Love is hard to find, and even harder to keep. You meet someone at a bar or club, engage in a fleeting courtship, and enjoy a fulfilling relationship — until the wheels begin to loosen, and the realization sets in that maybe you’re not as perfect a couple as you had originally thought. At least, that’s how things used to be. In the information age, online dating sites have revolutionized the way humans beings meet, creating new opportunities and expectations for compatibility. For many singles, the world of internet dating has gone from last resort to first choice for many singles.
There are lots of reasons to try online dating services. Maybe you’re a workaholic with just a few hours of free time each week, and you don’t feel like spending those precious hours shouting over loud music at a nightclub. Maybe you’re agoraphobic, or you can’t afford to sign up for one of those “wine and painting” events without mortgaging your student loan debt — damn you, Big College! Whatever the reason, many rely on dating sites to deliver potential matches based upon shared interests or commonalities.
There’s even a mobile app, Hater, that’ll hook you up with prospective partners based on stuff you both can’t stand (if mobile apps are more your speed, we’ve got you covered there too). With so many options, though, diving into the deep end can be daunting. Luckily, we’re here to help. Check out our finds for the best online dating sites.
Match.com ($42 a month, or $250 annually)
Match.com is an extremely straightforward site: Make a profile, look at other profiles, see someone you like, message them. It’s simple to use, which might be a plus if you’re nervous about getting into the online dating game. Following account creation, users are asked to do a personality test through Chemistry.com; Match then uses that information to make suggestions, while a clever algorithm tracks your activity on the site and tailors your experience accordingly. Subscriptions to Match aren’t cheap — one month will run you an astounding $42, which scales down if you sign up for a longer period (which is kind of like saying “I probably won’t have any luck for a while”) — so if you’re the thrifty type, you can join for free.
The catch is that free accounts can only communicate by winks — Match’s equivalent to the Facebook “poke.” If you can successfully woo someone using just a digital wink, then congratulations! You’re probably attractive. For paid users, Match offers a host of neat features, like real-life “Stir” meetup events, and the site will provide you with around ten matches per day to consider. That’s a lot of matches! It is called Match.com, after all.
eHarmony ($60 a month, or $325 annually)
Even if you know nothing about online dating, you should recognize the founder of eHarmony, Neil Clark Warren. He’s the Bernie Sanders-looking man who — according to his widespread advertisements — wants everyone to fall in love, and as of 2008, that includes homosexual couples. This site is the most expensive on this list, but it also requires the least amount of work in the long run. The initial personality quiz — which tests for its trademarked “29 Dimensions of Compatibility” — can be daunting and take a couple hours, but after that, eHarmony emails you matches. You don’t need to continually monitor your profile or dig through pages and pages of prospective matches.
This is an especially nice feature if you are nervous about approaching people, because the site sends an email to each person saying they are a match, which means you don’t have to ever make the first move. It also means you don’t have as much control as with other sites. The price is pretty steep — single-month subscriptions cost a whopping $60, six-month commitments cost $43 a month, and so on — so this option is for people with some disposable income, who are dedicated to working toward finding a partner without the busywork. According to most of the eHarmony marketing material, four percent of all U.S. marriages are arranged via the service! We don’t know what the numbers are on divorce.
Zoosk (prices vary)
Across its desktop and mobile platforms, Zoosk attracts more than 20 million visitors per month. Half of that traffic originates from the United States, making it one of the most popular dating services in the country. The winner of 2015’s Webby award for “Best Dating Site,” Zoosk effectively markets to millennials by providing a layout that’s similar to popular dating apps like Tinder and Bumble. Here, you’re limited to viewing one profile at a time, rather than the wall of faces that some websites throw at you. A carousel section functions almost identically to Tinder, where you’ll churn through profiles, deciding if you’re interested (on Zoosk, there’s also a “maybe option).
The search engine allows users to filter by ethnicity and body type, in addition to all the regular stuff (age, gender orientation, location), and if you’re searching, you won’t be swiping; instead, to engage someone, you can add them, send a wink or gift (gifts cost points), or send a message if they’re online. The “Smart Match” feature asks you questions — stuff like “would you date someone with kids?” — to whittle down the list of potential matches, and it works pretty well. Zoosk is free to join, and in lieu of a traditional subscription, you can pay for packs of “coins” to boost your profile, which increases visibility to members of your target demographic. Coin packs cost between $20 and $100, with value scaling up as you buy more.
Tastebuds ($10 a month, or $30 for six months)
Taste in music can be a deal maker or deal breaker. You might have a million things in common with someone, but as soon as they let slip that they prefer Slipknot to Sondheim, a budding relationship can wilt quickly. That’s why British web developers Alex Parish and Julian Keenaghan created Tastebuds.fm, a dating service that matches you up with potential mates (the procreative kind and/or the British kind) based upon your ears — or, rather, the stuff you prefer to put into your ears.
A free account allows users to send songs to other members, as well as “throw cows” at people, which seems to be Tastebuds’ answer to the played-out winks you’ll find elsewhere. Dropping an extra $10 per month (or, if you prefer, $30 for half a year) unlocks messaging, so you can actually use your words and not just your favorite music to woo those you find desirable. You’ll add a list of favored artists to your profile, and you can fill in answers to generic statements like “If I had a million dollars, I would…” or “When I was 13, my favorite band was…” Frankly, Tastebuds’ list of features and its lack of matching algorithms make it inferior to most popular dating sites, but it’s a cool, unique twist that music lovers will appreciate.