Times have changed. Listing yourself on a dating site is no longer daunting or seen as an act of desperation. Internet dating sites are now sophisticated and offer a huge range of options, including looking for a mate, broadening your circle of friendships, finding new social outlets, or simply helping find someone to chat to.
There is also a large range of websites available, including both free and paid membership communities. Some websites have sub-categories that cater to particular community groups and religions, while there are also sites dedicated to people with disabilities.
The first step
Regardless of the site you choose, your profile is the first step in linking you with other people.
Operators advise users to spend plenty of time writing their profile and choosing appropriate photos to increase your chance of a suitable match. But don't expect immediate success.
RSVP marketing director Lija Jarvis says it can take time to find suitable matches.
There are (instant) success stories, but on average, people are very active on the site for three months at a time.
Australian-owned sites RSVP and Oasis Active both use key words to search for people with common interests.
Oasis guides people as they are filling in the various sections of their profiles and uploading images about the
dos and don’ts, while Dating Disabled has a detailed Frequently Asked Questions section that includes information on profile preparation.
RSVP's profile guide tells people to be specific, elaborate on any why's, eliminate cliches, check for bragging, don't define yourself by what you don't want; be truthful, and include your five most positive characteristics.
You should also detail your life experiences, likes and dislikes, working life, and what you are looking for. Examples of good profiles are provided.
Dating Disabled recently launched its site in Australia following successful operations in Europe and the US.
Tanya Fathers, spokesperson for Dating Disabled and CEO of the DatingFactory.com network, says
we identified the need for people with disabilities to integrate socially via internet and have safe environment to meet their potential partner. We strongly believe in
Ms Fathers says Beyond Boundaries (a UK lifestyle event for people with disabilities) provided a lot information about people with disabilities and their needs.
Dave Heysen, the CEO of the 3H Group which operates the popular free site Oasis Active, says over 500 Victorians who use the site have mentioned they have a disability in their profile.
Mr Heysen says there are many safeguards in place to protect users.
We manually approve every photo and text to ensure that it complies with our strict guidelines. More detailed searching functions include the ability to be online but not show others you are.
RSVP, Dating Disabled and Oasis Active all say they are always diligently upgrading to streamline navigation and offer new features. The sites also give tips on internet safety, including how to exclude your details for anonymity, and taking your time before meeting other people for the first time at a safe, public place. You can also block people from viewing your profile and from contacting you.
RSVP's Lija Jarvis says her site was recently rebuilt to allow users to search for other people by interests or key words like animals or suburbs.
We (also) added the Communities tab which groups people with like-minded interests. Instead of just finding a date, you have people with real similarities that you can go to events with. There is also an events/travel tab.
Unfortunately the accessibility of online dating sites varies dramatically between different companies, and some might not be suitable for your needs.