In a throw-down duel with a colleague of mine, Brandon DeHoyos, the Guide to Instant Messaging here at About.com (see: 5 Reasons Why Chatrooms Are Better Than Dating Sites), I've decided to create a list of why dating sites are infinitely better than chat rooms to meet someone, along with my reasoning as to why. In a nutshell, I've used both to meet people, and while I had success with the chat room concept of meeting people for a date in the pre-internet days, I've had much more success with online dating sites since. And thus, I present to you dear readers, my list of why dating sites slay chat rooms when it comes to dating for meeting people. Think I've missed a crucial idea, concept or debate point, or that I've got it all wrong? Feel free to add your two cents at the bottom in the comments section.
Dating Sites Came First
If older, and therefore, wiser minds prevail in the thick of things, you'd think that the same would apply to the internet. If a process, program or concept has been around longer, it's had more time to get vetted, played with, broken, re-engineered and made shiny again. While many folks believe that chat rooms, or even chat programs - a la Bulletin Board System (BBS) - prior to the internet are the grandfathers of internet dating technology, the truth is that online dating actually started in the late 1950s at Stanford, where a group of math students decided to create a matchmaking program using an IBM 650 for their final project. Although the program never went past the in-class phase, it did garner a marriage. And by 1966, Look Magazine stated there was a "computer dating craze" using punch cards and almost 90,000 singles. Without this groundbreaking software synthesis by insightful students and entrepreneurs, who knows what online dating would look like today?
Fewer Ways to Hide on a Dating Site
While anyone could create a fake dating profile, use a program to hide where their internet signal comes from, and scam folks out of a whole host of things, many dating sites require fees just to alleviate these concerns, at least in part. Sure, someone could steal your credit card just as easily, but for the most part, the pay-for-use dating sites are a safer bet because you know that folks with paid accounts actually have a real identity behind the mask they share online. Worst case scenario, you stick with the dating sites that vet their users and guarantee truthful profiles like True.com. Chat rooms? Not so much. In fact, many require a log in name and nothing more, not even email verification to ensure the email address used to connect with is real.
It's All About Intention
Unless you've decided to walk into a chat room specifically geared toward singles in your area, looking for someone to date - and frankly, I've found that kind of specificity hard to come by since the turn of the century - you'll be hard pressed to find a space where other singles, with the same intention in mind, congregate in hordes. In fact, it's a bit of a smorgasbord depending on how large of a community you live in and which dating site(s) you choose, but even the smallest of communities with a smaller-than-average demographic of singles will find a sizable number of people to connect with on most of the larger dating sites.
Knowledge is Power
It's pretty easy to determine what folks are looking for on a dating site, if not by what they openly state, then at the very least what their profile says. There's a huge difference between, friends with benefits, casual dating, mating, long term relationships and a life partner, and knowing that the person you're about to contact (or who has contacted you) is on the same page is crucial. Dating sites allow their users to plainly state what they're after, but leave the communication to the user - for me, a great thing, as someone who eloquently shares their bashful foray into online dating fares much better in getting a heartfelt response from me than someone who comments rudely on a body part or mentions a sexual act without context. In a chat room, you've got to figure out people's gender, sexual orientation, relationship status, and relationship intention before honing in on someone to talk to on a more one-on-one basis. Not so for online dating users, as they can quickly search for folks in a multitude of ways, knowing that whomever pops up will relatively closely meet their criteria. Perhaps it's a pet peeve of mine, but I hated walking into chat rooms where folks would immediately ask, "A/s/l?" as it made me feel like nothing more than a combination of numbers, and not a real, live person on the other end of a pixelated screen. Rarely did I get a sense of who someone was from those stats, other than the person asking didn't want to waste any time getting to actually know me, they just wanted to see if I was the right gender, age, or close enough geographically to date. Personally, I'd like to think there's more to love than just a/s/l, and thus, why I prefer online dating. I'll get that information and a tremendous amount more from a profile, and get a pretty good indicator of who I'm meeting (provided I take the photos with a grain of salt, because, let's face it, rarely do people post *bad* pictures of themselves online).