“Our real-life and online identities are more and more interwoven.” Because of this cultural shift, online dating sites now have unprecedented reach into our lives. Reams have been written about online dating, but as far as we know, no one has put the sites to the test.

They are gatekeepers to a massive population of potential partners; they control who we meet and how. So Consumer Reports decided to survey almost 115,000 subscribers about online dating and their experiences with it.

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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.

“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.

“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.

According to a 2015 study by the Pew Research Center, 15 percent of American adults have used online dating sites (web-based platforms like Match.com) and/or dating apps (location-based smartphone apps like Tinder).

Participation by those 18 to 24 has almost tripled since 2013, and boomer enrollment has doubled.

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.

Online dating is different from shopping for, say, a sweater, he explains: “Once you decide on the sweater you want, you can get it.