(The Frisky) -- With unemployment numbers at a record high, mortgage rates at all time low, and businesses shutting their doors on nearly a daily basis, the average American is cutting back on expenses BIG time, especially when it comes to their social lives.
Online dating is one social activity that has not been hit hard by the economic recession.
Dinners at restaurants have been replaced by cooking at home, seeing movies in the theaters -- at a whopping $12 a ticket --seems excessive when you can wait until the film in on DVD, and traveling? For fun? Not in this economy!
But one social activity that's NOT seeing a dip in participation is online dating. According to The New York Times, Match.com had its strongest fourth quarter in the last seven years. An easy explanation is that though times may be tough, loneliness is loneliness, no matter how much money you have in your bank account.
Rich or poor, employed or recently laid off, everyone wants to have love. With that in mind, here are four reasons why online dating is recession proof.
1. There's more fish in the pond: The primary benefit of dating online is that you're casting a wide net. A whole world of romantic possibility is at your fingertips. The chances of meeting someone amazing with thousands to choose from online is far greater than frequenting your local watering hole, in hopes that in between rounds of overpriced cocktails, someone fantastic will walk in and take a seat next to you.
While many people meet possible mates through friends or acquaintances, as you get older, the dating pool gets smaller, as more people get engaged and married. With online dating, there's little question as to whether someone is available.
"I was sick of going out every weekend, spending money on drinks, as I made small talk with men who bored or offended me," says Emily Parker*, an editor in New York City. "My budget is super tight, especially since I feel like my job isn't secure. But I didn't want to stop dating, either. I joined an online dating site and have met some really cool guys so far. That's more than I can say about the time I spent trolling the bar scene."
2. Narrow your options via e-mail, IM, and phone convos: How many first dates have you been on that felt like a waste of time, where you would have preferred to clean your oven than waste two hours talking about the weather with Mr. Not Right?
First impressions are everything, but you can certainly gauge your compatibility with someone in conversations you conduct over Instant Messenger, email, and the telephone, before you commit to an in-person date.
"Online dating is totally cost effective," says John DeVore, a 34-year-old playwright from Austin, TX. "A guy like me can screen his prospective dates, engage in witty banter, and size up whether there's a mental click there well before fulfilling his gentlemanly duties and purchasing her dinner or drinks. Better not to waste her time, my time, or my wallet's."
"In my time online dating, I've messaged with at least a dozen men, but only with a few have I clicked well enough to actually meet in person," says Jane Walsh, a 27-year-old actress in Los Angeles.
"Nowadays, more people are going Dutch treat on dates, which is a bummer if you're more traditional, but regardless, it makes you think hard about whether you really want to spend a three hours with that person - and shell out the money for dinner and drinks. You're forced to consider what qualities are really important to you. In the end, that benefits all."
3. Fit your financial lifestyle: Are you strapped for cash and can't afford to take a woman out on a fancy date? Thanks to the handy information offered up on an online dater's profile, you can sniff out the gold diggers who insist upon four-star meals at restaurants with foreign sounding names. And you can also come across potential dates that share your affordable interests.
"I think there are a lot of creative things that a person can do for a date if they put in the time to plan," says Jennifer DeChristoforo, 32, a copywriter based in Boston, MA. "Just because times are hard does not mean that being skimpy is acceptable. One of my best dates ever was with someone I met online. We went to the Natural History Museum and then had coffee. It was a great day and not expensive in the slightest."
Still, if you are looking for a fancy dinner at a classy restaurant and tickets to the opera, you can certainly find the perfect gentleman to provide that online too. Certainly, "John Smith, 34, Investment Banker," might be down for that.
But beware. Just because the quantity of people dating online is up, doesn't mean the quality of the dates is always that great.
"I had one Match.com guy tell me on our first, and only, date that he has 'levels' for dates," says DeChristoforo. "First, there's a drink. One. If things are going well with him, he'll offer to order a second round ... and if that's going well, appetizers can be in your very near future! He did ask me out again, because I was worthy of a whole second date, but I politely declined."
4. You're that much closer to shared expenses: The fact of the matter is, two people sharing the bills is always more cost effective than one person being singularly responsible for a household. So once you've toiled away online, found someone who is on the same financially playing field, and has been deemed worthy of multiple - creative and cheap! - dates, you're well on your way to shacking up, sharing the bills, and merging bank accounts.
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