Step By Step

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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Step 1: Choose a Service

E-dating has become so popular and profitable that there are now countless online dating services, and many of them are almost indistinguishable from one another. In this section, I’ll outline a few of the criteria you should use to determine which service is right for you. I’ve also polled my friends, my friends’ friends, and some other people that my friends’ friends know, to offer reviews of some of the most popular services.


The number of active members is probably the most important factor to consider in choosing a service. “Online community” is a hackneyed phrase, but e-dating sites really are communities. If you use a site for even a couple of weeks, you’ll start to see the same people over and over again. Sometimes, I even notice when people update their profiles or switch their pictures. Like any community, small is bad for dating. Anyone who has lived in a small town or has attended a small college knows what I’m talking about: when there is only one bar in town, you see the same people there every night.

The best way to determine whether a service has enough members in your area is to run a quick profile search. Most services allow you to search without signing up. Enter your criteria and see how many people come up. You can usually only look at a couple hundred pictures before you eyes roll into your head, so if your search generates a hundred or more results, you should have enough material to keep you busy. But pay attention to the last time members logged in—it’s usually displayed next to the picture. Members who haven’t been online for more than a month have probably stopped using the service, so don’t count them.


If you have very specific requirements, overall membership does not matter as much as the number of members who fit those requirements. For instance, if you’re only interested in dating Jews, you may find more eligible candidates on JDate than on Match.com, even though Match is a much larger service. There are dating sites for about every niche you can imagine, including sites for various religions and races, seniors, rich kids, Ivy League grads, specific cities, etc.

You should also pay attention to a site’s reputation and the type of people it tends to attract. For example, Sprint Street Networks (originally Nerve Personals) runs an online dating service for a number of publications, including Esquire, the Onion, Salon.com, Nerve.com, and the Village Voice. As a result, it tends to attract an artsy, literate, liberal crowd; it’s a great place to find artists, writers, musicians, publishers and other people in media. In contrast, Lava Lifemarkets itself to young professionals more likely to wear a suit to work.


E-dating can be expensive. Most services have subscriptions that range from $20 to a $5 0per month. But e-dating doesn’t have to break your bank. Many services allow you to post a profile and respond to messages for free; you only have to pay if you want to contact people yourself. Most services offer deals on multiple month packages, and some offer less expensive subscriptions with fewer features. Some sites, such as Nerve and LavaLife, don’t have monthly subscriptions at all. Instead, you need buy credits which you use to contact people. If you don’t contact many people, this model can be very cost efficient. With the credit model, you can also take a timeout from e-dating anytime and then use your credits when you come back.


Different services require people to answer different kinds of questions and have different algorithms for matching up members. Nerve members have to discuss their favorite books and the music that turns them on. eHarmony has an extensive list of multiple choice questions and claims to have a scientific method for matching personality types. Go with the site that requires its members to disclose the kind of information that you feel is important for judging a potential match.


Every service touts its incredible features, but in fact, most services offer a standard suite that includes search , match , chat , wink , and hotlist. I’ll tell you what these mean in the features section. There are a few “cutting edge” multimedia features, like voice messages and video chat, that are still uncommon, and some services claim to have specialized matching methods, but if you’re only interested in the basics, it doesn’t much matter which service you use.