Online dating can feel overwhelming, and the same can be said of real-life dating. The sheer number of dating apps and users can make simply swiping seem like a daunting task.
In fact, the online dating audience is expected to grow from 33.9 million users to 37.5 million users by 2023, according to Statista. Also, by 2040, some predict that 70 percent of couples will have met online.
You can make that world feel smaller, though—you just have to find the right app. And with the market still exploding, you can find dating apps so niche they’ll pair you up based on your unique interests. But if you’re looking to make a broader connection, here’s where to start.
Match is one of the most popular online dating apps according to PCMag’s survey. As one of the OG dating services (it’s moved from website-only to a website and app), Match has a specific appeal to those between 45 and 65; additional research by SurveyMonkey found that 58 percent of adults 45-54 years old use Match, more than double the percent who use Tinder. You can download it for free, although that will restrict you to browsing; if you want to actually message potential partners, subscriptions start at $21.99 a month.
Tinder may have brought on “hookup culture,” but it’s still one of the top dating apps in the U.S. It has 8.54 million users, the most of any other dating app surveyed by Statista. That means you have a pretty solid chance of eventually matching with someone who piques your interest—even if it takes a lot of left-swiping to get there. The app is free, but you can access premium features starting at $14.49 a month.
Bumble set itself apart from all the other dating services crowding the app store by requiring women to make the first move once a match is made. You also only get 24 hours to send a message, unless you invest in a Boost membership, which starts at $11.99 a month. Women love the app because it cuts down on the number of unsolicited messages, and men love it—in fact, 58 percent of the respondents who preferred Bumble in PCMag’s survey were guys—because it takes some of the pressure off initiating.
After filling in the app’s questionnaire and prompts (think standard icebreakers like: “my biggest pet peeve is…” and “my go-to karaoke song is…”), Hinge will start matching you with users who share common interests. The algorithm also serves you with your “Most Compatible” matches—who you’re eight times more likely to go out with, they say. And not only does the app show you how many people have liked you, it also tells you what they liked about you, making it easy to start a conversation.
At this point, eHarmony is a household name. It’s Match’s biggest competitor, and it’s two largest age groups are 30- to 44-year-olds and 55- to 64-year-olds. The sign-up process—which includes a very detailed, 150-question questionnaire—is a slog, but the brand once claimed to be responsible for creating 4% of marriages in the U.S. and guarantees that if you’re not satisfied in three months, they’ll give you another three months free.