Internet Dating Risks and Benefits

There are several reasons for the continuing success of Internet dating services, even in the face of new ‘competition’ from social networking sites.

Online dating provides a safe, relatively anonymous environment to meet people you otherwise would never come across. Many people are busy, or don’t care for the bar scene or just don’t have good luck meeting interesting people.

Online dating services provide a pool of people who are already pre-screened or self-screened who share your interests. Through photos, profiles, online videos and psychological matching algorithms, they give members improved odds of finding that special someone.

They provide a targeted audience of people interested in meeting someone for a romantic relationship. Social networking sites like MySpace have their valid uses. But it’s like milling among people in a huge crowd, most of whom are there for reasons other than dating.

Online dating services fill a niche and their continuing success shows that the good ones can earn money despite many new, free venues for Internet interaction.

All those are benefits to those interested in expanding their pool of possible dating partners.

But there are risks associated with online dating services, a downside that anyone exploring them should take into account.

There are, of course, minor risks. You typically pay money for online dating services. You may fail to get your money’s worth. The membership may not include anyone you’ll be interested in. You may have to sift through lots of people who are neutral or worse to find that special someone.

Online dating services are, to state the obvious, online. As a start to a relationship, it’s still somewhat ‘unnatural’. People are social animals and communicating face-to-face is still much more effective than any other form. Getting over that initial hurdle means, at minimum, that there is a hurdle to get over.

Initial contact is written, not seen or spoken. Most people are not great writers, but almost everyone can carry a conversation on the phone or in person.

That means the initial contact of an online dating service takes a little bit of effort and skill. That skill isn’t universal and the effort is real. Putting your best foot forward in written form takes time and thought.

But there are other, potentially more serious, risks as well. The anonymity of online dating services represents a high value. It provides a safe enclosure in which to explore another person with low risk.

But because it’s online and anonymous, it’s possible for people to engage in a type of fraud. Fake photos or descriptions, tailored interests and achievements, and other forms of dishonesty can take place.

That means that whenever you consider meeting someone in person, you now have a task that is harder than a casual face-to-face meeting that starts in person.

You have some verification to do. You have some precautions to undertake. You want to make sure you look to your safety, both physical and psychological.

Those things may be needed even in a casual meeting. But if it’s been pre-arranged by friends, or takes place in a known safe location, that problem is usually already solved.

You don’t usually have to worry about someone being much older, or a different gender or any other type of scam when you’ve been introduced in person.

The fact that Internet dating services continue to thrive suggests that the benefits far outweigh the risks. Free or trial memberships make that easier.

The existence of forums where you can exchange comments about the pros and cons of one service versus the other are another way to find a good one. Techniques exist for protecting yourself at the first meeting.

Each individual will ultimately have to decide for him or herself.