Next season, one of our episodes will be on the topic of internet dating. The following is an overview of this topic.
With the ubiquity of technology increasing the amount of time Canadians spend online, it is small wonder that internet dating sites have exploded in popularity. The online dating giants can boast subscribers in the millions, such as eHarmony (33 million members since inception), Match.com (over a million active subscribers, 96 million registered since inception), Lavalife (10 million members), OkCupid (5.6 million active), and PlentyofFish (40 million registered). Hundreds of smaller, more specific sites have also arisen to meet niche markets. These cater to specific subscribers seeking, for example, to meet another person of the Christian faith (as on ChristianMingle.com), Jewish faith or heritage (JDate.com) or someone seeking a same-sex partnership (Chemistry.com, Grindr, PinkCupid.com).
Online dating sites use a variety of different methods for “matching” subscribers. Some sites use relatively complex mathematical or scientific matching techniques based on algorithms and personality types determined by questionnaire upon sign-up. Others are more simple, allowing for users to fill in a profile about themselves, browse other users’ profiles, and send messages to members they are interested in. Many of the larger dating sites use a mixture of these models, involving a questionnaire to classify members broadly into personality types and a search feature to browse others’ profiles.
Different philosophies about matching and personality types underlie different dating sites’ sorting questionnaires. These questionnaires range from very long and detailed to relatively short and direct. eHarmony’s sorting questionnaire is notably lengthy and detailed, asking a broad-range of questions about the user based on its patented 29 Dimensions of Compatibility matching system. OkCupid.com uses a different model where users answer a variety of user-generated questions then rate how important each particular question is to them. An algorithm is applied to the results to generate a percentage of friend, enemy, or romantic match compatibility with other users, which can be viewed on other users’ profiles.
The costs for dating sites vary according to company and model. Sites like eHarmony and Match.com work on a monthly payment plan, while OkCupid.com is primarily free but additional features can be purchased. PlentyofFish.com is the largest of the completely free dating sites.
Although for some internet dating raises the same concerns regarding disconnectedness that arise in discussions about our virtual, online lives, it is clear that it is an evolving, persistent form that will continue to develop alongside social media forms.