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Make a match online

For Stacey Noppen, the online dating experience has been both good and bad. While she's met men she says she just isn't compatible with, she has also met a few matches.

"I met my ex-boyfriend [online]. We met on Plenty of Fish and dated for nine months," she says. "Down the road, we found that we didn't have enough in common to keep it going, so it ended."

With the days of the personal ad long gone, online dating has become the norm. Though Noppen didn't share any horror stories or fairytale endings, diving into the world of e-dating can be intimidating.

"I chose [Plenty of Fish] because it was free," says Noppen. "I know the best selection is probably on other websites," but she says she'd rather hold onto her cash than spend it on one of the countless dating websites promising love.

Whether you're looking for a spring fling or are hoping for a long-term relationship, there are plenty of websites to help. Read on for a brief rundown of four popular online dating services that may help you find a match.

Lavalife, whose cutesy slogan is "Where singles click," allows singles to search for potential dates or partners from within their database of members once you join and upload a profile.

Kim Hughes, a writer and editor at the website, says users have the flexibility to go after exactly what they want. "We offer three separate and distinct communities," she says. "Dating, relationship, and intimate encounters allow our members to laser focus their searches according to what they're seeking."

With this feature, users can browse based on languages spoken, ethnicity, religion, or other criteria that are more in-depth than many other websites.

The website, which also offers instant messaging, is free to browse and those interested can use limited services for free. A subscription costs $19.99 per month, or $9.99 monthly with a six-month commitment.

Self-identifying as "The #1 Most Trusted Dating Site," eHarmony uses a lengthy questionnaire to assess members. From this, a short list of potential dates is generated based on its in-depth questions and on how high you rate the importance of your matches' answers.

Without the option to browse outside the list, eHarmony bases matches on compatibility -- not what you say you're looking for -- using the questionnaire to get at your values and core personality.

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-- Posted March 16, 2012
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