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“Those are among the most popular dating sites in the world, and when you’re fishing, it just makes sense to drop your line in the most crowded ponds.” That’s generally true unless you have a particular guiding factor, such as religion, race, or politics, in which case you can go to a niche site like JDate or Black People Meet.

Kate, the government analyst, has started using Tastebuds, a site based on music preferences.

Perhaps that’s why, among those who said they had used multiple dating sites, 28 percent had tried four or more.

But our research also found that online dating, however painful and time-consuming, often does produce the intended result if you use it well—and persevere.

And we found that the free sites generally did marginally better than the paid ones, presumably because they offer a better value.

“You’re generally going to be best off starting your search on the ‘Big 3’: Match.com, Ok Cupid, and Plenty of Fish,” says Scott Valdez, founder of Virtual Dating Assistants, which helps people write their profiles and then manages their accounts.

She signed up for JDate, an online dating site for Jewish singles.

“Sometimes whatever chemistry we had just fizzles out.”Perhaps being in the market for a mate can’t be compared with using other services. D., a professor at the Harvard Business School who studies consumer behavior, thinks so.“I was on a date with a guy who turned out to be a convicted felon.Another guy claimed to be 38 but was at least 60,” says Kate, a 33-year-old government analyst from Washington, D. “Sometimes I will go on a date to see how bad it’s going to be.” The fact is that online dating is, well, complicated.In fact, people over 50 are one of the fastest growing segments.“It’s a product of the growing normalcy of using social media apps,” says Moira Weigel, author of “Labor of Love: The Invention of Online Dating” (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2016).

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