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Finding the Right Match With Online Dating

Ten or 15 years ago, online dating was too new to be socially acceptable. Now, many people search for a partner online. Online dating is different from traditional dating where two people learn about each other in person.

With online dating, people learn a lot about a possible partner before even meeting them. We spoke with Mario, who had recently moved to the city of Baltimore, Maryland. His friends paid for him to use an online dating site. He thought he knew just what he was looking for: Someone who was not American, not a scientist or Latin. He found someone the complete opposite. "Opposites attract" is a popular saying. But online dating companies do not think so. They say the more alike two people are, the more likely they are to have a relationship that lasts.

One of the largest online dating sites is eHarmony. It asks people to first answer more than four hundred questions. A secret mathematical algorithm then uses the answers to match people. An algorithm is a step-by-step process for solving a problem.

Gian Gonzaga is the director of research and development at eHarmony. He told us two people do not have to be similar in everything. It is only those things that are most important to them.

Makon Fardis is a clinical psychologist who works with couples. He does not believe in using mathematical algorithms to match people. He notes that only seven percent of people tell the truth when describing themselves. He says even if we do not decide to lie or mislead, the way we see ourselves is different from who we really are. He says there are many examples of couples that seem like they would be compatible, but are not, when they meet.

Remember Mario? A woman named Tamara was his online match. She had some worries about online dating. But she kept an open mind. She told us: "You just meet a lot of people" you would not meet normally. And "if you didn't have a connection," you move on.

At first, Mario worried that Tamara was too similar to him. But he suggested they meet for coffee. He told us, she ordered a drink, then another drink. Then she said, let's order something to eat.

Tamara added: "It was very natural." We talked and it was five hours later that we had dinner." That was a year ago. Last month, they got married.

For VOA Special English, I'm Laurel Bowman. (Adapted from a radio program broadcast 20Aug2012)