How Dating Sites Work

When you’re set up through a friend, try to meet people at bars or attend singles events, most of the time you don’t know what you’re getting into. While this can certainly make for excitement and spontaneity, it can just easily result in you realizing five minutes into your date that you’ve wasted your time.

Using dating sites, on the other hand, allows you to get a much clearer picture of the people you’re interested in before even meeting them. This can not only be a safer approach to getting to know people—not requiring you to immediately meet up in person—but it also helps ensure that you only take the time to pursue people that you’re actually compatible with.

This, and the fact that more and more relationships start online—with some studies suggesting 20%—are just two major reasons you should consider using a dating site.

But before you hop online and sign up for the first dating site you find, it’s important to know what you’re getting into. To help you find the perfect dating site for your specific needs, we compiled below everything you need to know about dating sites in 2020.

What Kinds of Dating Sites are There?

When you think of dating sites, especially if you’re new to the scene, you likely think of only a handful of players. These likely include Tinder, Match, eHarmony and maybe OkCupid.

While you can definitely find that special someone on any one of these sites—thanks to plenty of customizability, filters, and huge memberships—there are hundreds, if not thousands of other dating sites catering to all sorts of different communities and niches that might be better suited to your needs.

To give you an idea of what’s out there, here’s just a very small curation of the different dating services available and what kinds of niches they serve:

Don’t see a service catering to your personality above? Well lucky for you—if you can think of a niche, you can probably find a dating service centered around it. A quick Google search of “dating app whatever community/niche you’re after” is sure to turn you on to a service that suits your needs.

It’s also not like you’re confined to one dating service—especially since many sites offer free trials. To increase your chances of meeting someone suitable, you can always use multiple services at the same time.

How Do Dating Sites Match You With People?

Most dating sites match you with people in two ways: they automatically deliver a select number of matches per day to your inbox and/or they allow you to manually search for and connect with matches yourself.

For sites that automatically deliver matches to your inbox, you’re typically matched with people who possess your desired characteristics (which can range anywhere from being receptive to marriage and children to being tolerant of open relationships) and who share your interests and desires—both of which you usually specify when first signing up.

When searching for matches on your own, you’re also typically able to narrow down your search using filters. For example, OurTime—a dating site for older singles—allows you to filter your search based on:

How Do You Communicate With People On Dating Sites?

While you’ll find the ability to message people on just about any dating site in existence, other types of communication suiting different needs and comfortableness are also usually available.

For example, consider all the ways through which allows its users to communicate:

Methods of communication like Likes and Super Likes allow people with limited time to quickly understand if a potential match is interested in continuing the conversation, whereas their Vibe Check video feature will provide a way for people to safely get to know each other more personally without having to meet in person.

Are Dating Sites Safe?

Given the more anonymous nature of online dating, dating sites tend to take the security, privacy, and identity verification of their users very seriously. This particularly applies to dating sites with users looking for more serious relationships.

Common measures to keep users safe include vetting profiles after they’ve been created to make sure they’re real, explicitly stating community guidelines and encouraging users to report any violations they experience, removing inactive or non-serious users, and providing free resources and links to dating and safety advice from relationship experts.

To give you an idea of what constitutes a violation on an average dating, eHarmony is quick to ban any of the following:

How Much Do Dating Sites Cost?

While many dating sites allow you to use their service for free, free users are often very limited in what they can do.

For example, as a free user EliteSingles—a dating site catering to higher-status and more educated singles—you can:

In other words, while you can see your suggested matches, you can’t even message or reply to them as a free EliteSingles user. This limited access is common across most dating sites, requiring you to upgrade to a paid member—often costing anywhere between $20 and $60 per month—to be able to build any semblance of a real relationship. But the investment is often totally worth it if you’re looking to find a good match.