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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.

Online Niche Dating Sites

Quick Access:
Niche Dating Services Conversation

Recently I was privileged to do an interview with Canada’s national newspaper, The Globe and Mail about niche dating sites – particularly ones that cater to environmentally-conscious individuals such as Green Friendsand Green Singles. These are very timely niche dating sites considering all the media attention around global warming, energy crises and the search for alternative fuels. However, the reporter’s questions are relevant to any niche site. Below is the conversation we had. I’d love to hear from online daters who’ve tried both large online dating sites and niche dating sites. I’m eager to hear if your success differed between the two types of sites and in what way – please email me your story today!

Do you see niche online dating (such as green sites) a growing trend?

Yes, niche dating sites are a huge trend now because many online daters are tired of being “lost in the crowd” of large mega sites like and Yahoo Personals. Also, users are smart in that they’re becoming better at knowing what they want and need in a partner, and they’re turning to sites that cater to their “must haves.”

One of the problems that comes up with online dating is that people often turn out to be not quite as advertised. Do you feel this would be even more true of online dating where the participants are narrowing their search to those who (supposedly) live as ethically as they do? (i.e., someone deeply committed to the environment versus someone who simply likes the outdoors, etc)

“Little white lies” and distortions in personal profiles is a problem – just like these behaviors are a problem in traditional dating as well. But, social science has revealed that most of the time people are very honest online with others due to the natural anonymity it offers. In fact, people can disclose too much too quickly, and subsequently develop attachments too fast (and perhaps rush into relationships). You can read more about the potential and the pitfalls of online attachments here.

There’s no reliable data on the rates of “dater exaggeration” for niche dating sites versus non-niche sites, but my own research suggests it is likely lower for niche sites. Niche sites are relatively more difficult to find than the general, well-advertised mega sites. Therefore, membership on niche sites typically grows virally (i.e., word-of-mouth) and usually yields high quality leads. Membership on major sites usually grows via ad campaigns (online and offline), so it’s more like people bowing to social pressures or simply following the crowd. People on niche sites usually have a strong understanding of what they want in a relationship. Therefore, these people tend to be contientious individuals who are often what how they represent themselves to be. Everyone should always be cautious of others online (and at any online dating sites), but people have told me that there seems to be less exaggeration on sites that cater to special interests. If you have a similar view or a completely different one, please email me your story.

Online dating has a fairly high success rate. Is this also true for more specialized online dating scenarios?

There’s actually no good data on the true success rates on online dating sites; please see my new editorial on this issue by clicking here. However, social scientists have long known that it takes both similarities and complementarities (differences that add balance) between two people to sustain a satisfying and stable relationship. The factors couples on which tend to be similar include general values, education level, intellectual ability and energy levels. Niche dating sites are usually very effective at catering to these areas of similarity – thereby giving members a built-in, common foundation that helps builds healthy and lively connections between people (much more so than the mega sites). Thus, it is more likely that people with strong “must haves” related to the theme of the niche site (e.g., “I must find a partner who respects the environment as much as I do…”) will find someone that fits that ideal than the person would have found at mega sites. So in that sense, yes, niche dating sites load the dice a bit more for some people. They already offer success in the sense that they provide a community of like-minded individuals – and finding a pool of suitable dating partners is half of the success equation at any site.

Related Links:
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