When Harry123 Messaged Sally82

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Less than ten years ago, online dating was a concept rarely discussed in social situations. If it was discussed, it was usually done in a way that portrayed the cyber dater as socially awkward or somehow unable to meet people in a “normal” setting. Nowadays, online dating is part of mainstream culture and it seems as if most people have gone online for a date at some point in their lives.

No longer seen as a last-resort (or a never-resort), online dating has allowed people to meet their soul mates in a whole different way. Logging on to a favorite dating website is more convenient than going to a local bar, perhaps even more affordable. Plus, dating online has the added bonus of seeing only those people who match one’s dating criteria, like being at a really big bar but with search filters.

Regardless of what one is looking for or into, online dating sites are available for singles with any range of preferences. The two big mainstream dating sites are eHarmony.com and match.com, both of which charge users for their services. OKcupid.com is a popular free site targeted toward younger and more tech-savvy users.

The popularity of online dating sites has led to unique ways of matching people up, including a dating site based around proposing an activity, an option for book lovers to find others with similar tastes or for music fans to do the same. And clearly online dating is here to stay. An eye-opening infographic posted by social media blog Mashable.com states that online dating is a $1 billion+ industry with around 40 million participants in the U.S.

While convenient, online dating isn’t without its drawbacks. People often lie about their appearance or age. Photos posted to profiles may be outdated. And just recently, there have been cases of crimes committed by individuals to those they met online. In an effort to educate and protect online daters, recent legislation in New York and New Jersey requires dating websites to disclose certain policy information or provide safety tips for users. Other states may follow as meeting people online becomes even more common.

Online dating, while incredibly popular and seemingly straightforward, isn’t for everyone. For those looking for a simple way to meet like-minded people without having to go out all the time, it’s indispensable. For everyone else, the local watering hole will do just fine.