Online Dating Safety

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Online Dating

Anyone who's ever tried dating knows that it can be a scary—and at times frustrating—experience. Wouldn't it be nice if there was a place where you could screen dates before ever meeting them, or let someone (or something) else pick potential matches for you? In this guide we'll show you how to use the Internet to do all those things. We'll provide you with dating sites for people with specific interests or lifestyles, as well as sites that evaluate all these online dating services. We'll even show you how to stay safe with online dating.

Online Dating Safety

Most people you'll find in the online dating world have honest intentions; but just as there are dishonest people in the real world, you can encounter dishonest people online. There are relatively harmless lies (using an inaccurate or old photo, fibbing a bit about age, etc.) and there are deceptions of a more malicious nature (married people on singles sites, sexual predators, and so on). Most of the worries that people have about who they'll meet in real-world dating situations are just as viable online; and although there's no need to obsess over horror stories, it is important to use your good judgment—and the advice you'll find at the sites recommended here—to protect yourself.

Dulcinea's Insight

  • As with any situation where you post a profile on a Web site, don't provide too much personal information. All information you put on a dating profile could potentially be viewed by anyone with a subscription to the site (and in some cases anyone at all). Even sites that "screen" users can't guarantee that unsavory types won't slip by.
  • Use common sense when meeting someone new (from an online site or from anywhere). Consider meeting in a public place and let someone know where you are going and who you are with.

Dulcinea's Picks

For general online dating safety information ...
For tips for the actual date ...
For help if you are in a dangerous situation ...
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Online Dating Services Reviews and News

Before you wear yourself—or your wallet—out signing up for every dating site out there, look at a few sites that provide side-by-side comparisons of site features or user reviews of dating sites. Some sites publish news about the online dating industry so you can always be in the know about new sites, or new features for some of the older sites. If you are having a hard time choosing between some of the sites recommended in other sections of this guide, many of the sites in this section will help you make that decision. Remember, before you can find the right date, you have to find the right dating site.

Dulcinea's Insight

  • Reviews of dating sites, as with reviews of anything else, will only be useful to you if you value the opinion of the reviewer. Before you commit to any one review or news site, try a few out to see what best suits you.
  • Reading the chronicles of some long-time Internet daters can be a helpful (and amusing) way to see what you might encounter in the online dating scene.

Dulcinea's Picks

For online dating service reviews ...
For online dating news or statistics ...
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Best Online Dating Sites

If you're worried that Mr. or Ms. Right might pass you by, you'll be happy to know that you might be able to find a date without ever leaving your house. Online dating sites have become increasingly popular in the last few years. They allow you to presort the dating pool and hopefully save yourself from finding out three months into a relationship that the person you've been dating has a trait or opinion you just can't live with.

Dulcinea's Insight

  • If there is a local weekly paper or magazine that you know has personal listings, try looking at its Web site to read them online whenever you like.
  • You might know of some popular dating sites that aren't included in our Picks. We've included the sites that we feel are easiest to use, offer free trials, or have features not found on other sites. Some popular sites aren't recommended here because they didn't stand up against the others.

Dulcinea's Picks

For some of the larger, more established dating sites ...
For those looking for completely free dating online ...
For dating personals ...
Who knew?
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Niche Dating Sites

The most popular dating sites surely have a numbers advantage over some of the niche dating sites but ultimately your search for a romantic match will be about quality, not quantity. Sure, on large dating sites you can choose certain preferred attributes in a mate, but you may still be matched with users who lack qualities that are very important to you (for example, you love animals, or you can't live without luxury). Niche dating sites are like swimming in a pond to find a like-minded mate, rather than drowning in a sea of mismatches.

Dulcinea's Insight

  • Lots of the more generic dating sites will let you browse user profiles without signing up for the service, but some of the niche dating sites ask you to create a profile before you browse to protect user privacy or to ensure that you are a serious about using the site.
  • You'll be surprised how many niche dating sites are out there. If you don't see one that interests you in this guide, try a search for your interest and the phrase "dating." For example, there are sites for technology enthusiasts (www.gk2gk.com), sites for single military personnel (www.militarydate.com), and many more.

Dulcinea's Picks

For sites that match hobbies or activities ...
For those put off by the traditional online dating scene ...
For pet owners or pet lovers ...
For older folks ...
For those with special medical or physical considerations ...
For those who are most concerned with physical appearance ...
For those looking for a wealthy mate ...
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Matchmaker Online Dating

Matchmaking services are nothing new, but the ease with which you can sign up for these services (or even play matchmaker yourself) has increased dramatically with the growth of the Internet. So if you'd prefer to have a human working to help determine your best romantic matches, or if you are looking for a service to get you involved in speed dating, you can still find what you need online.

Dulcinea's Insight

  • Some matchmaking services allow you to sign up online, whereas others merely list contact information on the Web and require that you participate in an in-person or over-the-phone interview process to determine your best matches. Because these services often involve a personal counselor or matchmaker to best suit your dating needs, they can be substantially more expensive than the online services that use computer programs to find matches for you.
  • Speed dating brings together a group of singles in real-life events and gives you a few minutes with a number of potential partners (who you then rate and can potentially date). Online you should be able to see schedules of upcoming events and explanations of how each service works. Most events require preregistration, and you typically pay a fee for each event.
  • The services listed below are either national or cater to a number of large cities. There are plenty of matchmaking and speed dating companies that serve only one or two cities. To find a local service, try searching for the type of service you want and your city name in a search engine like Ask.com or Zuula.com.

Dulcinea's Picks

For speed dating ....
To pay someone to be a matchmaker for you ...
To let your friends do the work, or to become a matchmaker for your friends ...
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Religion and Dating

If religion plays a prominent role in your life, consider joining an online dating community full of people who share your religious beliefs. These sites can be a great way to find a spiritual partner to share your life with, or a friend with whom you spend quality time.

Dulcinea's Insight

  • If religion doesn't play a role in your everyday life but you still think it is important to date someone who shares your same spiritual values on a basic level, many sites allow you to indicate how religious you are and match accordingly.

Dulcinea's Picks

For some tips for religious dating online ...
For Christian online dating ...
For Catholic singles ...
For Jewish singles ...
For Muslim singles ...
For Mormon singles ...
For Wiccan singles ...
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LGBT Dating

The Internet has transformed dating for all populations, but the degree to which it has enhanced GLBT dating options is indescribable. No matter how small the GLB or T pool of potential dates in your city may seem, online you'll be able to expand your dating circle.

Dulcinea's Insight

  • You don't need to use a GLBT-specific dating site to find a same-sex date; many dating sites have same-sex dating options. Few traditional dating sites have transgender options, though.
  • Have a sense of what you're looking for when you begin—particularly if you are a gay man. Some sites are more sex oriented, and some are more dating/relationship oriented. You'll have a better chance of finding what you're looking for if you target your search.
  • Be honest, and be careful. If you misrepresent yourself online, you're unlikely to be able to maintain your charade in person. And remember that not everyone out there is who he or she claims to be. Be cautious about what personal information you disclose. And it's always a good idea to plan a first date in a safe, public place. If you're a teenager, stay away from sites catering to adults.
  • If you're looking for transgender dating sites, avoid any sites that use the term "shemale." It's probably not a legitimate transgender site

Dulcinea's Picks

For general GLBT sites ...
For gay online dating ...
For lesbian online dating ...
For transgender dating sites ...
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