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1. Choose a Service 2. Set Up an Account 3. Write Your Profile4. Make Contact 5. Respond...Or Don’t 6. The Email Dialogue 7. The Phone Call 8. The Date

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The most basic feature of all dating sites is the search. You specify a set of criteria, and the site shows you a list of all the members who fit your criteria. Usually, you will see a small picture (or thumbnail) of each member, along with the member’s screen name and headline. Many sites allow you to choose the way the search results are sorted. For example, you can specify that the newest members or the members who have most recently logged in show up first. Most sites also allow you to hide your own profile so that it doesn’t show up when other people search.


Matchingis much like searching except that instead of specifying the criteria at the time you do the search, matching uses the preferences you specified in your profile. In addition, matching only shows members whose preferences are satisfied by your profile. In other words, people who satisfy your criteria won’t be shown if you don’t satisfy their criteria.

So why would you ever search when you can match? You may wish to look for an arrower range of people than what’s specified in your profile. For example, you may be willing to date someone 30 miles away, so you indicate that in your profile, but if you prefer someone who lives closer, you can specify that in your search. Conversely, if there aren’t enough people who exactly match your preferences, you may want to search for a broader range by specifying fewer criteria in a search or else try your luck with people whose preferences don’t exactly match your profile.

Personality Match

Somesites claim to be able to use multiple choice questions to assess your personality and automatically match you with compatible members. eHarmony is all about personality matching, and Yahoo Personals offers it as a premium service. Personally, I’m skeptical. None of these sites really explain how the technology works or cite any studies to defend their methods, so you just have to trust their marketing spin, which I don’t.

I’m not saying that you can’t meet people on eHarmony and similar sites. Many people have, so the technology must work to an extent. The question is whether it works better than the “old-fashioned” method. As TR aptly puts it, How would you rather assess someone’s personality: by knowing you picked the same answers to a multiple choice question or by seeing what answers they came up with themselves? It’s hard to believe that these sites could know you better than you know yourself .


The online chat or instant messaging feature was not offered by most dating sites until a few years ago, but now it’s pretty standard. If someone is online, you will see a little available to chat indicator next to the person’s screen name. If you click it, that person will see a message indicating that you would like to chat. If he or she accepts your request, you can send instant messages back and forth. Some sites also offer chat rooms for more than two people. Some sites also offer video chat, but I’ve never tried it.


Most sites allow you to add profiles you like to a hotlist , so you can go back to it later. Some sites include features that allow you to see who has hotlisted you or that send you a messagewhen someone you have hotlisted has also hotlisted you, i.e. mutual hotlisting.


This feature goes by various names, including wink , tease , and smile. Normally, non-paying members are prohibited from contacting people who have not contacted them first, but most sites offer the wink feature to allow non-paying members to get in touch. The catch is that winks do not allow you to write your own messages, and the people at whom you wink can only respond if they are paying members. Some sites used to allow non-paying members to winkback, but they must have figured they could make more money by prohibiting that because I don’t know of any sites that still allow it.

Voice/Video Messages

Some sites let you record voice and video messages with your profile. Pretty much self-explanatory.