A guy friend told me last month that despite his ability to meet women when he’s out, he has several online dating profiles. He, like some of my other friends, suggested I set up an account on Match.com or its equivalent now that I’ve reentered the dating scene after several years.

When I gave him the same line I’d given other people—“I don’t think I need to”—he said, quite matter-of-factly, “Everybody needs to. It’s just how things are going to be now.”

Statistics show that the recession (and the fading stigma of meeting people over the computer) is upping the number of men and women visiting online dating sites – last winter, Match.com had its strongest fourth quarter in the last seven years. If things keep going at that rate, maybe my guy pal is onto something. It got me thinking: is online dating going to soon be a requirement if you want to date at all?

Opinions vary. Monique Scott, 23, from San Francisco, says she set up some profiles to get reacquainted with the dating game after a breakup and avoid wasting time on the wrong guys.

“When I did go out and meet guys with friends, they just weren’t for me,” said Scott, who writes about her exploits for the blog BitchBuzz. “They weren’t mature enough, or they lived too far away, or they were too short, or they were douche-bags, or they were way too full of themselves, or they weren’t in a place to pursue something serious.”

Scott also thought going online could stretch her dating pool beyond her social and work circles. But Rachel from San Diego likes fishing in that pool. She’s met guys in every place from a GMAT class to a cocktail party with her mom. She’s turned off by the promise of an insta-soul mate some dating sites seem to offer and says it’s easy to meet men—if you put yourself out there and create opportunities for them to approach you.

“Personally, I think it’s more low pressure to meet people in person,” she said. “I’m much wittier online, and I think pretty much everyone else is too, so I would hate to think I had a great banter with someone and then hear awkward cricket chirps on our date.”

Are women like Rachel a dying breed? Not necessarily, says Terri Sloane, a dating coach in New York. While she thinks online dating sites are going to increase in number and in specificity (like a site for Trekkies only), she also feels the recent emphasis in our society on returning to a simpler, cheaper lifestyle is going to transfer to dating.

“Everything in the world is going green, more natural and more pure,” she said. “The one-on-one connection would be more natural. That still is the most common.”

What do you think: Will online dating replace regular dating or will the traditional method always have its place? Do you prefer one or the other or both? Or is online dating just a waste of time?

Source: Fritsky [Frisky]