Online Dating: The Different Types And What To Expect

Medically reviewed by Melissa Guarnaccia, LCSW
Updated February 25, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Online dating can come in many forms. Dating websites, relationship-focused websites, niche dating sites, meet-ups, smartphone apps, and social media groups may be some of the most common. When meeting up with someone from an online dating website or app in person, it can be crucial to exercise caution by meeting in a public place and potentially speaking over a video call first. If you feel stressed or anxious about dating, talking to a therapist before you start could also be valuable.  

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Experiencing stress or anxiety about dating?

Types of online dating

There are many types of online dating available, depending on what you’re looking to get out of the experience. You might consider any of the following options. 

Online dating websites

Numerous websites have a database of people interested in finding others to date online. On these websites, you may be able to peruse different profiles or fill out a quiz that connects you with others with whom you might be compatible. Once you’ve made connections, you may contact them or vice versa. Some sites offer compatibility tests or quizzes. 

Online dating sites often offer a free trial but lock premium features behind a paywall, such as messaging, video chats, or connecting with more matches. Many people don’t want to spend money on a dating site, so they might try another option, like a dating app. 

Long-term relationship websites 

On long-term relationship-focused websites, you might complete a lengthy questionnaire about your personality, hobbies, interests, desired characteristics in a partner, where you live, whether you are willing to relocate, and other details. The site may then compare your responses to the responses of others and provide you with a list of potential matches. You can contact these people to pursue a relationship with them. Relationship websites are often intended for those looking for a long-term partner.

Relationship websites might be valuable if you’d prefer personal space while getting to know another person online. There is often a free trial period before you sign up for membership. On many relationship sites, you won’t be able to talk to people unless you’ve matched and can message each other. 

Niche dating sites

Niche dating sites may be focused on specific characteristics or interests, such as particular religions, hobbies, age ranges, and relationship styles. For people looking for a specific type of partner or relationship, such as a polyamorous relationship, these sites can offer a way to meet people with traits in common instead of sifting through a general site to find a specific person. For many people, these similarities are core values. 

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Meet-up groups 

Meet-up groups may allow you to sign up for local meet-ups depending on your interests. You can scroll through local events and groups through some apps and sites and send a message to join. Meet-ups may include social outings, sports events, spirituality, day trips, or mental health topics.  

Meeting up with a group with a pre-determined topic to discuss may help you meet others in a relaxed atmosphere in person while being involved with an activity you love. Conversations may feel more easy because you may have interests in common, and the event leader can often lead the conversation and start group activities for connection. 

Meet-ups and support groups are often free to join, but a few activities may have a fee. If your social circle is small or you’re new to a community, these groups could also allow you to make friends. As social interaction is essential to mental health, these groups are one way to get out and improve your mental well-being.

Dating apps 

A multitude of smartphone apps may be available for various dating preferences. However, many apps may focus on physical appearances and basic details, such as your name and a brief bio. Smartphone dating apps are often more popular with younger audiences and might be valuable for casual dating or meet-ups. These apps can offer immediate matches and are often more popular than dating websites, offering a more significant chance for a match for many people. 

Social media groups

Many social media platforms have groups you can join to meet like-minded people. You may be asked to answer questions before being approved to be in the group. In addition, the group administrator may oversee online interactions and monitor what can and cannot be posted. Although not always focused on dating, some groups are targeted toward making connections online. 

Safety tips for meeting an online date in person

It can be beneficial to take precautions if you decide to meet someone you initially met online. It may be safest to meet in a public location and let friends or family know about your plans. While many people online are genuinely looking for relationships, it can be possible for a person to pretend to be someone else online or to have nefarious intentions. 

You may also wish to video chat with your date before meeting in person. Talking to someone over the internet can eliminate any fears that they may not be the person they portray themselves as online. In addition, you can ensure you feel comfortable talking to them. If you’re driving to the date, consider going alone instead of getting in a car with your date until you feel more comfortable with them. 

A few other tips for dating safety may include: 

  • Sending your live location to a friend or family member 
  • Letting someone know the name of your date and sending a picture of them 
  • Not going home with someone if you’re not comfortable
  • Taking your drink with you if you’re at a bar and get up to go to the bathroom 
  • Having a safety app or piece of jewelry that notifies a family member or the authorities if you are in an unsafe situation by a press of a button 
  • Not going to a forest or secluded area for the first date
  • Letting your date know if you want to stop the date at any time
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Experiencing stress or anxiety about dating?

Counseling for dating anxiety 

Dating anxiety can be common but difficult to manage. If you experience dating anxiety, you may benefit from working with a licensed mental health professional to address these feelings and discover strategies to cope with them. Visiting a new therapist’s office can also be a source of anxiety for some people, but speaking with a therapist online instead of in person may alleviate some of that anxiety. Online therapy platforms like BetterHelp often allow a straightforward and flexible way to connect with a therapist from anywhere you have an internet connection.

As one study explains, online therapy can also be as effective as traditional therapy for various mental health conditions and concerns, including anxiety and the effects of stress. Try not to hesitate to reach out for help if you believe you’d benefit from working with a professional to alleviate dating anxiety.

Takeaway

Meet-ups, social media groups, relationship-focused websites, online dating sites, niche dating sites, and smartphone apps can all be types of online dating. If you choose to meet with someone from a dating site in person, it can be wise to let family and friends know about your plans and meet in a public location. 

You might also confirm that your date is who they say they are by speaking with them through a video call before meeting in person. If you experience anxiety or stress regarding dating, you may benefit from therapy, which can teach you methods of working through and managing challenging thoughts and feelings.

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