When people think of singles sites, they can usually think of only one purpose for them — online dating. As recently as five years ago, people who met and dated people from singles sites would not readily admit to knowing someone or ending up with someone they met from a website. Revealing they were a member of some singles sites might meet with incredulous looks and thoughts that one has to be desperate to want to meet people online. The idea of meeting people for the possibility of falling in love is a fairly new concept for many people and is only recently becoming more socially acceptable. What isn't usually considered is that meeting people on websites, whether for love or business, has the advantage of reaching a wider range of people than if one had to stick to real life transactions.
In fact, one thing that people tend to overlook when it comes to membership on singles sites is cultivating relationships other than love. The idea of making friends may be considered a waste of time for those who consider these sites as only good for dating — but it is a real concept for those who are open to the idea that not everyone they meet will be romantically compatible with them.
Ted from Massachusetts is in his mid-twenties and is fairly new to Catholic Match. One of the more gregarious and popular members of the forums, who is unafraid to ask thought-provoking questions, he joined over Valentine's Day after a breakup. It was the first time he had decided to become a paying member of a singles site and he said he did not expect anything when he first signed up. One thing that he has been happy about and thankful for is that being on 4marks allowed him to go back to his Catholic faith. According to him, perhaps it was God's will that he found Catholic Match. Even if he doesn't find anyone special (it's too early to tell, Ted!), he already thinks that the payback has been worth it.
Tracy, in her early thirties, hails from Illinois. A bubbly blonde who is addicted to chocolate (give her some kisses — the Hershey kind), Catholic Match is the only singles site that she has been a member of and has been here for four years. She wasn't as interested in the site until she found the forums, planned Catholic Match Chicago and the rest is engraved in the annals of Catholic Match.
When she first joined Catholic Match, she had the same expectations as Ted had: none. She came upon the site by accident and stayed with the hope of finding someone, although it wasn't her main focus as a member. In fact, she is seeing someone seriously at the moment — the person who responded to her very first post in the forums. However, she intends to continue being on Catholic Match for the very reason that a lot of Catholic Match members have — for the fellowship and support. Both she and Ted agree that you cannot put a price tag on the friendships that occur as a result of being members and being active on the forums.
When people meet in real life, they choose whether or not to continue communicating by striking up a friendship that goes beyond the initial meeting. Why can't the same thing happen online? After all, it is just another venue to meet like-minded people. Especially when the website has its own forums for people to have lively discussions about most topics under the sun.
Tracy says that she has experienced an abundance of blessings with the friends that she has made on Catholic Match. A seasoned event planner, she has planned events for Catholic Match members in the Chicago area and nationwide for around three years, with much success. In the course of participating in the forums, she started planning these events. She has made over 150 friends, many of whom she still communicates with today.
"I have been to many Catholic Match events and hope to continue as long as I can. Each and every event is different. I see my old friends and I meet new ones. I have stayed in daily contact with many. I have several times gone on vacation and met with other Catholic Matchers and stayed at their houses, gone to dinner with them and stayed up late at night eating chocolate and laughing…A lot of Catholic Matchers have met my daughter Emma Blue and my mother."
There have been times that she feels like Dr. Tracy, due to friends who call her when things get tough for them, but she wouldn't have it any other way. Tracy feels that talking about the Catholic religion and sharing prayers has helped foster these friendships.
Ted considers people he's met online on various sites as real as any of the friends that he has in real life. Even when he hasn't met them in person he still thinks of them as friends because he cares about them.
"I think one of the things I really like about the friends I've made on Catholic Match is the fellowship. People are generally a lot nicer here, and you always know you already have something in common. People are always willing and eager to help and offer up their advice when you need it. I don't think I have any regrets. Well, one. I wish I had found this site sooner! The most difficult thing? Not quite sure, I felt I was accepted into the community from Day One. The easiest thing is that people are really easy to talk to."
Tracy and Ted appreciate the many things that friendship and fellowship from Catholic Match have brought into their lives. Tracy already knows that when she has to move on and get married, she'll have a coterie of bridesmaids from the friends that she has made from the site. Both of them agree that interacting with others on the forums and through other methods such as email and phone calls have given a depth to their lives. Reading and communicating with other members on the forums gives a fresh perspective to matters on friendship, faith and love.
To close oneself to the possibility of making friends from singles sites means closing an avenue available towards the development of invaluable friendships — perhaps even potential romance. If love indeed is the purpose, friendship can definitely lead to it. As a famous quote goes, love is friendship set on fire.