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Dating Within Your “Circle”

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Online dating can seem a bit intimidating - meeting a complete stranger and seeing if you click. But what if the potential dates you meet are friends of friends, or people connected to you through a social network? Would that make a difference?

Circl.es is betting on it. This dating app uses Facebook to help you find other single friends of your friends - ones you might not necessarily run into in real life. (Especially if you prefer to spend time interacting with people online rather than in person.)

Even though they just launched in April, Circl.es is already steadily gaining active users. There is no "online dating profile" per se, or a long list of questions to answer before you see your matches, just your basic stats. When you join, you share the basics of what you're looking for - body type, age, etc. and you can scroll through its list of friends of friends in your vicinity. It pulls your basic Facebook information - like birthday, where you live, and general info and likes to match you. It's pretty simple, and it won't match you with your own friends so you don't have to explain that embarrassing situation.

A great feature: there is a disclaimer when you join, stating that Circl.es won't show up in your timeline, and that your information won't be shared with anyone who doesn't fit your criteria. Your information is kept pretty private, as long as you're willing to share some of your Facebook life with potential dates. But keep in mind there isn't the same privacy and anonymity you have with online dating sites.

With Circl.es, your Facebook information isn't visible unless you meet a few criteria, namely that you have a friend in common and that you match each other's basic criteria in a partner (including being single). So, it's not like you're disclosing your Facebook page to just anyone - but keep in mind, you're still putting your information out there for non-friends to see, so be sure to keep the full disclosures and drunken photos to a minimum. (See my previous articles on how to use Facebook as a dating tool for more information.)

Circl.es isn't the first dating app to utilize the vast network of Facebook, and probably won't be the last. I have to admit, social media lends itself to dating, if only because we are addicted to checking in with our friends and followers all day long - social media captures our attention and engages us, so why not find a date while we're updating our status?

DateHookup.com Purchased by Match.com Owners

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In a not too surprising move IAC announced last Friday that it has acquired the free dating site DateHookup.com. No financial terms of the agreement have been disclosed. IAC already owns such popular dating sites as Match.com, Chemistry.com and OkCupid. Datehookup.com was founded by Dustin Weirich in 2002 and has grown over the years to become the 6th most visited dating site on the internet. Every month DateHookup.com receives over 1 million unique visitors.

Over the past few years IAC has acquired a number of dating sites. Here are their most recent purchases:

Every year since 2009 IAC has bought a dating site. If the pattern holds true I wonder who they plan to purchase in 2013? I heard rumors a while ago that they may be interested in Cupid PLC since they are performing well in the European market. I have my doubts it will happen though, since Cupid PLC does operate some adult oriented dating services.

For more on the story you can read the IAC press release. To find out more about the dating sites involved you can read our Match.com review and DateHookup.com review.

eHarmony offers Free Communication this September Weekend (2012)

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eHarmony here in the United States and Canada is having a free communication event this weekend which starts Friday August 31, 2012. It will run for 4 days and end at 11:59 pm on Monday September 3, 2012.

Free communication weekends are for both new and existing eHarmony members. If you do not have a membership yet all you need to do is signup for the service. No credit card is required. Once you have become a member and completed the personality profile eHarmony will pre-screen your matches and only send you the profiles of members that have the greatest chance of creating a long-term relationship with you. Once you have selected the matches you like you can then communicate with these matches for free all weekend. Free communication weekends do not include photos, Secure Call (a phone service), or Skip to Email (via the guided communication process).

The last free communication weekend at eHarmony happen in July on the Independence Day holiday (see Story). By our count this will be the 41st free communication event at eHarmony.com.

To find out more about this popular matchmaking service and how it compares with others, you can check out our eHarmony review.

Match.com Leads Newest Trend In Online Dating: Offline Dating

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The latest trend in online dating may be one that surprises you: offline dating. Yep, that's right...online dating is going retro.

Match.com announced The Stir, the newest addition to its list of services, on its blog in May 2012. Stir events update the classic "singles night" for 21st century daters, with happy hours, cooking classes, wine tastings, bowling nights, dance lessons, and other opportunities to socialize with eligible singles. The guest list for each event is customized using Match's group matching algorithms in terms of age, gender, and interests to facilitate maximum compatibility between guests.

Match's decision to take dating back to its roots seems to have started a trend. "Several sites are bringing people together the old-fashioned way, with singles parties where people can crowd together at bars while consuming alcohol and flirting," says an article in The New York Times. The hope is that offline events will help daters identify compatibility more quickly, instead of wasting weeks or months corresponding online with someone who turns out to be completely wrong when you meet in person.

I'll admit it: at first I was a little confused. Why would I bother joining a dating site if I was going to end up meeting someone in a bar or restaurant anyway? Isn't the point of online dating that the fancy matching algorithms do all the hard work for me? Isn't the whole allure of online dating sites that the science behind their matching systems is supposed to be more accurate than your ability to judge compatibility?

The answer apparently lays somewhere in between the two extremes. Emily Clapp, who spoke about her experience attending an event organized by OkCupid to the New York Times, says that the site acts as a filter, increasing the odds that the other attendees are also single, looking for love, and not too creepy. But, she also adds, "it's a little more random than regular online dating."

Ok, I guess I can see the appeal. And it seems a lot of other people can, too. Match claims to have held a few hundred Stir events every month since May in more than 50 cities. OkCupid has organized about 100 events in New York since July and has plans to expand the service to San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, and a few other cities in October. Mobile services, like MeetMoi and Grindr, are based on apps that broadcast users' locations for on-the-spot dates or hookups. MeetMoi has also been hosting get-togethers to bring groups of users to the same place at the same time.

Is this the beginning of the end for matching algorithms? Are we giving up on the idea that personality tests and data can accurately predict compatibility? It looks like online dating is in for some big changes in the next couple of years...

For more information on the dating services offering offline events please read our Match.com review and our OkCupid review.

Understanding Facebook as a Dating Tool

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Let's face it, there's more than one way to meet other singles. And it usually involves social media.

Facebook has become a really popular way to check out potential dates. After all, it's convenient (how many times a day do you check it?), informative, and accessible. But social media has taken the mystery out of dating - it used to take a while to get to know someone's tastes and preferences, and now you have access to all that kind of information - provided she posts about it. There's no such thing as a blind date anymore if you do your research before meeting!

Because Facebook puts it all out there, you should be aware of your privacy settings and also what you're posting, even if it seems trivial to you. Potential dates could take a comment or photo the wrong way - like if you post pictures of yourself with your girlfriends getting drunk at a bar, or if you make sarcastic and flirty comments to some of your male friends' posts. Sure, it may seem like nothing to you - but to a total stranger, it might be enough to turn them off, or at least to question you.

Following are some ways people use Facebook for dating purposes - so be aware before you start friending your matches!

They see where you go. People use Facebook, Twitter, and Foursquare to announce where they're going or where they've been. Unfortunately, it might mean that your matches or potential dates know what you're up to even if you want to keep that more private.

They see what you really look like. Maybe you posted your four best photos on Match.com, but you get tagged on some not so classy ones in Facebook. Don't assume your dates won't find them. If there's something you don't want them seeing, untag yourself or delete it.

They see your friends. Sometimes potential dates will search through your friends to see who else they might find attractive or want to ask out. Harsh, but true. Others will look to see how many guy or girl friends you have, or how often they comment (if they get jealous or curious about you). Instead of friending your matches quickly, I would suggest waiting until you're dating each other before you give each other access to your Facebook pages, just to avoid misunderstandings.

Advice: Don't jump to conclusions. Many people post status updates about the cool things they're doing, but take it with a grain of salt. Many times people's status updates are a lot more exciting than their real lives, so don't make assumptions about how busy someone is or how popular. Get to know them face-to-face first.

To find out more about this social network and how it stacks up when used like a dating service you can read our Facebook review.

eHarmony Launches Bad Date Rescue App

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Everyone's either tried it or seen it on TV:

The date's not going the way you'd planned, so you quickly send a sneaky text to a friend begging them to rescue you. A few minutes later they ring your phone, you pretend it's an emergency that requires immediate attention, and you dash off before your disappointing date can register any objections.

It's a good plan, but what if you can't reach a friend in time to rescue you from certain dating disaster? Thanks to eHarmony, there's now an app for that. With the free iPhone app, aptly named "Bad Date Rescue," you can arrange for downhill dates to be interrupted by phone calls from fictional characters. You can even program the app to make it appear as though any of the contacts in your phone, accompanied by their photo, is calling you.

Bad Date Rescue will call at a pre-scheduled time or via an emergency prompt from you, then, using a pre-recorded message, pretends to be your mom, your boss, or a neighbor who needs your assistance asap. Your mother, who has a thick Dakota accent, needs a little help figuring out one of her more complicated technological gadgets. Your boss needs a hand in the office right away. Your British neighbor is calling to inform you that something catastrophic has happened to the plumbing in your house, and "it's running down my walls!"

If interacting with the pre-recorded message sounds like a stretch of your acting skills, eHarmony offers an alternative "Repeat after me" option. In case it wasn't clear by the name, the app tells you what to say and how to say it (e.g. "frantically"), then praises your expert delivery of the line (I guess that after school improv class back in high school really paid off!).

And just when you think the Bad Date Rescue app has become a kind, generous, and helpful new friend, the recording scolds you for making poor dating choices, lecturing you about how - if you'd used eHarmony in the first place - "you wouldn't be in this mess." Who do you think you are, Bad Dating App? You don't get to tell me what to do.

"eHarmony developed the Bad Date Rescue App as a fun and engaging way to help people get out of a bad date and into a good date," spokeswoman Whitney Standring-Trueblood said.

"Fun" it certainly is. Just be sure you don't crack up mid-call and totally blow your cover.

For more information on the dating site which brought you this app you can read our review of eHarmony.