The United States has over 40 million people registered on over 1,500 online dating sites. These numbers are a bit overwhelming, so it is helpful to go over sites that might be most useful to Catholics. There are two basic types: General Dating Sites that have large numbers of people and those that are specifically Catholic Dating Sites.
General Dating Sites
Match.com typifies a general dating site. You begin by setting up a profile. Match.com asks a series of questions about you, your interests, lifestyle and background and values. At the end of the questions, Match.com encourages you to post a picture of yourself to generate greater interest in your profile. Once your profile is set up, you can search by age, interests, zip code, gender, or even key words. This searching ability is necessary as Match.com has more than 20 million users. (Its already high number of users was increased in 2010 when it absorbed Yahoo! Personals.)
If you worry about being able to sort through these numbers yourself, you can use the Match.com sister site, Chemistry.com. Chemistry.com has you take a personality test and then uses this information to suggest people who would be a good match, ideally for long term relationships. Also, Match.com has started organizing and sponsoring events and enables its users to sign up for them through their new feature called the “The Stir.” The site charges around $40 a month for these services, more for a month-to-month contract and less for a six month contract.
eHarmony is another large dating site, also around 20 million users, and focuses on people who are interested in marital relationships. To set up a profile on eHarmony, you take a personality questionnaire consisting of over 400 questions. Your answers are analyzed by eHarmony’s “patented Compatibility Matching System” that uses personality traits to match individuals. This process eliminates those interested in casual dating and attracts those who are looking for serious relationships. Some believe that this is the reason eHarmony is one of the few online dating sites that has more women than men. eHarmony’s uniqueness and popularity are reflected in its approximately $50 a month cost.
While there are other general dating sites, Match.com and eHarmony are the most prominent. Other general sites operate in a similar manner but typically have some features that distinguish them from these two goliaths. The best examples are the totally ad-supported site PlentyOfFish (POF.com) that has no monthly fees and Zoosk that works through Facebook and other social networking sites. These sites have around 10 million users each.
These sites can be useful for Catholic for a number of reasons. First, they provide a large pool of potential matches and they all have a large number of Catholics present on them. Second, they all have ways of indicating how important your faith is to you and matching you with people based on this characteristic. The limitation is that it’s up to you to indicate how important your faith is and what values you hold most important. You must take the initiative in attending to those whose faith and morals seem compatible. In short, these sites have lots of people and many useful tools for matching, but it’s your responsibility to make your faith a key component of these matches.
Catholic Dating Sites
Catholic Dating Sites have opposite strengths and weaknesses. On the one hand, they make faith and morals central to the process of matching. They facilitate both talking and learning about the faith. Their weakness is that they have smaller numbers of users.
Catholic Dating Sites all function similarly to the General Dating Sites with profiles, search options, and messaging systems. They supplement helping people find matches by providing articles and advice columns about the Catholic faith. Finally, they all charge around $20 a month, lower if you sign up for six months. Catholicmatch and Catholicmingle are two of the more prominent sites.
Catholicmatch is run by Acolyte, LLC (whose founder is a Catholic) and seems to be the largest site with approximately 200,000 users. Its perspective is expressed through its seven “Do you agree with the Catholic Church’s teaching on . . .” questions that everyone must answer when they set up their profile. (These questions focus on the Eucharist, premarital sex, contraception, life issues, papal infallibility, Mary, and holy orders.) These questions can be answered by agreeing, slightly agreeing, or not agreeing, and the answers are used to find matches.
Catholicmingle is for a broad Catholic audience. It seeks to bring together “like minded Catholic singles” and makes “you feel comfortable expressing yourself as both a Catholic and a single.” Catholicmingle has over 100,000 users. It is run by SparkNetworks, which competes with general dating sites by operating a consortium of niche sites that includes BlackSingles, ChristianMingle, and, its most famous site, JDate, for Jews.
The one site that is slightly different is AveMariaSingles. It focuses on a very specific Catholic audience. The website “pledges to offer a service solely dedicated to helping faithful, practicing Catholics find their future spouse and help them become a better follower of Christ.” The site is for Catholics who are able to marry in the Church and opposed to using contraception. Members have discerned a vocation to sacramental marriage but have not yet found the right person. AveMariaSingles offers a slightly different payment plan: a one time fee of over $150 that allows permanent access to the site. The result of this approach is a highly active membership that is just over 10,000 people.
While this list of sites is not exhaustive, it should give you a sense of the kind of sites that are available as well as their popularity and usefulness.
For Further Reading:
Catholics Are Meeting Their Spouses Online – a PDF from CatholicMatch