Everything you need to know before you click.
The success stories are endless—and so are the horror stories. When talking about online dating, it can be a scary world out there in cyberspace. But when you hear of stories like that of Kristis and Jason Cartozian, cyberspace seems to be exactly the place to find the perfect match.
"I had been in a six year relationship that was going nowhere," says Mrs. Cartozian, a New York-based licensed marriage and family therapist. She had just moved to a new city and, at 30 years old, she was "over" the bar scene.
So, in 2007, she decided to sign up for Match.com. Within months, she met Jason, who happened to live in the very same town. They married less than three years later. "If you go into your online dating journey with an open mind and an open heart, you may just meet the love of your life and best friend all in one," Cartozian says.
With hundreds of online dating websites to choose from, some based on hobbies, religion, age, and location, perfecting that profile has become a science for some. "The smart ones are getting professional photographs taken and wording their profiles in certain ways so that they attract certain types of potential mates," says Patti Stanger, the Millionaire Matchmaker and founder of online dating site P.S. XOXO. "For example, if you want a rich guy, instead you say ‘I'm looking for someone successful who's at the top of his field.'"
With traditional ways of meeting someone seeming to be a thing of the past (forget the church group, instead just visit ChristianMingle.com), online dating sites continue to grow in popularity. "Ten years ago online dating was for dateless and desperate, and now everyone is doing it," Stanger says.
"The list of online dating services grows longer each week, with sites designed to appeal to both the masses as well as to niche audiences," says Suzanna Mathews, The Date Maven. "Find what floats your boat and do your research," Stanger says. For example, if you like to ski, you don't even have to go to Aspen to find a potential mate who also likes to ski. Just sign up for a site like SkiingPersonals.
Mathews recommends looking at several factors when choosing a dating site. "These include the cost of membership, the number of available singles, availability of support, the ease and speed of signing up, the reputation of the site, and your own intuition. You'll know right away if a site is for you," she adds.
But before you click that sign up button, consult our cheat sheet to some of the most popular sites here. We tell you exaclty what sets each apart from the pack.