'Tis The Season For Online Dating

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2012 is upon us, and so is an annual rush to join online dating sites in the new year.

It's known as the Holiday Effect - the 15 to 20 percent increase in online daters from December to February. Every year online dating sites experience a surge in membership over the holiday season, as singles who didn't have someone to kiss under the mistletoe or at midnight on New Year's Eve turn to the Internet for a fresh start in the new year.

There are a number of reasons that January has become such a busy month for online dating. New Years resolutions are on everyone's mind, focusing many people's attention on improving their current relationships or finding a partner if they're single. The idea of making a fresh start for the new year is also a strong motivator that draws traffic to online dating sites, as is the pressure from family and friends to settle down that singles often experience during the holidays.

"There is also the anticipated Valentines Day event which many single people dread more than any other day of the year," says Penny Russell, a spokesperson for a single parent dating site, "and this often spurs them into action and a determination to seek out a new partner before that day arrives."

Doree Lewak, author of The Panic Years: A Guide to Surviving Smug Married Friends, Bad Taffeta and Life on the Wrong Side of 25 Without a Ring, believes that the pressure to be attached during this time of year is especially strong on women. "Women still feel huge pressure around the holidays," she told USA Today, "and certainly exacerbated by New Year's - to have a date. I don't think that moment has passed."

Dating sites all across the Web experience the Holiday Effect from both men and women, from Match.com who say that their busiest season is December 26 to February 14, to PlentyOfFish.com who report a 15% spike in sign ups and a 20% increase in activity from current users during that period.

And it's not just the dating sites themselves that benefit from the Holiday Effect. As more and more members join the sites, the pool of potential dates increases dramatically, improving everyone's chance of finding love in the new year. Many dating sites respond to this trend by offering special rates around the holiday season, so if you're in the market for a membership take advantage of their holiday gift and start the new year off right.

If you are interested in finding a service to join this year, you should take a look at our list of reviewed dating sites or try our dating site search tool.