Ways to Meet People Online

Man and woman having a lunch date at a restaurant.
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One of the most popular activities online is finding people to communicate with. We all crave relationships and human connection, and the web has made this possible for more people all over the world than at any other time in history. So how do you meet people online?

Many people prefer sites that connect them with other people who hold similar interests. Simply searching for "meet people online" will bring you back more results than you could possibly deal with — and with no limits on such a search, many who simply don't fit your criteria.

Knowing which websites are reputable, which are legitimate, and which are just out to take your hard-earned money can be difficult. Here is a collection of websites that deliver a consistently balanced experience for the searcher who's looking for deeper connections with like-minded people. At the time of publication, all of these sites offered free membership and/or usage of their services. Note: Because these sites are free, they are supported by ads, and not all of these ads are considered family-friendly. Please use caution when visiting and using these sites' services. 

Plenty of Fish

PlentyofFish is a completely free online dating site; it's also one of the largest free online dating sites on the web. Once you register, you can find people in your area, of your age, or of your affiliation (or all of these). At the time of this writing, more than three million registered users make it one of the largest dating sites on the web today. More people use this site than any other.

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OkCupid is a free online dating site with a bit of a twist: Your profile is matched up with others via a personality testing process. OkCupid uses algorithms to match people up to others who are well-suited; these services are completely free, but OKCupid does offer special perks for those who are willing pay a bit extra. Most people find that the free services suit their needs just fine.

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Screenshot of the Zoosk website.

Zoosk is a free online dating site that gives you the ability to have live video and voice speed sessions via computer and webcam; it's a great way to meet people quickly and easily. While Zoosk is mostly about getting people to meet other people, its employees also spend time in charitable giving: "Zoosk is committed to giving back to our communities both personally and financially. We regularly donate our time at Glide Memorial, at local arts groups and animal shelters, and are always looking for new ways to contribute." If you're looking for a dating site with a heart, this is one to check out. 

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Meetup.com isn't technically a dating site, but it's a fantastic way to find people who are interested in the same things you are, from mountain climbing to book-of-the-month clubs and everything in between. There are groups gathering in your area for virtually any interest you can think of, and many friendships and relationships spring out of these casual gatherings.

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Craigslist isn't strictly a dating site, but you can find personal ads from people all over the world who are looking for friendly interaction or deeper relationships. Simply find your geographic area, and then look in the section marked "Personals." Many people have found this to be a great way to people in their area who are interested in similar hobbies, groups, etc. 

Do keep in mind that, unlike the other sites listed here, there is not even a minimum of vetting to ensure that the person whose ad you are looking at is a good match. In addition, ads can be NSFW (not safe for work), so browse at your own risk. Use common sense and safety protocols when deciding whether to reply to an ad. If you decide to meet, be sure it's in a public, well-lit place with lots of people around, and avoid disclosing personal information such as your address before you know the person better. In fact, this is good advice to follow when using any such site.