It was the constant back-and-forth via email that began to really drive me crazy. It didn’t matter what online dating site I was on. I felt like I kept ending up in a rabbit hole of noncommittal emails asking me endless questions about things that didn’t matter. And I was paying to participate in this torture!

Meanwhile, my friends made online dating look easy. They were meeting people — sometimes a lot of freaks, but still. At least they were meeting people from time to time. Not me! And it was hurting my morale.

Talk about a bad omen for dating. Each month, I would watch as my bank account diminished by a hefty sum withdrawn by the dating site. As a busy working woman, I wondered if I was really getting what I was paying for out of my subscriptions. Were they worth it? What exactly does “worth it” even mean, anyway?

A Word From the Professionals

Kevin Darné, author of My Cat Won’t Bark! (A Relationship Epiphany), believes that subscriptions to some of these apps can help people achieve their individual goals. Whether or not they’re worth your time depends on what you’re looking for.

“Essentially, anyone who ends up actually meeting a new person has succeeded in using a dating app,” Darné says.

“The paid subscription is the equivalent of paying a cover charge to get into a nightclub. It is up to the individual to choose or screen which people they want to engage with based upon their own criteria.”

Darné believes, in essence, that whether you’re approaching a dating app with the goal of finding a serious relationship or looking for a stream of warm bodies, a paid subscription can save you some time and help you be more selective.

Scott Valdez, a spokesperson for Virtual Dating Assistants (ViDA), is inclined to agree with Darné. “Premium subscriptions make it easier to find higher quality matches,” he says. “Bumble Boost unlocks all the dating filters, so you can screen for deal breakers and only message the singles you’re truly interested in meeting.”

He adds that, “Upgrading also saves you time, which can make you feel more satisfied overall. Perks like Tinder Boost get your profile in front of more eyes, and the ability to change your location makes it easier to line up dates in cities you’re about to visit.”

A Series of Bad Online Dating Experiences

Not entirely sure of whether I wanted a serious relationship or a warm pillow, I decided to give the realm of paid online dating a stab. What could it hurt?

OKCupid

The first site I tried was OKCupid, which had a decent free system of profile accessibility. I could look at profiles easily and contact people without a lot of hassle. But I found that the folks who contacted me were extra freaky.

I realized that to connect with more suitable matches, I would have to pay around $9.99 a month. Even so, I opted out, having been thoroughly weirded out by the first lot of them.

Match.com

Then I moved on to Match.com. Though I signed up during a “free” weekend, it really wasn’t all that free. Yes, you could look at profiles for free, but you had a limited number of connections that you could make. If I wanted to really check out a person’s profile, it was time to pay up. So I did.

Again, I found myself on a merry-go-round, with guys constantly circling till they found their perfect match. More often than not, it wasn’t me.

I started small with a three-month subscription and that cost me around $27 a month for a total of $81. I will say that I did go out on a couple of dates, but the money that I spent just didn’t feel worth it.

eHarmony

In a final attempt, I signed up for eHarmony. In my opinion, eHarmony is for people who are truly committed to the process of meeting someone with long-term intentions. When you use the site, you go through a serious process of “communicating” with your future dates prior to meeting them.

I signed up for a six-month membership (more than once) and spent at least $40 a month ($240 over the course of the six months) for dates with some of the most awkward dudes I’ve ever met.

A Big Industry 

A lot more people pay for subscription dating and matchmaking services than you might think. Revenue in the online dating segment is projected to reach $1.221 million in 2019 and is expected to grow another 4.3 percent by 2023, according to Statista. That’s a big market.

In 2017, Tinder launched to the top of the app stores charts just one day after introducing its Tinder Gold service.

In fact, dating apps make up one-third of the top 15 apps in the Apple App Store, alongside music and streaming apps, according to App Annie, a provider of app market data. Of course, most dating apps have a free version, but if you’re thinking of taking a dive and dropping some money on one, here’s what the costs look like:

Tinder Plus, $9.99/month, or $19.99/month for users over age 30

Unlimited swipes, “rewind” (ability to go back if you’ve accidentally swiped left on someone), five Super Likes per day (alerts free users they’ve been liked).

Tinder Gold, $4.99/month on top of the cost for Tinder Plus

Everything that comes with Tinder Plus, and the ability to see who has “liked” you.

Bumble Boost, $24.99/month

See who has right-swiped you, extend matches by 24 hours, and rematch with expired connections.

OkCupid A-list, $9.99/month

No ads, see who likes you first, extra search options, see who has “read” your messages.

Grindr Xtra, $11.99/month

View up to 600 profiles, no ads, extra filters and search options, read receipts, discreet app icon. (P.S. For those of you living under a rock, Grindr was made with the gay community in mind.)

 

Giving Up on Online Dating

Personally, after a while, I felt that the time I spent at the computer, the investment in a cute outfit for the occasional date, and the cost for my half of the dinner (some wanted to go dutch on the meal) just wasn’t worth the struggle.

I stopped paying for online dating because, in its real sense, I wasn’t dating.

When I removed my online dating profiles, I decided to commit to participating in activities (many of them free) that I enjoyed. I exercised with the November Project (free) and shared great sweaty hugs at the end of each workout.

I started going to various Meetups (hiking, happy hours, liquor tastings) — all free. In the process, I regained my confidence, started to meet people, and began properly dating.

Meeting people offline has been suspiciously easy. Perhaps we’ve made meeting people too complicated. If online dating didn’t work for you, don’t despair — you’ll be able to meet people in real life for free. Just do the things that you enjoy and connect with people who have similar interests.

If you have a hectic work or family life and feel you need an app or service to meet new people, absolutely use them as much as you’d like. But as experts recommend, approach online dating with a clear idea of what you want, and be upfront about it from the start.

Additional reporting by Jazmin Rosa.