A chance romantic encounter during a night at the bar has apparently become too limiting, and single people, both young and old, are turning to online dating to find their soul mate.
Once in the workforce, people often find themselves surrounded by the same people every day. A divorced person can feel isolated and out of practice. Even college students surrounded by their peers can find it difficult to meet some one.
But just as bars cater to different clientele, online dating sites target different groups based on age, religion, sexual orientation, and economic and social status. How to pick which one is right for you?
Paige, 23, a college student who didn't want her last name or school used, says that she has had a hard time meeting people because she's a commuter, so she started using okcupid.com.
"So far I have only gone on two dates, so there has been some success," says Paige. "I haven't found a relationship yet. It was very isolating in college classes since people only concentrate on their work."
The dating scene has changed drastically in the last 10 years, with more people turning to the power of the Internet to play matchmaker. Between 2005 and 2012, about one third of married couples began their relationship through an online connection, according to a study from the University of Chicago. The study expects for online dating to pick up more in the next five years.
"The dating scene is different now," says Marissa McClay, 29, of Naugatuck, a user of Plenty of Fish, or POF.com. "People are afraid to approach each other. Who wants to marry the guy that you met at the bar?"
Miranda Corrigan, 18, of East Hartford, turned to okcupid.com and meetme.com to try her luck.
"I mainly use online dating because school and work don't have a lot of opportunity to meet new people," says Corrigan. "I like the online dating aspect because you can weed out the creeps easier by simply stop talking to them."
"There aren't many places to meet people in Connecticut aside from clubs or church," says Lisa Fraser, 50, of Milford, who met her boyfriend of over a year through blackpeoplemeet.com.
People who join dating sites are typically looking for a serious relationship, and many of the popular sites attract all age groups. Sites vary in who they appeal to and can range from free to as much as $1,000.
Despite screening precautions taken by the sites and users, online daters need to be cautious. Most sites give warnings to be wary of fraud, especially of potential users attempting to steal identities. Certain sites give safety tips to follow when meeting with face-to-face. Online daters should share photos with caution, protect their private information, always be on guard during meet-ups, and should drive themselves when meeting another user.
Kassi McSherry, 22, of Naugatuck, says meeting someone in person is the hardest part of online dating.
"I usually set up a fail date, where I cancel the day before or earlier," she says. "If they handle it badly (such as being exceptionally angry or whining), I stop talking to them, but if they're mature I set another date up. Planning can be a fun process, but also nerve wracking."
Fraser says she spends about two months chatting online before she exchange phone numbers. Then it's talking for about a month before a meeting happens.
McClay has met with dates after about a week of chatting online and says she will text her date for a few days before meeting up with them at a Dunkin Donuts. "It's a quick thing to do and you don't have to waste time," says McClay.
McSherry met her boyfriend on miumeet.com.
"I'd usually meet in a mall or park, somewhere public where it's safe but where you can carry on a conversation," says McSherry. "I only met once at a restaurant, but I made sure it was during a busy part of the day. And that's where I met my boyfriend who I'm dating now. Online dating can be fun and worth it if you give it enough time and stay safe."
The next trend appears to be mobile dating. A lot of dating websites have apps that allow users to connect to profiles anywhere. Rather than using the website to find dates, users can locate other users nearby with their smartphones. The apps can pinpoint the location of another user if the interest is mutual for an instant meeting, allowing users to come face-to-face a lot faster.
Not everyone who joins a dating website is looking for romance. Some simply want a friendship or companionship. Sites such as okcupid.com, ourtime.com, and POF.com offer the option of choosing that you are seeking specifically friendship only.