As you may have gathered from the previous three chapters, the Internet offers all sorts of ways to make contact with people. Email, chat rooms, and discussion boards all facilitate connections in the virtual world. But some folks want more than electronic pen pals—and that's where social networking sites come in.
Some are dating sites, which combine the old tradition of personal ads with some of the Internet's great strengths: the ability to post pictures, search for whatever you're looking for, and do it all whenever the mood strikes. Others are business networking sites, where professionals can get to know each other, share job tips and consultant contacts, and discuss business matters. Last, but not least, are the personal-profile sites, where people (mostly young ones) create highly personal autobiographical sites and link to their friends' sites, creating massive (and massively addictive) catacombs of people and their quirks.
Millions of people use social sites every month. Some are just interested in making new friends, but the vast majority are looking for dates. Some people love the convenience and directness of online dating, where you can search exclusively for partners who share your interests. Others may find it a bit too conquest-oriented—too much like catalog shopping.
Either way, all the sites work pretty much the same way. You sign up for an account, create a profile that describes you and what you like, ...