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.

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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.

But the responses from the more active group suggest they’re highly frustrated.

They gave online dating sites the lowest satisfaction scores Consumer Reports has ever seen for services rendered—lower even than for tech-support providers, notoriously poor performers in our ratings. Well, finding a mate can be arduous and exhausting.

“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.

“It was—unbelievably—not a crazy experience.” Online dating has certainly lost its lonely-hearts stigma.

Just look at how many people seeking dates or mates are flocking to matchmaking sites and apps.

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.

You can find the right person more effectively by choosing the right site, which means determining the demographics it caters to and figuring out whether a large or niche site will best serve your needs.