I’ll admit it: I’m no stranger to online dating. 100% of my long-term serious relationships have been a result of connecting via either social networks or online dating before meeting in person first (which seems about right considering my career of choice). Though it was a bit difficult to explain how these relationships first developed several years ago, online dating has become quite the norm; it’s hard to avoid hearing or seeing a commercial or advertisement for sites like eHarmony or Match.com either on television, the radio, or while browsing the Web.

Of course, as online dating has become mainstream, so has social networking. In a recent white paper published by Courtland Brooks, What is Social Dating? there are currently over 1500 online dating sites in the United States alone with roughly 25 million unique visitors per month. At the same time, Facebook now has almost one billion users.

At the intersection of these two unique services are sites that are referred to as social dating, which includes sites like Zoosk, Badoo, Are You Interested, theComplete.me, Twoo, Mamboo, and Jazzed. According to the white paper by Courtland Brooks, these sites are “effectively harnessing the social graphs of visitors while providing the engaging and rewarding experience” social network users who are looking for a date want.

Is Social Dating the Hot New Way to Find Your Next Hot Date?In the paper, Courtland Brooks adds that “Social dating is more than simply having Facebook Connect as a registration and log in option on a dating site. It entails creating a social experience that allows users the freedom to discover and create any type of relationship they desire at any given time without a serious time commitment.” The study explains that there are four key advantages to using social dating, such as the sites mentioned above, which integrate your social network — such as Facebook — with the functions of traditional dating sites (such as eHarmony). These include the ideas that:

      • Relationships can be vetted by trusted friends and family.
      • Users have the option to pursue any type of relationship.
      • There is a low barrier to entry.
      • Utilizing the extensive interactive content and games available on social networks provides excellent ice breaking and engagement for newly found friendships and potential relationships.
      • Social dating translates well in the mobile segment.

This last point is perhaps the most important, as Courtland Brooks points out that “mobile platforms are highly prolific in the form of smartphones, tablets, and other mobile devices,” and as Twoo, Zoosk, Badoo, AreYouInterested, Mamboo, and Jazzed all offer iOS apps, it is incredibly easy to use social dating sites to not only find a person to date that in the way you want and who you can trust, but using a platform that suits your busy lifestyle.

Of course, there has been other recent reports that the success of using any online dating may not be any more likely than the success of looking for (and finding) a date offline. In an article published this past week in the New York Times, Dr. Eli Finkel and Co. refuted the science behind some matchmaking sites, such as eHarmony, explaining that in an study to be released later this month they found these sites failed to take into account “things like communication patterns, problem-solving tendencies and sexual compatibility.”

Additionally, online dating sties failed to recognized “the environment surrounding the relationship: factors like job loss, financial strain, infertility and illness.”

The ultimate conclusion of Dr. Eli Finkel and Co. was that “None of [their study] suggests that online dating is any worse a method of meeting potential romantic partners than meeting in a bar or on the subway. But it’s no better either.”

However, many LockerGnome readers and community members are apt to disagree.

On Facebook, Shane Hamilton says, “[I] met my wife on ChristianMingle [and] we have been married for three years.” Similarly, Richard Scott Taylor says, “I met my wife on Yelp… made the Atlantic Monthly because it was so interesting, apparently.” And over on Google+, Skyler Forshage explained how he met the love of his life using the mobile social dating, Dating DNA:

I had been through quite a few traditional relationships before I succumbed to online dating. One day I was playing with my iPod touch and looking at apps and found an app called Dating DNA claiming to be the first free online compatibility dating site on iOS. I said “why the hell not?” It was free; I might as well try it out. After not having much success I received an email about a year later (I forgot I still had an active account) from someone that met my compatibility threshold surprisingly well. We talked over the course of a year, finally met, fell in love, and now we live together and are planning to get married. To this day we are both astounded that a hardly well-known free dating site matched us up perfectly. I couldn’t be happier. I think the amount of care that went into the compatibility testing really helped and, although it took a while, I found my perfect match on the first try!

Personally, I’m three for three on finding successful, long term relationships using online dating, and with stories like Skyler’s, I’m inclined to believe that not only is online dating at least as potentially likely to help you find your next relationship as meeting someone in a bar, but that the emergence of social dating could prove that you may actually be more likely to find true love online than the offline alternative.

What do you think? Have you — or would you — consider finding your next relationship using an online dating service? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.