Some time ago there was a widely held view that free social networking sites like Facebook would seriously damage the online dating industry, or even destroy it completely. But these predictions turned out to be false. Globally, online dating sites continue to be hugely popular. In Australia in particular they are in a real boom period. The dating industry down under expanded by five percent in 2009. Growth in 2010 will probably be twice that rate.So why didn’t social networking have the predicted effect?The most likely reason is that people generally prefer to keep their social lives separate from their sex lives. Certainly, offline, singles have long been meeting prospective partners through friends but it’s usually a quite relaxed and subtle process that takes a while. Social networking offers an online version of this gradual, gentle process.But if you are time poor, and determined to meet someone suitable quickly and discreetly, then a dating site – particularly one catering to a particular niche – is much more suitable. You can quickly find others who have similar relationship needs to yourself, and who live in fairly lose proximity. And if you do get involved with someone and it turns sour your friends won’t know about it. This is a real advantage because when a relationship that has developed through social connections falls apart this becomes gossip fodder, which is acutely embarrassing to those involved. The situation can become even more painful if friends take sides with the hostile or warring ex-partners.Another advantage of not using social networking sites for dating purposes – particularly if you are seeking something casual or even kinky! – is that you then don’t put your career in jeopardy. In assessing present or potential staff members corporations often search Facebook for clues as to their character, after all. There are many stories of Facebook users’ all too revealing photos and profile content resulting in sackings by corporations worried about how these reflect on their reputation.While dating sites still present a risk to the user in this regard, it’s far reduced. Even if a user posts revealing photos on an adult dating site they are still hiding their identity, and cannot be found through a name search. Consequently employers are far less likely to investigate these sites. And while they may come to learn of an employee’s embarrassing profile indirectly, this is extremely unlikely.