Online Dating for Nerds: Looking for Love in All the Wrong Postings

Sweet on Geeks

Who you can expect to find: Geeks, especially girl geeks.

How much it'll cost you: You can see people's profiles for free, but if you want to send a message, it'll cost you $5/month for a full membership.

Sweet on Geeks' tagline is "a space where gray matters." The site's owner, Joyce Dales, created the geek-specific dating site in 2007--she was inspired to do so by her own story, in which she met a geek online and noted that it was hard to find geeks on the Internet (of all places!). The 27,000-member site is particularly balanced in the male-to-female ratio, unlike a lot of places on the Internet, and Dales makes sure she actively markets the site to women.

Sweet on Geeks features a simple, basic layout that's reminiscent of an early (circa 2000) HTML page. Although signing up is free, you'll need a full membership to take advantage of the site's messaging features, and fairly quick, even though a picture (or an avatar of some sort) is required. The initial sign-up sheet puts it all out there, and allows you to enter as much or as little the profile information as you like.

There are no toggles for some of the basics (such as whether you're a drinker/smoker or not), just text boxes for you to describe how you feel about the issues. In other words, Sweet on Geek is less of a matchmaking site--it doesn't give you compatibility scores--and more of a social networking site. Accordingly, profiles can be customized with status updates, blog posts, and friend feeds.

Searching for geeks is basic, and you are able to search within X miles of a zip code. You can also search for geeks by keywords. As for the people you'll find here--the good news is that most of them fill out their profiles, so you'll know a lot about their personalities (or lack thereof). The bad news is that a lot of them also use avatars as their pictures, so if you're shallow...well, perhaps you shouldn't be on a geeky dating site in the first place.

Sarah's take: It's much more about social networking than matchmaking or dating. I think it's weird that you can't filter out searches by, say, nonsmokers.

Alex's take: There's something very charming about Sweet on Geeks; it's a small social network in which the founder still actively participates, and the absence of checklists in favor of text fields seems like an earnest attempt to encourage meaningful discussion. If you're looking to dip your toe in the online dating pool but feel intimidated by the size of a free site like OKCupid (see below), Sweet on Geeks might be the perfect fit.

OKCupid

Who you can expect to find: Just about everyone, and then some.

How much it'll cost you: Free.

OKCupid: Click for full-size image.
Although it's a completely free dating site, OKCupid is full of young singles--about 70 percent of its users are between the ages of 18 and 35. Sure, this is at least partly because of the site's features other than online dating--tests, quizzes, and match-up questions that are created by both the staff and the users.

OKCupid has more steps than Cupidtino, yet it's still relatively easy to create a profile and start browsing matches. OKCupid won't start proactively sending you matches until you upload a photo and answer at least 25 personality questions, but you'll still be able to contact and chat with people.

The site is easy to navigate, and there are multiple ways to find matches. You can do a detailed search, or you can do a "Quick Match." Quick Match is sort of like Hot or Not--you rate users based on their photos and profile, and they're eventually sent an e-mail with a grid of user photos. If they rate you highly (and you rated them highly in the first place), OKCupid connects the two of you.

As for what you'll find on OKCupid, 55 percent of the users are men. Also, users seem to run the gamut and are much freer with instant messaging and e-mailing (probably because it's free). In her few days as a member, Sarah received messages from guys who wanted to talk, pay her bills, and, of course, meet up. The good news is that most of the OKCupid users seemed to be there for the dating aspect--not just the quizzes and fun articles, such as the recent "Best Questions to Ask for a First Date."

Sarah's take: This place is surprisingly hoppin' for an online dating site--there are lots of guys (and cute ones, at that) sending messages and making the first move. Also, I love the quizzes--those keep me around for a long time.

Alex's take: I couldn't care less about the quizzes or the cute guys, but OKCupid still seduced me with an intuitive interface and quick personality tests that get straight to the point. If you have a thick skin, I encourage you to submit a photo to OKCupid's experimental MyBestFace engine and crowdsource the eternal question, "Am I hot or not?"

Match.com

Who you can expect to find: Serious online daters.

How much it'll cost you: Free to look around, full benefits start at $18/month.

When people think of online dating, they often think of Match.com. (If you've been on Match.com for a while, you might also think "lawsuit.") Match.com is a popular site for the more serious online dater. The majority of Match.com's users are between the ages of 30 and 49 (51 percent), though the 50-plus demographic (20 percent) is the fastest-growing.

It's free to sign up for Match.com, search for matches, and browse other people's profiles, but any message exchanges require a paid membership. Paid memberships start at $18 per month (for a six-month minimum) and go up to $35 per month (one month minimum). You don't need to complete your profile right away, but you won't show up in Match.com search results until you've finished it (complete with photo).

Match.com has a very comprehensive search engine--you can narrow down your results by faith, languages, pets, salary range, amount of exercise, and interests, among other things. In case you're having a hard time sorting through all of the prospects (even after you narrow it down), Match.com also offers up potential matches in the form of a "Daily 5." Match.com submits five potential matches to you and asks you to say whether or not you're interested--the site then modifies its matches based on your answers.

Sarah's take: I hate to say it, but all of the matches that Match.com sent me as potentials were just so ugly.

Alex's take: Either I registered too late or I'm just not that compatible, because Match.com didn't send me any matches at all. I guess that's a blessing in disguise? Either way, OKCupid pretty much blows Match.com out of the water in every meaningful way.

eHarmony

Who you can expect to find: People who are looking for a serious relationship. Seriously.

How much it'll cost you: Varies, but a popular subscription is $30/month for six months.

eHarmony is not a dating Website--rather, it's an online matchmaking service. Unlike other sites, which allow users to browse and search for potential matches, eHarmony does all of the legwork for you. That's right--there's no way for you to browse the database of 33 million users, because (let's be serious), if you knew what you wanted, you wouldn't be on eHarmony in the first place.

eHarmony is also a little more complicated to sign up for than other dating sites: Instead of answering a few questions and being paired up with potential matches, each user must fill out a comprehensive relationship questionnaire. The questionnaire helps in the matchmaking process and also indicates that a user is serious about finding a serious relationship (in other words, the questionnaire is in-depth enough that you're not going to just fill it out for fun). And yes, the matchmaking that eHarmony does is based on scientific research of what makes a long-term relationship last.

According to a 2008 study conducted by Harris Interactive, an average of 542 people marry every day in the United States as a result of eHarmony's matchmaking skills. eHarmony doesn't just sit around and wait for its users to meet up, either--they also offer various matchmaking-related services, such as profile advisement (professional writers who will help your profile shine) and secure calling services so users can safely get in touch with each other.

If you're looking for a very serious long-term relationship, eHarmony is the place to be...but if you're looking for anything less, perhaps OKCupid is more your style.

Sarah's take: Well, eHarmony isn't a dating Website--it's a matchmaking Website. This isn't the place to go if you're playing around. Seriously, their questionniare is really long and not for the faint of heart.

Alex's take: So many questions! Online matchmaking is a booming business, and nobody is better at transmuting you into a statistic than the algorithmic alchemists at eHarmony.

So there you have it: no matter what you're looking for, whether it's a serious relationship, a Mac-lovin' honey, or some "OtakuBooty," there's a dating Website out there just for you. That means you have no excuses when February 14 rolls around.

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