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If it hadn’t been for an online dating site, the two worlds of Edward, 44, and Suzanne, 38, would never have collided.<br />

If it hadn’t been for an online dating site, the two worlds of Edward, 44, and Suzanne, 38, would never have collided.

Today, five years later, the Scarborough electrician and the Mississauga schoolteacher are married with two small children. Life together is good, although Suzanne is a little embarrassed to admit meeting online.

She needn’t be – millions of people exchange messages on dating sites every day and countless long-term relationships and marriages occur as a result. In fact, a 2005 UK survey found that relationships that begin on dating sites, and continue offline last as long as those started in more traditional ways.

“The perception of online dating has changed dramatically since the early days, and the stigma is disappearing,” says Kim Hughes, singles and dating expert for Lavalife.

Partly it’s the success stories, like Suzanne and Edward. But technology deserves some of the credit. With internal email and voice systems, identities are protected “until you decide to give it,” Hughes says.

With the explosion in internet use, and 24/7 access to sites, doors have opened to communities one wouldn’t otherwise meet due to geographical or occupational differences.

Success depends on how well you craft a profile, and what your expectations are, says Hughes. Her advice is to “know your core values, but be fluid on everything else.”

Occasionally, people meet someone special very fast, but usually it takes a while, with six months being a “good baseline,” Hughes says.

The choice is wide – general online dating through Lavalife, Match.com, FriendFinder, and more detailed services through sites like eHarmony, and Chemistry.com.

Niche dating sites help connect individuals with common outlooks -- Christiancafe.com, Jewishcafe, Buddhistpassions, Senior Match, Green Friends. And other sites – like Facebook and MeetUp – connect individuals with like-minded groups, which can then go on to organize facetime meetings.

Though some sites are free, most charge from $20 to $60 a month. Generally, the cost reflects the security and service with some conducting background checks, or matching people through detailed questionnaires.

Tips to Success

• Start with a fantastic, specific profile. “Looking for a fun loving man in his 40s who knows the city’s best jazz bars” not only sounds more interesting, but helps filter the responses too.
• Be honest – if you’re not and you meet down the road, they’ll know you’re not as presented.
• Add pictures – Hughes says online profiles with photos get eight times the response of those without.
• Think safety. Never give out personal information such as home phone number; meet in public the first time and let someone else know where you’re going. About a quarter of the people on dating sites are married, so go with your gut instincts.

 
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