So Thanksgiving is here and there is nothing like taking stock of where you came from/currently are. A little over a year and a half ago I went from being in a relationship where I completely defined my identity though my girlfriend, to being single, in a one bedroom , with not even a cat to talk to. Getting back out there was a lot different than I imagined. Sure, I went to bars and cruised for tang the old fashion way, but I was surprised to find that those “It’s okay to look” match.com commercials were actually right–tons of young singles are using the internet to find dates, partners, whatever. The stigma that everyone you met online was a middle-aged, fat man were gone (i.e. the web was a great place to find you souldmate before…assuming he was a middle-aged fat man). Since I understand the internet better than I understand bars, I was more than excited. Initially I started with Match.com since it seemed like the most popular, but as time went on I began to look to other sites as well. I’m not sure it was some compulsion or a desire to find love, but by now I’m kind of a self-proclaimed expert on the topic of internet dating, and with that I’d like to share my list of dating sites for the Boston area, from worst to best:
8. Craigslist–1 star rating/5 stars
You may wonder: how will I know when I hit rock bottom in the dating scene? Well let me be your gauge and tell you that when you post on craigslist personals, yes, you have hit the bottom. It doesn’t get much more sketchy or craptastic than this…well that isn’t completely untrue, you can’t find real life hookers on AdultFriendFinder (that makes it less craptastic, but it is still the sketchiest). Posting to Craigslist is like posting to an old school personals paper, you have no idea who is reading it, what they look like, or whether or not they plan on cooking and eating you (though you may be into that last one). People, we have the technology! When it comes to online dating, or even trying to get a booty call, the evolution of the internet has allowed us to weed out some of the crazies. This is like the half-man, half-fish that eventually gave birth to us meatbags. Of course the 3/5-man, 2/5-fish is OkCupid since it has ALMOST as little monitoring of who is posting. Now I shouldn’t alienate those who are actually looking for freaks, or professionals, to them I just say beware, and if Chris Hanson walks out from behind a door or something then remember that the cops are outside waiting for you.
7. AdultFriendFinder.com–1 star rating/5 stars
It’s things like this that make me think I’m the dumbest (or at least most inept) person in the world. Thinking back on it, with a name like AdultFriendFinder, it should be pretty obvious what it is (swinger site), but being completely naive I thought it was a place to find other adults to be friends (yeah, you heard me–friends–ain’t nothin’ wrong with building a relationship based on friendship first). Once I figured out what it was, I found that it was posted all over the site, I had just been too in the zone from signing up for match, eharmony, okcupid, etc, to even notice. After putting in the basic info about you (i.e. that I am a man looking for a woman), and this is when I started to suspect something was strange, it asked me what i was looking for. The long term and short term dating choice were non-existent, but things like cross dressing, bdsm, group sex…yeah, those were all present. Can’t say I have an interest in dressing up like a ladyman. I managed to find a Discreet Relationship option, which sounded the most like dating (strangely enough fetish didn’t sound like something I would want to try). It turns out this site is full of creepers (both guys and girls). Now I have only heard stories of the female creeper, thinking it was just a myth, an urban legend told to fellow frat brothers to give then sweet dreams before passing out from their keg stands, but no, they actually exist. I never, never in a million years, thought I would be repulsed by a someone asking for sex (with me), but now I know that isn’t the case. Also it turns out this site is just a new age porn site, you need to pay to see people profiles, email them, etc.
Bottom Line: If you don’t want herpes or for it to burn when you urinate then I would suggest looking elsewhere for a date.
6. Matchmaker.com–1 star rating/5 stars
This place is the Mom and Pops version of dating sites. I should say though, it has a great diverse ad campaign. I found this site in an act of desperation while looking for cougar websites (sadly I never found one that caters specifically to cougars, so I guess the hunt is on). I had come across it before when it advertised itself as free for Harvard students (though that turned out to only be half true), so I decided to join. The matching system here is pretty basic; you select your basic stats (physical appearance, height, income, etc) and then you select what you are looking for in a partner (physical appearance, race, etc). After all the multiple choice crap is done it is time for fill in the blank, you have to write a couple essays, aside from the basic who you are looking for and tell us a little about yourself they ask you which movie star you resemble most. If you are clever (and are looking for clever men/women), might I suggest putting your name down as that celebrity? The reasons are two fold: 1) no you can say you are a celebrity, 2) because if you want to email someone you need to pay for the site (so by giving your name and some basic info they can google you or facebook you…see how I am working around the system? Damn the Man, damn him!). Though it is free to “join”, unless you want to shell out the big bucks for a second rate dating site, all you can do is sent and receive notifications that someone is interested in you. These interest notifications are the internet equivalent of staring at someone in a bar, you are letting them know that the game is on and are waiting for them to make the first move. Push comes to shove it is pointless since you cant respond back. Also, another draw back to this site is that most of the women who show interest are in NYC or Jersey…a little far to travel for a date just to get shot down. Similarly, the clientele is how you say…not worth the money (except for me, who is worth every penny…well at lest 50 cents to the dollar).
Bottom Line: If you want free go to OkCupid. If you want good, just don’t go here.
5. crazyblinddate.com–2 star rating/5 stars
It’s rare to find something so varsity, so beyond anything you have ever experienced all you can do is tighten up your belt and dive right in–for dating that is http://crazyblinddate.com. The hideously disfigured brother of OkCupid! (who is kept in the basement chained to a chair in his superman t-shit waiting for a BabyRuth), this monstrosity pushes past all the bullshit of online dating and throws you smack dab into that fire we call the first date. All you need to provide is a time you are free (or a period of time) and all the locations you are able to reach, they take care of the rest (like finding you the date). For those of you who are thinking, “Wait, I have standards, I don’t want to just be matched up with any Swampthing who has decided he/she is tired of rejections and wants a guaranteed first date,” you have the option of setting up some parameters like must be within a certain height, race, eye color (though keep in mind that takes all the fun out of the experience).
Positives of the site are that it is completely free and you can be set up on a date in relatively no time, granted someone else is looking for a date at the same time. Also it has a great system that texts you once you have a potential date so you don’t have to be attached to your email (though if you have a smart phone then it’s nothing new). So why give the pinnacle of serial dating only two stars? Well because its hard to actually get a date since a lot of people are so standoffish over the idea of a completely blind date (and the possibility of getting chopped up into little tiny peaces is dramatically increased over the lame blind dates your friends set you up on). Also it’s only limited to a select few cities, so if you happen to be in the middle of nowhere for a couple nights and are looking for a date or two then you are SOL.
Bottom Line: Big risk, big reward (the crazy story you can tell later).
4. OkCupid–2 star rating/5 stars
You know how sometimes you are going out with a bunch of friends and someone wants Mexican, another person hates Mexican and wants Italian, and one guy wants beef stroganoff so you end up going to Cheesecake Factory which has all the options and every ends up disappointed with the crappy food…yeah that is kind of like this place. OkCupid is a great idea, free online dating site? Hell yes I’ll join, sign me up.
The first thing you notice is this place has massive amounts of people…and massive people as well. This site is international so you never know when you click on someone whether or not they are even on the same continent. The flood of people make it hard to find the people who are serious/worth dating. There is a little status bar that tells you all the things you need to do to get to a complete profile. They start out helpful: fill in the questions, write an intro, but then they get less helpful: mark 5 things in your profile, write to the forums, write 100 match questions. The search feature on this site is also a little week. The minimum radius is 25 miles, which in a city like Boston give way too many people (especially since only 1% of them are worth talking to). One nice feature is the homescreen, now you can stalk all the poor people who glanced at your profile. Also there is a journal, which functions similar to a livejournal, write down all the mundane crap that you think about in hopes that someone else out there thinks about the same mundane crap.
The website works using user submitted questions and tests to determine compatibility. Like communism, this works on paper, but fails in real life. “Which would you rather burn, a flag or a book?” Wait…what? How the heck am I suppose to answer that question? I can think of certain books I would burn, and certain flags I would not. Rachel Ray cookbook, go ahead burn it. White House flag, don’t burn it. Angry people in the Middle East, go ahead, burn a US flag, I don’t mind. Original copy of Great Expectations, don’t burn it. More so, how does that help me connect with a person? We have our mutual love of books over flags in common? That is like saying at least we have Breakfast at Tiffany’s.
Now I’m not one to pass judgment, but let me say I may or may not get a little pissed after reading an entire profile just to find that the person is married/engaged/dating someone but is looking for some action on the side. Granted, thank you for treating me like a piece of meat (no, I actually mean that, thank you), but the fact that there are so many people with alternative situations on this site make it hard for people looking for regular monogamous dating to find each other.
Bottom Line: Pay the money for http://match.com
3. eHarmony–3 star rating/5 stars
The ying to match’s yang, eHarmony keeps you clicking back for more. This modern day matchmaker was started by Dr. lover-man himself Neil Clark Warren (an actual psychologist and marriage counselor) in the 90’s. It promises you matches based on 29 points of compatibility. I’m not sure what they are, but if you are reading this Warren and are thinking about adding two more, could they be related butts and/or boobs (hey, I have a great butt, don’t blame me if you don’t)? Oh, I should mention off the bat that the website is a thinly veiled Christian website, so if you are lookin’ to get all Leviticus with some other dude this is not the site for you (hey, I consider the Bible literature, reading is succeeding).
First thing you do is fill out your questionnaire, This questionnaire takes forever and asks you a series of questions you don’t expect. The first few are the basic: age, gender, where you live, but then you have to rate things on a scale of 1 to 7. For instance: I am good at analyzing problems…well I guess I could be a 6. I mean, I’m no Einstein, he would definitely be a 7, but if I put a 7 does that mean I will be dating or expect to be Einstein? If Einstein is a 7 then I feel more comfortable being a 4, but at the same time is 4 only average? After that it goes to the next level: Aloof. How am I suppose to rate my aloofness? It was like the SATs for dating, and just like the SATs I need a drink when I was done.
The website setup is a little unwieldy. First you have to read the profiles, not that you get any information from then. Then you rate how well you think this match was. After that you begin, what I like to call, “The dance of small talk and halos.” You have to send a round of multiple choice questions to the other person, who reads, responds, and sends you some. After that it is time for essay questions. I finished high school a long time ago, I’m not looking to go back. There is an alternative, the “Fast track” where you go straight to sending emails (something that Match lets you do right off the back. Word from experience, NEVER FAST TRACK. Remember how all the TV shows say you need to talk/listen to a girl on a first date? Nothing says I could care less about your cat Chairman Meow than trying to go straight to phase 3. If you do have the unfortunate luck of trying this, or in my case just happen to be one of few blacks on the site, you may receive the dreaded MATCH CLOSED message. Your potential mate decides you aren’t fit to talk to and chooses why from a list of predetermined options. My favorite is Other. She/he is too fat–close it with an Other. Too short–Other. Too awesome–Other. Granted I’m no saint, but when I close a match I actually try to be honest. I would be greatfull if at the end of a date she said “don’t call me,” rather than her just not pick up the phone. On the plus side, you can totally parallel question a bunch of people at a time and see which ones make it to the email stage.
Bottom Line: If you want to try picking from 20 people simultaneously, are straight, aren’t worried about random rejection, and have all the time in the world, this is the place for you.
2. match.com–5 star rating/5 stars
Oh internet dating, how you have become a vice of mine. My love affair with internet dating began hmmm…well about the time I realized I was 23 years old, living alone, working all the time, and my ex, who had left me for another med student, was having more fun than I was. The http://match.com ads are the ones that burn a hole through your brain: some trendy hipster in black and white talking about their trendy hipsterness followed by “http://match.com, its okay to look” (Why wont you take MY audition tapes http://match.com? I could be sooo hip).
The site is free to sign up for, all you need is to write a little profile and answer some basic questions (I like my women between 3’0″ and 8’0″ thank you very much). After that you are given a list of a couple hundred women who “match” you based on some percentage of similarity. On my first selection of criteria I only had four 100% matches, but after I went to visit my parents for Christmas and was told I was actually 5’10” (who measures their own height, come on!) my 100% matches skyrocketed. In addition, ever day or so, you are given five new matches to rate.
With a free account all you can really do is use the instant messenger and send winks (think of the adult web-based “do you like me check yes or no” letter). If you are truly looking for love, you can upgrade to a paying account. There are multiple plans, the best deal being 6 months since if you do what they say and still don’t find love then you get another six free.
Now the fun part, the clientele. The women range from 18 to really old (come on, I’m not that desperate yet.). In the Boston area there are more women than you can shake a stick at (that is also illegal in many cases). The personality ranges from golddigger to nerd hottie looking for love. Sending winks and emails like a fisherman, expect to net far fewer than you cast out. After some mutual, “I think you are très sexy,” you can communicate through a secure email server. While a little unwieldy as I always had to sign in to reply, you can apparently just hit reply from gmail and it will take care of the rest. The dates are varied, but this writer always found them amusing to say the least.
As far as men go, I bet there are some real winners out there (especially ones that are 5’10”, black curly hair, great smile, love to write reviews about internet dating). Also if you are lookin’ for some man love (or woman love), there is a large gay and lesbian population on match.
Bottom line: Sign up, then find me. I can be a great date and I clean up well.
1. Yelp–5 star rating/5 stars
I use yelp like some people use the casual encounters page of craigslist.