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Looking For a Date Online?

Know the Differences Between the Types of Internet Dating Out There

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Updated January 29, 2014

Thousands of people use the internet to connect with others. Some are looking for sex, some for romance, and some for a long-term commited relationship or marriage. So how do you navigate between all the internet dating options out there? Here is a brief guide to the different types of online dating available. Most dating sites are safe. But keep in mind that any dating site may have members who are criminals or drug dealers, sex addicts, dating multiple partners, or carry HIV or hepatitis infection. Always practice safe sex when you have sex with someone you're just getting to know.

1. Matchmaker or Relationship Oriented Dating Sites

Matchmaker sites are designed to pair people with similar interests and compatible personalities. The goal of these sites is to introduce people who may otherwise never have met, so that they can form a long-term, committed relationship. Typically, there will be a fee to join, and you will have to provide a lot of personal information about yourself.

A word of caution -- despite the fact that these sites target people looking for committed relationships, there is no guarantee that you will find a suitable partner, or that the person you are matched with has answered the questions honestly. Sometimes people looking for a supply of dates will sign up for these sites to meet potential sexual partners, with no real intention of making a commitment. So use your judgement wisely, and don’t rely on the agency to detect all problems with applicants.

2. Cultural or Religious-Based Matchmaking Sites

Cultural or religious-based matchmaking sites are similar to matchmaker or relationship-based sites, but participation is limited to members of specific cultural or religious groups. These include Christian dating sites, Jewish dating sites, LDS dating sites, and Hindu matrimonial sites.

3. Dating Based on Social Characteristics

Some online dating sites are geared toward people with specific social characteristics. There are dating sites for single parents, professionals, people with disabilities, people with a high IQ or level of education, people attracted to uniforms, rich people, polyamorous people and people with STDs. If you are looking for a partner with characteristics that are uncommon or difficult to talk about, these sites may attract you. However, you should still be aware of my safety tips for men and women.

4. Ethnic-Based Dating Sites

Ethnic-based dating sites are geared toward people who are looking for a partner of a particular ethnic group. These include Black dating sites, Asian dating sites, Hispanic and Latin dating sites, and inter-racial dating sites.

A separate but related type of site are those that target American or European men as potential marital partners for women of specific ethnicities which they consider sexually desirable. The women who offer themselves on these sites may be motivated to marry a stranger from another country to access a higher level of affluence, they may be fleeing abusive circumstances, and they may want citizenship of a developed country. The potential for exploitation of both women and men is therefore rather high, as is the risk of stigma and social judgement from others if you proceed with a marriage on this basis.

5. Casual Dating Sites

Casual dating sites are designed to allow adults to connect and potentially meet in person for dating and sex. They may or may not charge a fee. These sites may seem cost effective, but there is no screening or way of evaluating your safety when you meet someone through these sites.

They are essentially the online equivalent of picking up a stranger in a bar, without the witnesses. You might get lucky and meet someone you really like, but on the other hand, there is no way of knowing who you will end up with. Casual dating sites are frequented by sex addicts, sex workers, and those looking for people to exploit sexually or financially, as well as people legitimately looking for a casual relationship or casual sex.

6. Online Escort Services

Escort services arrange dates between clients and professional escorts, for a fee. The professional escort will accompany the client as a companion on a date, although typically, escorts will also provide sex as a paid service. You need to check this out with the service and the escort before making any assumptions about what will happen on or after your date.

Although escort services are a form of sex work, the escort is still in control of any sexual activity that occurs. Paying for sex does not mean you have a right to sex without the escort`s consent -- forcing someone to have sex is still considered rape under the law, even if you have paid them. You also have no right to assault or otherwise abuse or harrass an escort -- if you have done this, or have any desire to do this, I suggest you seek help from a psychologist or psychiatrist as soon as possible. You can get a referral from your family doctor.

7. LGBT Dating Sites

Many lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people find it difficult to meet partners, and feel isolated. The internet is a particularly useful way for people who belong to sexual minorities to meet others for relationships and sex. LGBT dating sites vary a great deal, some emphasizing love and relationships, others the ability to connect with potential partners for sex.

As with other dating sites, LGBT dating sites carry the risk that you may be exploited by the people you meet. Gay sites have a history of connecting men for party and play sessions, although many are now aware of this and are not allowing PnP to be included in online entries.

8. Dating Chat Rooms

Dating chat rooms are websites designed for interaction between people who are logged onto the site. Chatting is usually in real time, and may use text, audio or video. There are many different types of chat rooms, and those designed for dating are typically frequented by people who want to arrange dates -- often for sex -- or to have sexually provocative interactions with others online.

There are as many types of dating chat room as there are other types of dating service, so you will find dating chat rooms for many different audiences. To avoid offense, embarrassment or future problems, before logging on, check that the chat room is right for you. And remember, no matter who the chat room is aimed at, you run the risk of connecting with an exploitative person by participating.

As with other forms of online dating, don`t give out any personal information, even if you feel you ’know’ the other person.

9. Virtual Dating

Virtual dating is similar to meeting someone in a chat room. The idea is that rather than the dating site merely allowing you to connect with your date, the whole dating process occurs online. You will be connecting with a real person, but they will appear as an avatar or 3D computer generated image, and this is how you will appear to them.

Those interested in virtual dating may be having difficulty with functioning in the real world, as this is a rather unusual way to conduct a relationship. You may be disappointed with the appearance and real life persona of someone you form a virtual relationship with if you meet them in reality.

10. Social Networking Sites

While social networking sites such as Facebook are widely used by people to stay in touch with friends, family and acquaintances, there has always been an undercurrent of online dating -- why else would the relationship status be so important? I'm not suggesting that Facebook is primarily an online dating tool, but people trawling the internet for potential dates sometime look through their friends of friends, who have conveniently posted photos of themselves, to meet people to date. Facebook itself may even be used for online communications, particularly early in a relationship.

The main issue to be aware of, when social networking, is the public nature of items in your profile. Unfortunately, your friends can post pictures of you, with your name tagged in the photo, which may show you in a way that may appear provocative or alluring to people trolling the internet. And you would be wise to delete as spam any messages appearing in your inbox from strangers saying they have seen your profile and want to connect with you -- they could be anyone.

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