Meet your mate the modern way with these fantastic online dating options

By Kirstin Buick
13 February 2014

Online dating is fast becoming mainstream and an acceptable way of finding a partner

Online dating is fast becoming mainstream and an acceptable way of finding a partner

PHOTO: Adrian Serghie on Flickr PHOTO: Adrian Serghie on Flickr

IT SEEMS everyone’s doing it online these days – if not to find true love, at least to meet potential dating partners. One website estimates one in five relationships start online – even iconic American crafts queen Martha Stewart has signed up to a dating site. But is online dating an option for singles in South Africa? Divorcee Debbie du Toit* of Cape Town has been subscribed to various dating websites for the better part of a decade and has lost count of all the dates she’s been on over the years. She believes internet dating has shed the stigma that used to be attached to it – that it was only for people who were desperate. “It’s great for women who don’t like going out alone and don’t like meeting potential dates in pubs,” Debbie says. “For me, it works. One day, if I’m lucky, I might even meet the love of my life!”

'One day I might even meet the love of my life!'

A study by a University of Chicago psychology professor, John Cacioppo, shows that married couples who meet online are slightly less likely to get divorced than partners who met elsewhere. Cacioppo found that of almost 20 000 couples who took part in the survey (who’d all married between 2005 and 2012), 5,96 per cent of those who met online had divorced, as opposed to the 7,67 per cent of those who met “offline”.

Cacioppo said what surprised him the most was “the dramatic shift” in the way people were meeting their partners – 45 per cent of the couples reported having met online.

One network of South African dating sites, SinglesNet, has had almost 60 000 new people sign up to its sites in the past year – and almost 30 000 of those new users signed up in the past three months.

YOU’s dating site Looking4You and sister site Huisgenoot’s Pasmaats show similar trends – Looking4You has grown by 54 per cent and Pasmaats by 74 per cent since January. Online dating in South Africa is seeing massive growth at the moment, says SinglesNet’s Johann du Plessis. “Many people struggle to find the time to go out to meet someone,” Du Plessis says. “But with internet dating you can browse the site and meet hundreds of eligible singles from the safety and comfort of your home. And with smartphones it’s easy to access social websites and services. Online dating can now happen any time and wherever people have internet access.”

Dating Lab, a company that runs a variety of dating sites across the globe, including SA’s popular Dating Buzz, says with the rise of social media it’s only natural that more people are turning to the internet to

find a partner. “An advantage online dating has compared to meeting someone at a bar or clubn is that it allows a glimpse into a person’s personality and provides a safe, anonymous platform for people to become acquainted before making face to face contact.”

But even Debbie admits the people she meets online aren’t always suitable partners or even friends and there are definitely those who lie on their profile. A recent US study found 80 per cent of online daters lie on their profiles.

When the time comes to meet up, Debbie strongly recommends you meet your date in a public place, preferably for coffee. Dinner, she says, is a no-no for the first meeting, because of the expectations some may have of a dinner date. “You can also arrange for a friend to phone you, say, half an hour into the date – by which time you’ve sussed out whether you want to stay or leave immediately – so that you can make excuses to leave if you want to,” she suggests. “It’s important to note that meeting someone on the dating site who becomes a friend or a partner doesn’t just end there. You get to meet their friends and so the circle gets bigger. There’s really no excuse to be lonely!” Capture

The cost of love

There’s a variety of South African dating sites to choose from, many of which profess to be free. But we discovered most contain hidden costs. Here’s what you need to know before you sign up:

Match.com = R750.

It lets all members create a profile and send and receive “winks”. Only subscribers can send and receive messages and see who’s viewed their profile.

Elitesadating.co.za = R795.

It allows members to create profiles and send “winks” for free. You have to become a subscriber if you want to send and read your messages or see who’s viewed your profile.

Looking4you.co.za  = R560.

Users can create a profile, receive anonymous messages and use all searching and matching functionality for free. Only subscribers can reply to or send messages.

Singlesnet.com = R495.

It allows you to sign up for free but charges for reading and sending messages.

Zoosk.com = R450.

Signing up and creating a profile is free. You can send or receive one message per contact without paying, but need to become a subscriber to read replies or reply yourself. Another useful subscriber function is being able to click through to members who’ve viewed your profile.

DatingBuzz.co.za = R600.

It allows you to create your profile, add other members to your favourites list, and respond to messages with “one-liners”. Only subscribers can have full conversations via messages. Subscribing also allows you to create private, “invitation-only” photo albums.

Singles2meet.co.za

It doesn’t offer a subscription service – all functions (including messaging) are free. But you have to put up with having adverts on most pages.

Letsmeet.co.za

It doesn’t offer a subscription service so all options are free. Adverts appear on most pages.

*Prices are to the nearest rand and are for a six-month subscription. Prices and services are presented as they were on the sites at the time of going to print.

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