Dear Lifehacker, I've been looking at getting back into the dating game, but trying to figure out what service is going to be best for me is proving to be really difficult. Which dating app should I use? 31, single with married friends. Dating is hard these days! From Mars
Online Dating image via Shutterstock
While online dating has become an incredibly convoluted affair, with more apps and sites around than you could ever sign up to all at once, the good news is that it's more in the mainstream than ever. It's just a matter of finding out what site or app is going to serve you best.
A 2014 CHOICE review looked into some of Australia's most popular dating sites, looking at price, demographics and Australian usership. Let's start with some of the biggest participants in the online dating market:
RSVP is one of the oldest and most well-known online dating sites around, and despite the rise of new services like Tinder, RSVP still retains an Australian user base of around 2 million. There is also a more even split in demographics compared to newer sites, with 48 per cent of users being aged between 26 and 40, and 34 per cent aged between 41 and 60. Using RSVP involves a fairly simple search system, with no 'compatibility' features integrated unless you are a paid member.
eHarmony is Australia's second biggest traditional dating site, boasting over a million users in Australia. Most members are reported to be in their 20s and 30s, although eHarmony also caters to a 'large number' of older users. Its approach is quite different to RSVP's however, requiring you to fill out a detailed questionnaire that will let you indicate just what you're looking for in a match. eHarmony then uses 'science' to find you the matches with the highest likelihood of compatibility.
Moving on to more modern dating apps (although RSVP and eHarmony have incorporated apps, they are still far more browser-centric services), the most obvious contender is Tinder. Tinder has a very young skew, with 50 per cent of users aged 18-24, 34 per cent aged 25-35 and only eight per cent aged 35-44. It also has a reputation for being more of a 'hook-up' app than one for dating, although it has been used as both with some success, by all accounts. Tinder operates on a quantity over quality basis, letting you swipe on and connect with a large number of users to try and find a compatible match. This approach seems shallow and counter-productive for some, however, and a number of answering apps have emerged to fix the flaws inherent in Tinder.
happn is one of the hottest new Tinder alternatives, using a similar premise but supposedly with more success. This app brings up people you have passed as you go about your day-to-day business, allowing you to like or pass on the people you've 'happn'd' upon that day. It's similar to Tinder, but with more of a focus on geographical proximity. It isn't without its detractors, however, with many pointing out just how creepy it is to be giving your information to random people you pass in the street.
Hinge is another Tinder competitor, which only shows you friends of friends. "We cut out the clutter, the creeps and the games," their website boasts, and by all accounts there are far less creeps than you would find on Tinder. There are also far less people, however. The userbase is much smaller, and with the added restriction of only showing friends of friends, you may not be given many options.
Coffee Meets Bagel is a dating app designed by women -- three sisters, to be precise -- and is designed for a much more considered approach to online dating. Coffee Meets Bagel gives users just a single match per day, facilitating more meaningful connections rather than the dime a dozen approach of Tinder. Unfortunately, like Hinge, the user base isn't anywhere near as big.
If you want to meet someone with a specific thing in common, there are plenty of niche dating sites popping up as well. There's Bristlr, the app seeking to connect beard-lovers with their perfect bearded man. How about finding a dietary partner on GlutenFreeSingles, an animal-lover on Date My Pet, or a literary companion on Alikewise? For those seeking same-sex partners, there's also Grindr for men and Her for women (though the latter doesn't have an Android version up and running yet), although most other dating services allow for same-sex searches as well.
Most online dating services are free at least to try, so there's no harm in jumping into the few that seem the most compelling to you and giving them a go yourself. No matter which one you try you won't meet people if you don't... meet people, so now's the time to start swiping, liking and above all else, striking up a conversation with those who pique your interest.
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