I’m a sceptic, of most things, I’m just one of these people who thinks that if it’s too good to be true then it probably is.
So it’s no surprise that I’m not a massive believer in the success of online dating. Maybe I’m too British in nature and self-deprecating to relish writing up a profile talking about my love of drinking and taking long afternoon naps, or should it be dinner parties and hiking to sound more interesting? I find the idea of posting my hottest pictures for strange men to pore over before deciding if I’m worth a wink, just slightly creepy.
If the statics are to be believed 1 in 5 new relationships in the UK start online and half of all British singles have logged on looking for that special someone. So it’s definitively working for a lot of people and cynic I might be, in the name of research I tried out 5 of the UK most popular paid dating sites to see just what kind of men I would find online.
My first toe in the online world was Guardian Soulmates, the very popular dating site of the Guardian newspaper. There were no lengthy questionnaires, just a basic option to include what you’re looking for in terms of location, age, height, etc.
I read through a number of profiles before posting mine to get an idea of what was expected, seemed to be a lot of ladies who were into yoga and travel, who all loved their busy jobs but took time out for friends, foreign film and just all-round awesome. So in true, cool chick form, I posted a joke instead of a description of myself and a series of hot pictures.
I’ll give it to Guardian Soulmates the response was very “on trend” as far as the ethos of the site of the middle class, skiing, Guardian newspaper reading men. My top picks were a rugby faced property developer, a bit on the short side, piano playing lawyer and a baby-faced doctor with a quick sense of humour. I picked him for my date.
We met near where he lived in a little bar in Brixton, he was full of nervous energy and took about 15 mins to settle into a normal conversation, but after that and a few glasses of red I can say he was, as far as I could deduce exactly who he said he was and we had a pleasant evening.
He totally went in for a kiss on our goodbye which I thought was a bit forward and declined but maybe I’m a prude. He then “lovely time” texted me on my way home and I didn’t hear from him again but guess that’s the way it goes in this fast-paced online dating world.
I’m going to give Guardian Soul Mates 5 stars because although the good doctor wasn’t my dream man or me his girl, they did live up to their ethos, was simple to use and £32 for a months subscription is a fair price.
My next challenge was the daddy of all dating sites Match.com, we’ve all heard of Match, seen the TV ads promising to find us our perfect love story. So I was quite excited. The joining process was as simple a the Guardian’s, a short description and some basic tick boxes mentioning if you have kids, a job, age, race, and you’re good to go
As soon as you go live with Match expect to feel like a supermodel, the men just keep coming.
Unfortunately, the quality is somewhat questionable. It’s like being at an airport with a mass of people from the totally weird, with little grasp of writing in English, to some reasonably, stand out, hot ones who looked like they would make good dates. I’m guessing those fellas were also inundated with women because none of them asked me out on a date.
I shouldn’t knock the chap I did meet for lunch one sunny Saturday, he was perfectly respectable, even if he had added 2 inches to his height, which really annoyed me more than I expected. He was an IT programmer, wore a Rolex and made sure I saw a picture of his Porsche (guess he was making up for the 2 inches). He wasn’t my type in person, he told me he dates once to twice a week with different women he meets online and sexually compatibility was often a problem in his past relationships, maybe first date overshare.
I’ll give Match 3 stars, the price is fair at £29pm and I’m sure you can meet your dream date here, although it will be like a full-time job and you might need to employ a team just to get through all the applicants.
Now I’m beginning to feel like somewhat of an expert and I sign up to a dating site I know from adverts on the tube. Lovestruck is aimed at busy professionals who can be located via where they live or work for quick lunch dates, after work drink, the focus is on finding the love closest and most convenient to you.
Again the sign-up process was fast, probably the fastest of the lot or maybe I’m just getting more adept. You can choose your ideal partner on dress sense, which I liked since I’m a sucker for a sharp suit, profession (so I could rule out IT guys if desired), and of course for a chap who works close enough for a quick deli sandwich in your lunch hour.
I installed their new app on my phone and uploaded the same set of pictures. I actually thought I’d be a little cheeky on this site and make myself seem completely dull, my description simply said I liked naps and drinking. Immediately men were winking and writing me messages, I’m sure there is a lot to be said for being the newbie and who gets in there first.
Compared to Match the men on this site seems to be much more streamlined. Young, professional, city types, a lot referring to their jobs as “consultant” or “in financial services” working in Central London or Canary Wharf. It struck me they were much more agreeable on the eye than the motley bunch on Match. I let the adoration pour in for a while before picking out a few to chat with. Midway through my first online conversation with a 32-year-old property consultant, I think I was blocked, don’t know why I was just notified by the site I could no longer contact this user. The next two conversations ran out of steam after the niceties.
The fourth guy I simply told to call me. I asked him what was up with all the dwindling conversations? He told me that in his experience if a woman didn’t seem to be making enough effort in her responses he would just stop messaging her and move on to the next. He also added that there was nothing to engage with on my profile so although making initial contact was easy, finding a common ground was then hard. So I accept my failure here was my own fault. Then just when all seemed lost here on Lovestruck, my old friend Mr IT popped up with a message “fancy seeing you here!”.
I will give Lovestruck 4 stars, it keeps to its ethos, very easy to use, almost facebook-ish and it seems you could meet lots of professional men, not bad for £35pm. Loses a point for being a little under diverse and if you were looking for anyone a bit more outside of the box you probably wouldn’t find him here.
Finally, I tried Elite Singles, this site promised that it has a disproportionate amount of graduate professionals, 71% to be precise. Everything about this site would suggest a higher calibre of potential mates, to cut a long story short,(shorter than the 30 mins it took to fill out a multiple choice personality profile before joining, it didn’t.)
If I seem bitter about Elite singles then good. 30 mins of questions asking if I was basically nice or a psychopath, then to be presented with 7 potential matches, none of whom I remotely liked. Then you have to wait for 24h for the next set of potentials to be emailed to you. By day 4 they seemed to have run out of men and were sending me only 3 matches, still not in line with what I would look for in a date and to make matters worse you can’t specify what you want, it’s all based on your personality and what their algorithm suggests for you.
To add to their choices they offer you a handful of wildcards each day, but unless you are willing to travel to rural Ireland for a date you can also rule these ones out.
I’d give Elite Singles 1 star, it’s not Elite, it’s the most expensive at £59.95 and I think totally misleading in its ethos.
When it comes to online dating I’m not going to say I’ve been totally swayed. I think you have to have a plan of what it is you are really looking for in a partner. Be prepared to face rejection and date often and be very patient in the process. The man or woman of your dreams might just be a click away, or they might be sitting opposite you on the train right now but you’d never notice with your nose buried online.
Plus you could always try something new…