Dating Sites: Odds & Balances

Is the secret to the modern dating site specificity?
Epstein divides dating sites into three categories: the “long bar,” the “long test” and the “niche.” A hugely popular and well-known site, like the aptly named would be a “long bar” site

— like going to a bar that stretches on for miles, with a nearly infinite number of people to drink, date or flirt with. The “long test” sites, such as, start users off with a lengthy personality questionnaire that can take up to 45 minutes to complete — a process that tends to eliminate those afraid of commitment — then requires them to wait for the site to dole out its computer-chosen matches.

But a woman who posts an attractive photo on a popular site can easily have hundreds of replies to sift through, and that’s where niche sites come in: They’re weeder-outers. Users know going in that they’ll have at least one thing in common with a prospective inamorata/o, which makes for easier first-date icebreaking.

If Ayn Rand isn’t your turn-on, the Net can certainly provide something that is. Sites like JDate, SingleMuslim or BuddhistConnect, which match singles on the basis of religion, are among the earliest and most common types of specialized dating networks. And things have only become more diverse. Neck biters can hunt for bite-ees at VampirePassions. Aviators are promised that they’ll “never fly solo again” at Crewdating, a site for pilots and flight attendants. “World of Warcraft” gamers search for love at (the somewhat male-dominated) Datecraft. Cupidtino, the “Mac-inspired” dating site for Apple fanboys and girls, boasts that it’s “packed with designers, photographers, musicians, and tons of creative types.” Single members of the Bahai faith turn to TwoDoves, and vegans can search for partners on sites like VeggieDate, VeggieFishing or VeggiePassions that cater to their desire for cruelty-free love.

It’s an interesting concept, though it seems to me that the biggest problem you’d run into that there is so rarely gender balance among anything specific. I mean, maybe DisabledCupid is on to something, but I’d expect VeggieDate to be skewed in one direction and Rand devotees to be skewed to another.

Of course, that brings up questions about gender balance in general. It is still commonly said that guys outnumber girls by a significant degree. On the one hand, statistics suggest otherwise. On the other, that may be highly dependent on age and the type of site (more below). One of the things that comes to mind are those ads I see for Zoosk, which is a dating site whose ads are pretty clearly aimed at women. I remember thinking that was smart as a pre-emptive attempt to instill balance. If you’re looking at one imbalance or another, going directly to the minority side and figuring that the majority side won’t be too put off seems like a smart strategy. Zoosk apparently focuses on the younger crowd, which if there is a general imbalance, that would be the one I would figure to have over-representation of guys.

According to Wikipedia, eHarmony (“long test”) is almost 60% female while (“long bar”) is the other way around. This has a certain degree of logic to it. Even setting aside the questionnaire, a website that filters out users would likely be of more use to women than to men. I know that when I was briefly a member of a high-maintenance (costly, among other things) dating site, it seemed that the response rate I got from women was quite good (somewhere near 100%) and I got unsolicited pings either because the balance was skewed in my favor or because the cost made it so that each message ping was considered more relevant. On the other side was LavaLife, where it wasn’t free but you were charged on a per-unique-contact basis.

The niche site is a system that can be gamed if you’re a guy pretending to be a vegetarian or a lady who pretending to like Japanese animation (well, in 2001, it may be different now). Of course, that presents its own disincentives.

Will Truman

Will Truman is the Editor-in-Chief of Ordinary Times. He is also on Twitter.


  1. You and your timing, Mr. Truman. My friends continue to encourage me to join one of these sites. I can’t even go out to dinner with them without having this come up. I had no idea there were so many of them! For some reason, I’m even more turned off now.

    • Miss Mary,

      Mrs. Dwyer and I met on almost 10 years ago. Best decision I ever made.

        • Some of my coworkers talked me into it. I did it basically as a goof and the first girl I met turned out to be my wife. Even if it hadn’t worked out, it’s definitely easier than the bar scene. I think I would have continued with it.

          • Link is NSFW, but I cannot hear or read the phrase “a goof” without thinking of the movie The Ten.

            If you have never seen it, it’s pretty funny, sort of an updated “Kentucky Fried Movie”.

    • Mrs. P. and I were brought together by eHarmony (long test).
      I tried the long bar approach and hated it. I’m too fishing boring for niche.
      It’s probably not for everybody, sure, but I think it’s highly likely the Mrs. and I would be lonely hearts today without it.

  2. I met my g/f on a dating site. In-person stuff gets into the same old shuck-n-jive with tiresome frequency. I like women and they like me, I never had a problem finding women. That was part of the problem.

    My thinking went as follows: Potential Girlfriend, I was once married to the most beautiful woman I ever saw. Your looks are not the most important aspect of your desirability, okay? I would rather get to know you from a stand-off position, come to terms with you as an individual, coz that’s who you really are. I’m sick of dating women from church, from bars, I can’t date women from work.

    You’re on this site because you want to meet a man? That’s a good start. Tells me you’re actually looking. Saves me the trouble of trying to work out if you’re even interested. This time, instead of me doing all that song ‘n dance and taking you to dinner and the usual routine, here’s our chance to get to know each other, with the full understanding this may not work out and let’s not have any of that hurt feelings jazz. We’re on a dating site. I’m an honourable man, with good intentions. Let’s see if we can convince each other of the same.

    Oh, and when time goes by and it starts looking serious, would you mind if I do a credit check on you? Here’s a copy of my last Equifax and Experian pulls. Did you can get one for free every year? That’s always a good idea. Sorta had a problem on that front with the aforementioned beautiful woman. Don’t care to repeat it. And let’s get that HIV/AIDS test done, the both of us. That’s a good idea, too.

    Really, Potential Girlfriend, here’s your chance to shine. Just be yourself from the start: that way we won’t get confused or disappointed. I’m looking for a partner, not some Subordinate Figure. Germaine Greer said everyone needs a wife and maybe that’s true. But I’ll be damned if I’m going to play the standard role husband again and something tells me you want things your way too. Me, I want someone to look out for my blind side and tell me the truth. So tell me what you need in a partner and we’ll work this out.

    I found that girl. It’s been three years now. Took a fair bit of interviewing to find her and she was not who I was expecting her to be. We couldn’t be more different. But that’s why people should do more Interviewing and less Dating. That flush of desire is nature’s way of telling you you’re on the right track sexually but it generally shuts down reasoned thinking.

  3. A very niche dating site can help with some things but not others. JDate and SingleMuslim are probably more helpful than RandisforLovers or whatever. So for big deal breakers like politics and religion, specificity could help.

    How they help is probably a narrowing of options. The issue of a big general site like or OKCupid is that it creates a perception of many options and that someone better is always around the corner. Or as I heard it described in one interview, it is very easy to go no, no, no. Or go on a perfectly good and decent date but reject the person for a second date because of all the options and possibilities. JDate in any area outside of NYC-Metro and Israel probably has a much smaller pool of available people if a person is really interested in a Jewish guy or gal.

    • I really like the idea of the one for aviators. they’ve got such a different lifestyle, that a lot of potential mates would completely chafe under it.

  4. After looking into a number of the blog articles on your site, I
    honestly like your way of blogging. I bookmarked it to my bookmark website list and will be
    checking back in the near future. Please check out my website as well and tell me how you feel.

Comments are closed.