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"In general, it is a great thing that exists."Reggie, a 20-something operations manager for a nonprofit organization - who, like all the dating app users we talked to, preferred to give only his first name and occupation as biographical details when talking about the subject - said he tends to keep online dating out of most in-person conversations.Most of his friends do the same."We don't want to put something that is supposed to be like a dating, personal ad into our real world," he says."But we're still not at the point where everyone is comfortable."Perhaps you heard that inquiry from a well-meaning aunt, cousin or yenta-of-some-relation over a recent holiday meal.* If your answer was, "no, but I'm looking," your phone is a good place to search.ONLINE DATING: More and more people are doing it, but no one wants to talk about it. A recent Pew study found that 11 percent of American adults have used online dating sites or mobile apps - a figure that was just 3 percent five years ago.

Still, there seems to be lingering judgment about using a smartphone to find someone to love."I think people don't like to admit that they are having trouble in their romantic life," said Eli Finkel, a social psychology professor at Northwestern University. It is totally normal to figure out who is compatible for you."Finkel, who with several colleagues published a critical analysis of online dating last year, has become a cheerleader of sorts for the practice.

"I think that delineation, that separation from online-date persona and in-person social situations, is a real thing."He also separates his online dating from his social-media activity.

It's a form of image management, like his adherence to the "mom rule": keeping an online presence that he wouldn't be embarrassed for his mother to see.

* To streamline your quest, we looked at some popular apps and rated them on these categories: whether its users are typically looking for a serious commitment, the time required to set up a profile, how long the "courtship" period lasts before users meet and the number of daily matches that are delivered. COFFEE MEETS BAGELThe ratings Users are looking for a rather committed relationship but don't want to fill out extensive questionnaires to find their perfect match.

Ben, also working at a nonprofit group, said the relative anonymity of dating websites, where only other members of the sites can see a fellow user's name and photo, is a benefit.He doesn't think we're at a place yet where potential bosses or girlfriends who might search his name on Google would be open-minded about seeing it tied to Tinder."More and more people are having those conversations," he said.

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