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Office Hours With Dr. Jim
by James Houran, Ph.D

In this column, "Dr. Jim" honestly and candidly answers your questions about dating, love and sexuality. He doesn’t tell you what you want to hear – he tells you what you need to hear. Dr. Jim is committed to offering you guidance based on responsible clinical practice and hard data from the latest scientific studies. Send Dr. Jim your questions today for consideration in an upcoming issue.

Active Online Dating Sites | Self Help Books

Quick Access:
Most Active Online Dating Sites
Selecting a Self-Help Book

Which are the most active online dating sites?


This is a fantastic issue to address – and one that’s relevant to all online daters – since individuals will certainly be more successful on the sites that have the most activity. Of course, it’s important to define “activity.” It’s well accepted by insiders in the industry that ranking online dating sites purely on visitor traffic is a flawed approach. Why? Well, site membership is required to use the services, and member activity is clearly the foundation of successful matchmaking. Therefore, critically examining the degree to which actual members use a site gives a better picture of “activity”… and greater site activity increases your chances of finding responsive and invested singles. Recently, some interesting findings were released by Compete – a web tracking service.

Compete didn’t track all available services, but those they did analyze provide useful knowledge to singles.Yahoo! Personals consistently took top rank. This impressive performance shows a balance of both driving traffic to the service and encouraging active participation. In other words, there’s both established and new activity at the site. This circumstance provides the best types of opportunity for singles. I should note that and were not far behind, and when it came to compatibility-testing oriented sites, was the clear winner. showed that free services can be hugely successful. It scored 9th in terms of visitors, but the site scored 5th in member interaction. More importantly, it was one of five sites with more than 10 million member visits, putting it in a class with much higher trafficked sites and besting its next competitor by a multiple of 2x. So as I’ve said previously, the best strategy for singles is to post profiles on more than one site, (and make sure you’re positing on active sites!), visit that site and be active yourself and don’t neglect the free sites like Branch out and have a wide online presence – but make sure it’s a smartly positioned presence and remember that you tend to get out of online dating what you put into it.

What should I look for when choosing a self-help book?
Self-help books – available for all types of psychological and relationship problems – continue to dominate the shelves of books stores. Nevertheless, I’m leery of “self-help” books for two reasons: I have yet to really see them help anyone, and they often are written by people who aren’t actual experts in the subject area or who don’t consult the latest research. Now having said that, there are some books that I’ve seen which seem to be both useful and good sources of information. The criteria I give people looking to “learn on their own” are:

» Is the book written by an expert on the subject matter?

» Is the book based on real and recent research?

» Is the book pushing only one theory or approach, or does it give a variety of perspectives and encourage you to think and explore your options.

Good therapists don’t give people outright answers to problems; instead they use probing questions to get people to take responsibility for their own thought and decision-making processes. The same is often true for a reliable self-help book. Critically examine the credentials of the author(s), and then scour the back of the book to see if there are any references to research published in recent scientific or academic journals to substantiate the ideas presented in that book. Books that tell you to do something specific or that take a narrow approach to a given issue, in my opinion, are likely to be useless. Worse still, those types of books can be detrimental and actually sabotage your goals.

Speak to knowledgeable people you know that can help you sort out these issues – people like local professors or clinical workers. It may not seem necessary to go to this trouble for a book that costs less than $20, but my view is that if you’re going to invest money and time in information it’s always wise to make sure your investment will pay off and not be a waste of effort. Self-help books are not just the money you spend, they’re also the time it takes you to read and the consequences you have by putting the information you acquire into practice.

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