself. Then you wait for some fish to bite the hook, or else you can play the role of the fish yourself and send emails to members you pick who you think look and sound interesting.

The sites invariably let you “search” for members who meet your specifications regarding age, location, education, religion, and other factors.

Women rule in Internet dating. Reportedly, women who send out emails to men get upwards of 95% responses. Men who email women get only about 25% responses. However, it's important to realize that cyberspace is much more dangerous territory for women than for men. First, men tend to lie more than women, particularly about their marital status. A man may completely misrepresent himself on a dating site, even to the point of uploading a picture of somebody else. Women rarely do that sort of thing. (Women do, however, tend to post pictures of their younger thinner selves, which is much more forgivable.) A man may oftentimes describe himself simply in terms he thinks women want to hear – lying about his education, profession, age, the works, even about the fact he has three kids who are teenagers.

Why do men do this when the truth will sooner or later get out? The answer is, many men who use online dating services are not necessarily looking for long-term relationships.

But the worst danger to a woman is to get involved with a man who's unbalanced or violent, and yes, there are some of those out there, too. Thus, ladies, it's very important to avoid giving men you correspond with through online dating services any information which will enable them to identify you until you are sure who you're dealing with. Though you may not be aware of it, you can now be identified via the Internet very quickly by someone who knows very little about you – maybe as little as your first and last names. And you can certainly be identified by your telephone number.

Conversely, it is important that you insist that the man does identify himself. He should not resist giving you his full name and address. If he does, something is probably wrong – like he's married. Once you have his name and address you can run a quick online background check on him for only about $50, using a service like Intelius. This will include a criminal records search and also give you some idea of his economic status because it will tell you if he owns a house and if so what its value is.

Unfortunately, it probably won't tell you if he's married or divorced, or if it does, its coverage will only be a few states, like Taxas and Florida, that make this type of information easily available through databases.

However, if you haven't already, you can download our free ebook, Marriage & Divorce Records, USA. This ebook provides URL's and government phone numbers for nearly all counties and states in the USA. Using it, you can check his marital status out reasonably thoroughly (though never with 100% certainty, since someone can get married or divorced anywhere).

Assuming you meet someone online you find interesting, you'll probably agree to a date. Always make it in a public place where there are other people around. A restaurant is good, or a cocktail lounge. (Not a bagel shop early in the morning, please. I often sit next to online daters at 8:30 A.M. in the bagel shop I go to, and I hate it. Pick somewhere there's reasonable privacy.)

I used to wonder why so few online dating services offer their members background checks. So I called up a couple and asked. They both said the same thing, because they're afraid it would be “alarming” to their members. They're afraid of giving the impression that there's something to fear from Internet dating. Of course, from a woman's standpoint especially, there is something to fear. What if the person you're agreeing to meet and possibly enter into a relationship with is a convicted felon? So, again, I recommend you seriously consider doing an online background check before the first date. (Our first report in our Web Search Guides series covers the topic of online background checks in detail.)

Online Dating Tips

  • Men need to be very cautious in emailing women on dating sites. Why? Because they may inadvertently enter into a conversation with a minor, even to the point of arranging a date, and this can result in very serious consequences you don't even want to think about.

  • From the women's standpoint, the big question is, Is he telling me the truth? Particularly about his marital status. Here are a few indications he's married:   he fails to provide a photo (so his wife or one of her friends won't spot it online); he won't provide a home address or phone number, or only his cell number; he is never available on weekends or Saturday night, only during the business day. But although a man you're exchanging emails with should not hesitate to provide some personal information to you, you should never give out your full name, address or phone number until you're certain he's on the level.

  • For more tips on safe online dating, visit saferdating.com

  • Most online dating services allow you to block emails from people you find obnoxious.

  • Visit haltabuse.org for help in dealing with someone who harrasses you. If you've got a really serious situation, try cyberlawenforcement.org.

  • Recognize that it's easy to lift somebody's photo from a dating site. So the photo you submit could conceivably turn up anywhere. It's unlikely anyone will lift it;   however it's not impossible.

  • Almost 80% of women embellish their online photos, so, men, don't be too surprised if she doesn't look like you expect. Be decent.

  • Seven out of ten online dating services participants are men. A large proportion of these are married and looking for affairs or maybe cybersex. On the other hand a significant proportion of the women online are not looking for relationships, either. They're running online scams, trying to extract money from lonely men. For both men and women an excellent rule for online dating is: Never send money to anybody unless you're buying something.

  • Did you know that, on most of the larger online dating services, you can easily check someone's search activity by viewing their profile? You can also check to see exactly who has looked at your profile.

  • Experts agree on the following guidelines when doing Internet dating: (1) Be cautious of people who start telling you their problems right away; (2) Watch out for minors posing as adults; (3) Never reveal information about your personal finances – how much money you make, whether you own a home, etc.; (4) Don't give your home address/phone number out right away and don't have the other person meet you for a first date at your home; (5) Don't send anyone money: (6) Don't take rejections personally – just move on. And if you need to reject someone yourself, do it tactfully (“I've decided to get back with my boyfriend,” etc.); (7) Try to find out all you can about someone before agreeing to a first date; the Internet can help.

That's it – our ten minutes are up! (OK, maybe twelve or thirteen.) Below is a listing of Web resources to help you continue your research on online dating services.

II.  For Further Research

Report #1 - Background ChecksThis Section provides reviews and recommendations of Web sites and other online resources.


Everyone's heard of eHarmony. Their ubiquitous slightly-irritating TV ads are impossible to escape. Nevertheless, eHarmony is one of the three biggest online dating services on the Internet, and the reason is that they have a very good system set up for matching people. To become a member, you have to take their "Comprehensive Relationship Questionnaire," which is lengthy and thorough, maybe too lengthy and thorough, after which you'll be matched with numerous other members of the opposite sex based on your background and personality characteristics. One of eHarmony's biggest selling points is that you can "Review your matches free," so you can see who these characters are that are so similar to you before you fork over the fee to join the dating service. I think, if nothing else, the sheer trouble of joining this service is a pretty good screening mechanism for keeping some of the nut cases out -- it's probably too much of a hassle for a lot of them -- so if I were in the market for this type of service, I'd sign up for eHarmony. Maybe one or two others, as well, but this one would be on my list despite the irksome TV ads.


I think Metrodate.com – The Ultimate Singles Resource has got to be one of the slickest Internet dating sites around. Not quite as massive in terms of membership as Date.com, but definitely pretty cool in terms of its features. It uses every feature known or imaginable to help you land a date, including videos, voice messaging, chat rooms, singles travel, and singles events. Of course, the usual head-shot photos are the mainstay here as on all dating sites. You can do free searching without signing up and enter a free temporary profile if you want. This is a state-of-the-art online dating service.

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III. Discussion Group


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