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Relationships often start through dating. It is a stage wherein people meet to explore the possibility of entering a committed relationship. The way that it is conducted will largely depend on the pair, though there are usually established practices that they can draw from. They differ from place to place. These also evolve throughout the ages. Technology has definitely exerted its influence on the modern version of this practice. Whereas it used to be mandatory to meet face-to-face, now people can find others online and start conversations from there. Those who hit it off can then agree to meet in person and progress from there.

The Rise of Online Dating

The Internet is primarily a medium of communication. It makes distance trivial as people from different parts of the globe can talk at any given time. It has disrupted the old ways of commerce, politics, education, entertainment, and even dating. There are now countless dating sites that cater to individuals who are trying to meet new people. They sprouted in the late 90s with many having a business model that relied on subscriptions. Only members had access to the profiles and boards. After the turn of the millennium, some of them shifted to free access and instead relied on online ads to stay afloat.

This new trend was initially the target of much criticism. Skeptics did not believe that this method would yield anything good and a stigma was associated with it. This hampered progress for a time but attitudes eventually changed and online dating became gradually accepted. Usage is particularly high among the young who spend a lot of their time on the Web. It is now a billion-dollar industry with millions of users in the US and all around the world. Many of these started out with little more than curiosity and began to enjoy the convenience, accessibility, and possibilities offered by these sites.

Niche Dating Sites

It has become a crowded space. Each site tries to differentiate itself from the rest by catering to a unique segment of the population. For instance, there are those that focus on a sexual orientation. Individuals from the LGBT community have their own safe spaces online where they can be themselves in the virtual company of their peers. They will not have to fear judgment and they can freely express what they want to say. There are also sites for seniors who wish to meet other seniors but aren’t sure where to look. These might be what they need to get that second chance at love.

Others cater to a specific race or religion. For instance, there are Jewish dating sites for persons who want to meet potential mates with similar beliefs and backgrounds. You can even find places where people gather because of their profession, hobby, passion, medical condition, or special interest. A good example is how HIV+ patients can link up to support each other throughout their treatment and perhaps find solace in those who can accept their situation. Obese individuals who are having a hard time in the dating circuit can search for a site that is built for them and feel welcomed by the community. They can meet lots of friends and potential partners.

Controversies

Despite the phenomenal growth, online dating has had its own share of controversies. Safety is a perennial concern not just in dating sites but in social media and other virtual places. You can never really tell who you are talking to so everyone should be careful when meeting people. They may appear kind at first but turn out to be the opposite in real life. They might misrepresent themselves as being this or that only to be unmasked later on. There might even be profiles which appear too good to be true because they are. Site owners have been known to create them to draw more members.

Gender imbalance is another issue. Many of the general sites are skewed towards one sex or another. It is not always clear why this is so. For instance, Match.com says that it has more men than women but eHarmony is dealing with the opposite situation. The age distribution is not clearly studied so the ratio may be different for each age range. From a behavioral standpoint, men are more likely to send messages to the women than vice versa. Some studies have also found different preferences among users in terms of gender, income, race, and so on. This has led some to cry discrimination.

Final Words

Whether we like it or not, dating sites are here to stay. They provide a convenient way to meet new people and this generation is beginning to look at this practice as the norm. Although there are still avenues for finding potential mates in the traditional ways, these tend to get scarce as individuals age. There are endless possibilities when you are enrolled in school as you have friends, classmates and club mates. After graduation, your social circle shrinks down especially if you move to a new place to chase opportunities. Online dating fills the gap for a lot of folks, though they should exercise caution to stay safe.

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