Which type of online dating site is better: free or paid?

One of the biggest wars among the staff is whether a person is better off using a free site or a paid one. Both have their advantages and disadvantages, and what might be best for one person, might not be the best for someone else. Of the editorial team, Ryan and Nomi represent both extremes of the spectrum.


Ryan, a single guy, prefers free sites, while Nomi, a single woman, prefers paid ones. Let the debate begin!

Nomi: Free sites are mostly a waste of time, to me. There’s a much better chance of meeting a psycho, of being harassed by weirdos, and of not finding a solid match. Just go to the respected brands and pay the fee!

Ryan: $20 a month is no small fee, especially if you are trying different ones. If you are new to all this, you are way better starting with a free site like OkCupid. There’s nothing wrong with OKCupid and sites like it. The algorithm is sound, the matches are scientific, and the amount of metadata in a profile is enormous!

Nomi: Sure, maybe for a select few sites, but that requires a lot of time answering thousands of questions in order to have a profile that actually gives you quality matches.

Ryan: It’s better to invest a few hours being thorough and answering questions about what you like than to waste money on a site that claims to do a better job with less information.

Nomi: But does it? I mean, should my match score with a person really be affected by their favorite TV show or whether they own a dog or cat? These kind of metrics are irrelevant to me anyway, but the free sites will count them with equal weight. I can tell you right now, just because Sex and the City is one of my favorite shows doesn’t mean I want to date a guy who is a fan.

Ryan: Maybe, but when people make the effort to make a very complete profile on a free site, they let people know very much who they are and who they aren’t.

Nomi: That’s still true of a paid site, Ryan. And just because it might be a paid site, doesn’t mean it doesn’t have free options. Just because you may not have all the functions to seek out other people, doesn’t mean they can’t seek you out. That would defeat the whole purpose…

Ryan: I still don’t like it. I should be able to see profiles at will. I should be able to match by different criteria. For all I know, the right woman for me lives in Quebec, hates fishing and Star Trek, all things that might be a low “match” but maybe I really dig how she expresses herself. The algorithms might give decent matches, but sometimes it’s good to chart your own course, and the free sites have way more diverse people.

Nomi: I think what you mean, is that you want to browse pictures. It’s guys like you that fill up my inbox with “Hi. U r hot.”

Ryan: Hey! I don’t do that. The truth is, no site truly lets you plot your own data points for scoring, though it’s certainly possible to make them work for you. And if you do that, I’m still partial to the freebie sites just because the numbers are on your side.

Nomi: Dating sites have been around since the 90s, Ryan. A place like has 18 years and 1.8 million profiles…and those profiles are all vetted. Twenty dollars a month keeps out the toothless mullet man who lives in a basement with his mannequin collection. You’re a guy, so maybe you don’t know what it’s like, but on free sites, the messages I get are mostly poorly constructed, awkward and often downright creepy.

Ryan: So what you are saying is that you are picky and a snob.

Nomi: I’m not!

Ryan: You are. It’s OK, that you are, but it’s also why a free dating site isn’t your bag. It’s nothing you need to be defensive about.

Nomi: Free sites often attract bored trolls. They have joke profiles and send ridiculous messages just to get a rise out of people.

Ryan: So?

Nomi: It’s a waste of time.

Ryan: There are plenty of serious people on free sites. The paid sites tend to get a very specific kind of person. Baby-crazy chicks, yuppies, high maintenance girls in general…I never meet the kind of girls I want to date on these things. On free sites, I can actually meet girls who ride motorcycles, girls who sing in blues bands, girls who like to go hunting. I’m not going to find them on the paid sites. They are way more rare. There is simply more diversity on a free site, and the cost is off-putting to a lot of people.

Nomi: It depends. Some might be $60-$70 a month. Eharmony, for example is in that range, but it’s designed to give you a long-term mate.

Ryan: I don’t trust an algorithm to give me a long-term mate. I want a connection to someone I find interesting. I need a year of actual interaction to know if they are long-term mate material. A website can’t do that.

Nomi: Sure it can! People swear by it.

Ryan: People also swear by tarot cards, crystals and astrological zodiac matching. It doesn’t mean it’s legit.

Nomi: Fine, but your issue is price. is 6.99 for six months. That’s not exactly expensive.

Ryan: But Nomi, I’m meeting girls all the time on the free ones. And it’s working great for me.

Nomi: You aren’t married.

Ryan: That’s kind of the point. You are looking for a husband.

Nomi: Not necessarily a husband.

Ryan: Yeah, but a “serious” relationship. And you are shelling out serious money in a promise of getting one, and you are still single, girl.

Nomi: I’m not into hookups. Too millennial for me!

Ryan: Neither am I. But my expectations are realistic. Dating sites are great, but no one should expect them to be magic. You have to make them work for you instead of relying on them with their presuming what you want. If liking the same baseball team and same Depeche Mode albums were all that mattered, I would have married my friends in high school.

Nomi: so what do you go by, Ryan? Just click through all the pictures and look for the ones you think are hot.

Ryan: It’s a legit method.

Nomi: Gross!

Ryan: What’s so gross about it. Why should what I am attracted to not matter in the equation? No algorithm can do that yet.

Nomi: Looks aren’t the only thing that matters.

Ryan: True, but looks are hardly unimportant. And you know what, I think it’s fun to click on pictures and just read the profiles. For those girls with hot pics and nothing to say, I move on.

Nomi: Sure you do.

Ryan: A hot girl with a blank or dull profile is likely as dull in real life. Having nothing to say is the worst!

Nomi: That’s just a preference for you. It’s a data point you weight highly.

Ryan: Yeah, and I adjust my habits online to account for it! I make it work for me rather than just expect it to be magic.

Nomi: I think that proves that there is no “better” for everyone. Paid or free, each site has it’s own quirks and what matters most is what you are looking for.

Ryan: I’m cool with that sentiment.

Nomi: So then, the debate is a draw?

Ryan: I don’t think there are winners or losers here. It’s about being conscious of what you are doing.

Nomi: Maybe you should write about that, the?

Ryan: I’d be happy to!

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