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In addition to the sheer number of people you can meet, many sites provide an avenue for meeting like-minded people. Unlike other social venues, on an online dating site, you can be fairly certain that everyone you meet is single and looking.
However, online dating sites offer people access to a vast number of potential matches, each of whom are likely to vary across an array of physical and personality characteristics.
Further, the potential dates are presented more or less simultaneously.
There are dating sites devoted to particular religious groups, like Christian Mingle or JDate, for example, as well as sites that cater to gay and lesbian daters. This removes a lot of the ambiguity that you face when you meet an interesting person at a work event or a party. Because of the ease and relative anonymity of online dating sites, we may take more risk reaching out to people we would not approach in person.
And even though men generally contact women more than vice versa on these sites, research has shown that a sizable minority of women do reach out to men they find desirable online, suggesting that these sites allow some women to overcome traditional gender norms that cast them in a passive role of waiting to be approached (Scharlott & Christ, 1995). Shy or socially anxious individuals often have difficulty forming and maintaining close relationships (Alden & Taylor, 2004; Davila & Beck, 2002).