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There’s a whole range of difficult human emotions to contend with: insecurity, disappointment, rejection, maybe heartache. “Sometimes there is nothing that clicks whatsoever,” says Julien Nguyen, a 30-year-old software designer from Austin, Texas, who has used Bumble and Tinder.“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.You can do almost anything online these days: Check a bank balance, buy shoes, choose a mattress, order a cab.So when Roberta Caploe was ready to start dating again after a divorce, she didn’t ask her friends to fix her up or feel the need to frequent bars or health clubs.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.
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.Our survey included many people who at some point had used a dating website or an app, as well as a subset of 9,600 respondents who used them in the past two years.The more recently active group rated specific sites. On the one hand, the numbers indicate that these sites are helping people find mates.Many dating sites rely on matchmaking algorithms the same way that Netflix uses them to recommend movies.So if you live in the Denver area, you’re a single heterosexual man in his 50s who loves to travel, and you don’t believe in astrology, your matches may reflect women who have similar interests.