With two out of every five singletons in Europe and the USA now turning to the internet to find a partner, it would be safe to say that the phenomenon of online dating has changed the social and dating habits of tens of millions of people from Newcastle to New York. But why has an activity that could only be classed as an amusing diversion five years ago become such an addictive and central part of so many people's everyday lives? The answer to this question can be encapsulated in the ten short paragraphs:-
1. No more smokey bars and clubs. In the bad old days, single people on the prowl would trawl the local hostelries in their towns and cities looking for that special connection with someone who takes their fancy. Well, now you can prowl the internet from the comfort of your armchair or office and if you happen to be having a bad hair day, who cares?
2. You don't have to be a teccy. Most online dating sites are simple to navigate and deliberately don't incorporate features which are difficult to understand. Even your average internet virgin can master the art of using a dating site.
3. There's a site that's just right for you. There are global sites, country specific sites, city specific sites and niche sites for seniors, bikers, single parents, gay guys and girls and just about everything else you can think of. If you can't find an online service that exactly suits your location and lifestyle, you're not looking hard enough.
4. A choice of thousands. Most successful sites have thousands of active members on their databases. When you walk into a party or a club, how many single people will you see who might be right for you? Probably only a handful. Well now you can switch on your computer and be completely spoilt for choice.
5. Find just your type. A good dating site will present you with a series of options when you start browsing through the profiles of other members. As well as finding people who you'll find physically attractive, you'll also be able to refine your search to people who you'll also find compatible in terms of personality and lifestyle choices.
6. Instant gratification. Now you don't have to stand in the corner nursing your beer or glass of wine vainly hoping that the good-looking guy or girl across the room will come over and talk to you. When you spot someone you like on an online dating site - you can just send them a message and introduce yourself. And when you do so, your real email address is never revealed so you don't have to worry about giving out personal contact details to complete strangers.
7. You control the pace. You can message people as and when you want to and respond to other people's mails at your leisure. It's completely up to you how frequently you use your chosen site and who you want to make contact with. Take it fast or take it slow - it's your choice to make.
8. There's always someone else. If any member you contact doesn't respond or you decide that someone you've been exchanging mails with isn't quite suitable, you can just move on to someone else. Good dating sites attract hundreds and in many cases, thousands of new members every day so why put all your eggs in one basket when you have many more baskets at your finger-tips?
9. Widen your social network. Yes, the majority of people join dating sites to put some fizz and sparkle into their love lives; but many people do so to make new friends as well. Maybe you've just arrived in a town or city to take up a new job and what better and quicker way is there to start making new friends than to join an online community of like-minded singles in your own age group?
10. It's great fun. Let's face it, we could all do with injecting a little more of the fun factor into our lives from time to time and surfing the net for attractive compatible dates is a great way to do just that. And it doesn't cost any more than a round of drinks so it isn't really much of a risk in financial terms. There's very little to lose and everything to gain.
So there you have it; the delights of online dating are available to anyone who has access to a computer screen and if you're single yourself and you've yet to take the plunge, why are you waiting? It's what the internet is for!
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Jon White is the founder of CupidNights - a London specific dating service and the most successful geo-targeted site in Europe.
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