In the last year, COVID-19 has made online dating sites even more indispensable for the single set. It has been hard for singles to meet potential significant others, since going out and being social is discouraged during the pandemic. But with an online dating website, you could try to get to know someone online through emails, texting and video chat. Then, if you were both assured that the other was being safe, you might try to meet.
But you can still meet that special someone during a pandemic, according to Amy Schoen, a professional life, dating and relationship coach in Rockville, Maryland, and the founder of the website Motivated to Marry. “You can meet people through socially distant meetups,” Schoen says. “I’ve had clients meet people through outdoor activities like archery and ax throwing. You can go to parks, hike, play tennis or some of the more socially distant sports.” But Schoen also endorses trying to make connections digitally. “I recommend online dating sites as part of your dating plan,” she says.
[Read: Dating Apps: How to Go on a Virtual Date.]
But what online dating websites should you try? Deciding what type of online dating website is right for you is a little like finding the right partner. What you think is a great dating site, others may hate. Read on for a list of some of the best free dating sites that you may want to try. Keep in mind that not all of these websites are purely free — some have free components that are worth your consideration. Here are some of the most popular free dating sites:
– Plenty of Fish.
With this popular app (also available on desktop), you can simply swipe through profiles — albeit with scant information on each potential match. As you look at photos, you can select a heart icon or an X; Alternatively, you can swipe to the right if you like a profile or swipe to the left if you don’t. If you like somebody who also likes your photo, then you’ll be alerted that you have a match, and you’ll be able to message your potential date. While the app is free, you can pay for Tinder Plus (around $9.99 a month if you’re under 30, or $19.99 if you’re older) and Tinder Gold (around $29.99 per month, depending on your location and age), which Offer additional features, such as a rewind button that enables you to update your selection if you accidentally swiped the wrong way.
Similar to Tinder, Bumble enables users to find a match by swiping right if you like the person or left if you don’t. The major differentiating factor is, for heterosexual couples, the woman must send a message first. Conversely, with same-sex couples, either person can initiate contact. There’s also a premium service that can screen your matches for certain qualities or criteria, like level of education. Prices vary from $7.99 a week to $32.99 a month, or you can pay $199.99 for a lifetime subscription of the premium service.
While Match.com’s full services aren’t free, it belongs in this list because it’s a well-known website that offers a free 72-hour trial period. You can set up a profile and search through profiles for free, but if you want to contact the person, you’ll have to pay for the service unless you’re still in the free three-day trial period. Still, at least you can determine who you might want to contact if you do pay for the service, rather than paying for a service and then hoping that there are some people you’d like to meet. As for the prices, they vary. For one month’s access to the site, you’ll pay $35.99. But you can get longer plans that last anywhere from three to six to 12 months. You’ll fork over more money at once, but you’ll pay less per month (ie, $19.99 for three months).
As advertised on their many TV commercials, OurTime is for people 50 years old and up. Like Match.com, OurTime is a paid service. While it isn’t free, you can browse profiles for free, and that is worth something in the online dating world. The last thing anybody wants is to pony up money for a dating site, put up a profile and then look around and find out that the nearest potential person you might be interested in is 300 miles away. As for the prices, they vary, but you can expect to pay about $35 a month, with the price dropping significantly if you sign up for the six-month plan.
[See: 7 Signs Your Romantic Partner Is Financially Unstable.]
This popular dating website and app is free, allowing you to browse profiles and reach out to anyone you want to connect with. That said, you can pay for premium services, and those premium services can make the site a little easier to navigate. For instance, with the paid version, there are unlimited likes and no outside ads. You can also see who “likes” you before you like them. However, with the free version, you don’t know who has clicked “like” on your profile unless you also “like” them. Prices vary.
Plenty of Fish
Plenty of Fish, as its name suggests, features a wide selection of dating profiles. It is free, but you’ll probably find it far easier to use if you pay for the premium services. Prices vary, but you can expect to pay $12.90 a month for three months or $6.78 a month for 12 months. You can send and receive messages for free; the premium membership is an ad-free version that allows users to search more easily, using filtering options such as education and income.
Facebook recently entered the dating scene with Facebook.com/dating. You can set up a dating profile, which won’t be shared with anyone outside of the Facebook dating app. In other words, your friends and family on Facebook won’t be able to see that you’re a member of Facebook Dating. As an added bonus, you can use your Facebook profile to automatically fill in your profile. It’s only available on the Facebook app on your phone and not on the Facebook website. It’s completely free.
Hinge is only available on your phone and not on your desktop or laptop. It is a free site, but like all of these sites, you can navigate the site more easily if you pay for its premium version. Prices vary for the premium version, but it starts at around $19.99 a month, and then the price per month goes down after that if you get a three or six month membership.
[ALSO: 5 Date Night Ideas for Frugal Couples.]
Tips for Dating in the Age of COVID
Acamea Deadwiler, based out of Las Vegas, is the author of “Single That: Dispelling the Top 10 Myths of the Single Woman.” She points out that because of COVID, something is lost by not going out to dinner or the movies — and one should think carefully about how they’re starting a relationship.
“Instead of going to a movie theater, you’re streaming movies and inviting people to join you on the couch. Instead of meeting at a bar, you’re allowing someone you may have just met into your home for cocktails,” Deadwiler says . “So those initial ‘getting to know you’ steps in the dating process are being skipped and you may end up dating someone exclusively by default or getting serious with someone more quickly than you normally would.”
She points out that inviting somebody you don’t know well into your home too soon isn’t just potentially unsafe — it “accelerates the relationship’s progression.” She says that there’s the risk that the pandemic forces you into a dating bubble where you’re seeing one person instead of perhaps seeing several people and having one relationship form more naturally.
“We’ve had more free time than ever over the past year,” Deadwiler says. “It hasn’t been much of an inconvenience to fit someone into your schedule. Just because you’re spending a bunch of time with someone who doesn’t mean they’re ‘the one.’ Ask yourself if they’re someone you would’ve pursued a relationship with in the pre-COVID world.”
And if not, then you may need to go back to the drawing board and ask your friends and family if they know anyone. And, yes, you may want to check out some of the free dating sites.