Computer Love - Review Of 4 Dating Sites

Computer Love - Review Of 4 Dating Sites

I'm a fan of online dating just like I'm a fan of assorted donuts and jelly beans. I like that Sonic has a gazillion flavors of slushes and that America has 50 states. I like options. Lots and lots of options. This is what online dating provides. 

Maybe Roger from Zapp Band was a visionary, perhaps somewhat of a soothsayer when he sang about computer love in 1985:

You know I've been searching for someone
Who can share that special love with me
And your eyes have that glow
Could it be your face I see on my computer screen

Need a special girl
To share in my computer world
I no longer need a strategy*
Thanks to modern technology...

..."Modern technology" like ginormous, clunky personal computers and Oregon Trail.

Roger would've been onto something if it weren't for computer-matched dating going back to the 1950s. He wasn't singing about something futuristic that he'd envisioned. He was singing about something that had long existed.

THE 1950S

In the 50s PCs didn't exist, of course, but dating service companies required subscribers looking for love to fill out and mail personal data cards. Their data was input into a mainframe computer on a punch card and then matched for compatibility. A packet of profiles was mailed from the dating service to subscribers who'd be responsible for phoning who they were interested in.

Technology has sped all this up, but it still serves the same purpose as it did mid-century: to attempt to algorithmically find compatibility between individuals.

21st Century Dating 

Online dating is so normal now that the conversation has shifted from "Why do it?" to "Which site is best?" We pretty much know why: assorted donuts. But which ones are worthwhile?

In 2013, Forbes.com estimated that there were "more than 2,500 online dating services online in the U.S. alone, with 1,000 new online dating services opening every year." By that prediction, there should be more than 5,500 online dating services in this year 2016. With that said, my experience is limited considering that the four that I used over the past 8 years represents less than .0001% of what's available. 

I've subscribed to four dating sites to mixed results: Match.com, eHarmony, Black People Meet, and Bumble app for smart phones. In the end, I didn't form any long-term romantic relationships with anyone I met on the sites, but that doesn't factor into my assessments. 

Aside from the number of services I've used, my experience is limited to my personal tastes and perspective as a black, heterosexual woman over 35. Clearly, this means I can't tell anyone outside of my own preferences and lens what site to hop onto, but I can tell you what I liked and didn't like about the platforms.

I've separated the platforms into paid and free because information like that is important to me. I also refer to each site in the past tense because I'm not on any of these sites anymore. I talk about that, too.


PAID SERVICES

MATCH.COM

Match.com seemed to have the most users of a paid site. This may be because the price point was right. It wasn't free, but it wasn't overly expensive either. 

Quality of users:

My search was fairly open racially. Plus, my age range of potentials spanned from 29 - 45, so I saw a large scope of profiles. Across categories, the quality was average. By quality, I mean someone with a friendly profile, with photos showing himself to be well-groomed, and who came across as intelligent and kind.

Number of daily matches:

Match.com gave me a lot of matches per day, but again, my search criteria was wide racially, age-wise, and geographically. The high number of matches I received on Match was in sharp contrast to eHarmony where I got very few, if any, matches per day. 

Number of people initiating contact:

I think the amount of active users on Match leads to more activity and contact. There were a decent number of men who reached out, but very few of them I was interested in.

Pricing: 

The price range is middle-of-the-road. If memory serves me correctly, I bought a $19.99, 3-month subscription.

Number of dates netted:

I think I went out on 2 or 3 dates.

It could've been more had I been more open to going out with someone after the first hello. Back then, I wanted to get to know more about someone before meeting in person. It's funny how time changes things because now, I'm really not for extensive pen-pal chit chat. I'm more like, "If you like my profile and I like yours, let's meet for drinks or coffee now." I learned that meeting someone in person changes everything. And I mean everything. It's important to meet folks right away before investing too much time in building an online relationship, which may not translate into a real-life relationship.

My experience:

Overall, I had some interesting dates on Match.com. No long-term matches, but I stayed relatively dated up. I liked the way the site and phone app functioned. I never had a problem with the service, including unsubscribing. No one was ever disrespectful, although there was an older guy who became combative with me because I wasn't interested in his profile. I blocked him. Problem solved. 

Would I use Match.com again?

Of all the paid services I've subscribed to, I'd be most likely to use Match.com over eHarmony and Black People Meet. Even still, I probably won't use it again based on something I realized about myself, which I'll explain in the Bumble section.


eHarmony

I had a theory. Free sites tend to get a bad reputation for attracting weirdos, swingers, and married people. I always attributed it to a low barrier-to-entry. In my experience, free stuff can attract a sordid bunch. So my thought about eHarmony was that its higher priced subscription would weed out riff raff and would attract men who, after shelling out hard earned money, were interested in making a real connection.

Great theory, but based on results, I suppose the money part was a non-factor. I mean, I could pay $0 to not get what I hope for or I could pay $100 to not get what I hope for. Either way, the outcome is the same: I didn't get what I hoped for. 

Quality of users:

Most users were good on paper, with some exceptions. The thing about eHarmony is that you have to fill out a ridiculously long questionnaire in the beginning, which helps the company make matches for you. A user's potential matches never see the answers to these questions. By the time you get through answering 100+ questions, you don't have much energy left to fill out a profile page, which users do see. So if a profile question is "What are some of your interests?" and the filled-in answer is "A bunch. Let's talk." then that makes for a profile worthy of rejecting. Imagine a resume reading, "I have great experience. Call me." There were too many profiles that were not filled in or barely filled in, so I moved on quite a bit.

In an odd twist, I ended up meeting a guy on eHarmony who I liked. We met in person and had a great time. He subsequently, to my astonishment, ghosted me. I'm talking, one day he's there and we're laughing and having a good time, and the next day he's fallen off the face of the earth. Months later he sends me a Facebook friend request. I decline. Over a year later, he sends me another Facebook friend request. I decline again. It's funny now. It wasn't then. But it completely destroyed my cost-in-relation-to-quality theory. You may decide to pay a pretty penny to weed out riff raff, but there are no guarantees. 

Number of daily matches:

Disappointingly few.

Number of people initiating contact:

On Match.com I could expect per-day contacts. On eHarmony, I could expect per-week contacts if I was lucky. Since dating can be a numbers game, this puts users at a disadvantage.

Pricing: 

Relatively expensive. I think I paid close to $50 per month for 3 months. It wasn't worth it. I could've used that money for a spa day.

Number of dates netted:

1? 2? Some ridiculous number.

My experience:

Overall, my experience was not great. I question the integrity of the system. Fake profiles and computer-generated messages for people who didn't exist seemed to run rampant.

I suspected eHarmony of using dishonest, computer-generated sell tactics. Here's why: After I ended my subscription, I deleted my entire profile. I wiped out everything--words and photos. All that was left was an empty shell with my name on it. I received an email from eHarmony saying that someone was interested in me and really liked my profile. All I had to do was renew my subscription and I could talk to this nameless, faceless person. Here's the thing, I'd deleted my profile. There was nothing there for anyone to see, read, or get excited about. Nothing. It was highly unlikely that someone saw an empty shell and thought, "Wow. This is the girl of my dreams!"

Would I use eHarmony again?

Absolutely not. Never. I'm using the money for a spa day. 

Based on my experience, the site lacks integrity. Plus, there were too many profiles without photos or lacking substance. eHarmony should (1) do a better job of scrubbing fake profiles and (2) require a minimum word count for profiles. An entire profile of "If you want to know more, ask" is insufficient.


Black People Meet

Black People Meet (BPM) is a great place for black people interested in dating other black people. This is how BPM is marketed. But really, it's a place for people of any color who are interested in dating black people. Contrary to what I expected, Black People Meet had its fair share of non-black subscribers--people interested in dating black people. One white male user posted a strong warning in his profile for non-black women thinking of contacting him: Don't do it; he wasn't interested.  

Quality of users:

Wife beater tanks, ungroomed hair, sunglasses worn in every photo, topless bathroom selfies, or ridiculous attempts at sexy facial expressions (the bitten lower lip pose was very popular). This bunch didn't seem at all interested in making a good first impression via photo. Across the board, the users, no matter the color, were different from me, my friends, my co-workers, and my neighbors, except for my one weird neighbor.  

Did all the users fall into this category? No, but about 98% of the profiles that I saw did. 

Number of daily matches:

Lots.

Number of people initiating contact:

There was a fair number of men who reached out. One had potential. We spoke on the phone and within 30 minutes he made an inquiry into my personal finances, "So you make good money?" That was our first and last conversation.

Pricing: 

Affordable. The subscription costs less than Match.com. By the way, Black People Meet is owned by Match.com.

Number of dates netted:

Zero. For good reason.

My experience:

Watching the BPM commercial sold me. Using BPM made me question the existence of decent prospects. That's when I decided to get off the site. It was having a negative impact on the way I was perceiving my life. The prospects on this site were dismal (to me), but I don't believe it to be a reflection on men folks, and especially not black men. I believe a high number of men on this site represent a microcosm of a population that I simply can't relate to romantically. That doesn't mean the site doesn't have value or the users are bad, it just means that it wasn't the right site for me. The commercial targets a certain demographic within the black community, but the experience didn't live up to what the company was reaching for. 

Naturally, of the four sites, BPM had the most black male subscribers, with Match.com coming in second, and eHarmony (or maybe Bumble) coming in last place.

Would I use BPM again?

Bishop Bullwinkle, help me out on this...


FREE SERVICES

Bumble

I hopped on Bumble because a co-worker told me about it. Her sister met a really nice guy on there, so I thought I'd try it. It was free and operated through my smart phone, so it sounded easy enough. And it was. 

Quality of users:

Bumble has an interesting backstory. The founder of the dating app is also one of Tinder's co-founders who was subsequently fired. When I heard of a remote Tinder connection, I was apprehensive because of all the creeper stories I've heard associated with Tinder. Turns out, my apprehension was needless because the quality of the users were slightly above average. But don't for a second think that you get to avoid absurd profiles like old Fire Crotch here or muscle selfie guy (actual photos I ran across and screenshot from Bumble). Guys like this show up on every site. No exaggeration. Every. Site. 

Mr. Fire Crotch. Classy.

Mr. Fire Crotch. Classy.

Mr. Muscle Guy.

Mr. Muscle Guy.

Keep in mind that the app is fairly new, having been initially released in December 2014. This could explain why there are currently less creepers using this app than Tinder. If the app becomes more popular, then it's anyone's guess what may become of it. 

Number of daily matches:

I'm not so sure I was "matched" as much as I was given a certain number of profiles to review daily. If I exhausted the batch of profiles, the app loaded up more in an hour or so, which made it seem like a nice, steady flow of potentials into my phone throughout the day. I loved this feature.

Number of people initiating contact:

Guess what? Women must make the first move on Bumble. If I made a connection (by the both of us swiping right on each other's profiles), then the ball would automatically go into my court to make first contact. This was not a new age way of flexing my assertive woman muscles. This was (and is) a Bumble rule. 

Pricing: 

Free. This used to be my great fear, but I have to tell you, free isn't so bad. I imagine all sites involve blocking, rejecting, and accepting.

Number of dates netted:

3, plus 2 that I cancelled. Long story. Not bad for a site I used for less than 6 months.

My experience:

Overall, I liked Bumble because of the speed of the process. You get tons of profiles with a quick summary written by the person. You read it, then swipe left or right. It's that's simple.  

Would I use Bumble again?

Yes.


I got off of Bumble about 4 or 5 weeks ago. I'm so awkward at ending things when I'm not interested that I thought maybe I should just give myself a break. In fact, I'm taking a break from dating altogether.

After I return from my hiatus, I may or may not use a dating application. I don't know. Right now, it's not even important. At any rate, dating platforms have value, so contrary to what's been published lately about black women and online dating, I'd encourage any single person, including single black women, to try it. 

A few articles circulating assert that black women shouldn't waste time using online dating sites because data shows that we're the least desired in the online world.

I question these stories. I question the analysis. I especially question the purpose--the agenda. And I wonder why I don't feel "least desired" because I don't. And I know I'm not an exception. Without going down this rabbit hole, I'll say this: I believe in being great; I don't believe in allowing statistics or studies or agendas or personal biases to dictate my next move.

People who embrace (and dare I say, internalize) a negative narrative to their detriment create a space of opportunity for those of us who don't. They eliminate themselves from experiences. I say, if you're curious, try it at least once without any regard for what I say or anyone else says. My good and bad experiences are my own. It doesn't mean that someone else can't go into that same space and find something meaningful.

If you don't remember anything else I've told you about online dating, remember this: assorted donuts.

 

Photo credits: Death To Stock Photo

*Every lyrics website swears up and down that this line in Computer Love is "I no longer need a strategy." I'm pretty sure they're wrong. It's "I no longer need astrology." That's the way I've sang this song since 1985. Granted, I've slaughtered many lyrics in my lifetime, but I think I'm right. Besides, "strategy" and "technology" don't even rhyme! As a professional, I put my personal feelings aside and went with consensus. As a private citizen, multiple websites say "strategy." Ok, fine. Whatever. But I still say "astrology." You decide.