Plenty of fish in the sea for free or a fee

The thought of online dating had never appealed to me. There was something unnatural about “finding love” by shopping for a potential partner on a computer screen. You register with the site, sort through the profiles, make a connection and hopefully start dating. Repeat as necessary.


But as a 31-year-old single male living in downtown Toronto with a full-time job, it was getting increasingly difficult to meet women the conventional way. So I decided to set aside my preconceived notions and embrace online dating.


After some research, I figured a pay site would offer a more serious and higher-quality batch of singles looking for a relationship. So I paid a membership fee to eHarmony based on positive user reviews and its advertising campaign.


The process was simple. It took an hour to complete a lengthy questionnaire about the qualities I was looking for: attractiveness, education, location, likes, dislikes, interest, etc. I painted my ideal match with very narrow strokes so my expectations of responses were fairly low. I uploaded three photos, shelled out $137.85 for a three-month membership and was officially on the market.


I expected 30 to 40 responses at most. I got 296.


These 296 matches yielded three dates, all of which came within the first week. Unfortunately none of them moved beyond the first date.


The first few weeks were excellent and the profiles matched my expectations. But by the end of the first month it seemed I’d exhausted the existing pool of quality matches so eHarmony started sending me “flex matches” that didn’t exactly meet my criteria. After two months, I stopped accepting new matches.


The user experience was phenomenal. All the matches came into my inbox. If there was mutual interest, we’d proceed with the guided communication. This was four-step process generated by eHarmony where you had the opportunity to get comfortable with your match until you were ready to take it offline.


And therein lay the reason I stopped using eHarmony. Having two presumably mature adults getting to know one another via a Q&A computer template seemed abnormal. I could have been more patient, and the website does tell you that it may take up to a year to meet your perfect match, but this site just wasn’t for me. I wanted my online dating experience to mimic real world dating as much as possible.


So I decided to try out a free dating site, knowing these sites are notorious for fake profiles and people with bad intentions. It was the freedom of choice that attracted me to try PlentyofFish for a few days.


It took about two minutes to create a profile that included little more than my picture and age. I was seeing the profiles of hundreds of single women in my area and they were seeing mine. I had created an online experience that would be comparable to meeting someone in a public place; if you like the way I look and vice versa we can start chatting and take it from there.


The moment I logged into the site my profile jumped to the top of the list and became highly visible. Dating on a free site is about being active. You have to put in the time and that means logging on several times a day and chatting with someone who may or may not be who she claims to be.


Although it’s exciting to meet dozens of attractive single women every day, it can also be a bit scary. Let’s just say not everyone I’ve chatted with was single or even a woman. This is where pay sites have a distinct advantage — the security.


In my four days on this free site, more than 200 women expressed interest in my profile. This led to dates with two amazing women, one of whom I am still dating. It’s still too early to tell where this relationship is going but I have since stopped using both services.


If you place a monetary value on your time and user experience, and if the added security features are important to you, then registering with a pay site is the way to go.


Conversely, a free site may be more your style if you’re willing to sift through hundreds of profiles and you enjoy the freedom of choice. I see value in both.


I just wish I had tried the free site first … I could have saved $137.85.


Toronto Star–plenty-of-fish-in-the-sea-for-free-or-a-fee

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