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How to choose the best dating app for you

There are so many dating apps to choose from, how do you know which one to use? Here's a quick and dirty guide to the most popular ones.

James Martin/CNET

This is part of CNET's #adulting series of stories to help you figure out how to live, work and play now that you're all grown up. 

"There are plenty of fish in the sea."

The age-old saying traditionally applies to dating, but it can also apply to dating apps.

With so many dating sites and apps available today, where does one even start?

Here's a short list of the most popular dating apps you can download. While some are just apps, a few also have desktop sites you can log into on your computer -- and there's no shame in using more than one service at a time. If you ever get overwhelmed, or eventually find The One, most let you deactivate or delete your profile. 

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Zoosk, OkCupid and Match.com have many members, which can be overwhelming for some.

Josh Miller/CNET

Oldies, but goodies: OkCupid, Match and Zoosk

These dating apps are the equivalent to a pair of khakis from The Gap; there's absolutely nothing wrong with them, they're just overwhelmingly bland compared to what else is out there.

OkCupid, Match and Zoosk are standard fare for traditional dating websites. You can write lengthy paragraphs about your interests, hopes, dreams, fantasy football team or whatever and upload multiple photos. Each has millions of members and full-fledged apps you can download on iOS and Android.

What all the kids are using these days: Tinder

Tinder's the biggest thing to shake up online dating since "You Got Mail." It damn near invented the idea of right-swiping for "yes" and has evolved from its original "hookups-only" origin to a more standard dating app.

Tinder puts your pics front and center, and gives you a small space for writing an elevator pitch about yourself. If you're uncomfortable being primarily judged by your photos, you're better off with a more traditional site like the ones listed above, where you can impress your future suitor with more details in a meatier written profile.

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Faith-based dating apps are very common.

Josh Miller/CNET

If religion is most important: CDate, JSwipe and Minder

Religion and faith are driving forces for many people, resulting in the desire to date someone who shares those beliefs, too. Some of the most popular religion-centered apps are CDate (iOS) for Christians, JSwipe (iOS and Android) for those of Jewish faith and Minder (iOS) for Muslims. All require you to log into your Facebook account, however none share your dating details on the social network.

For the easily overwhelmed: Coffee Meets Bagel

Swiping through a sea of faces can be exhausting and paralyze you with indecision. Coffee Meets Bagel presents a slower approach. Every day at noon, guys receive up to 21 matches they can either like or pass on. Then the app curates the optimal matches for women based on the men who showed interest. This way women get to choose who actually gets the chance to talk to them. It minimizes the overwhelming paradox of choice that often comes with online dating.

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Raya put me on the waiting list.

Josh Miller/CNET

For elitists: Raya and The League

So, you're an "important" person who can't have their dating profile on just any dating site -- or you want to date an equally "important" person. Raya and The League are for you.

The League is for anyone who admits they have high standards AKA very picky. It requires you to sign in with Facebook and LinkedIn (to avoid setting you up with friends or co-workers) and you can set super-specific criteria. Because of the vetting process, you'll find very few catfishers or fake profiles here, not something that's guaranteed on other apps.

Raya, on the other hand, is like the Berghain of dating apps; if the gatekeepers don't like you, you're not getting in. The app has a vetting process that includes sharing your Instagram account and providing a recommendation from someone who's already been accepted into the Raya inner circle. According to Raya, applications without a recommendation from a current member rarely get accepted.

The League is available on iOS and Android, but, in true elite form, Raya is only available on iOS.

For women who want the ball in their court, always: Bumble

Being a woman on the internet almost guarantees that you'll be harassed. That's not exactly the most optimal dating environment. Bumble seeks to decrease the amount of unwanted messages women receive on dating apps by exclusively giving them the chance to message a match first.

Aside from permanently leaving the ball in the lady's court, Bumble is pretty similar to Tinder, with an simple right-swipe-based design. Bumble has no qualms in calling out unruly behavior on their app and also offers photo verification to quell any fears of being catfished. If you're a woman who's scared or uncomfortable with online dating, Bumble is the closest thing to an online safe space for single women.

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Her is for hers.

Josh Miller/CNET

For LGBT and queer folx: Her and OKCupid

Dating apps are notoriously heteronormative. They don't typically cater to LGBTQ communities, lacking nuance and commonly limiting how someone can self-identify. There are a few dating apps that are more inclusive, however it is slim pickings.

Her is an app geared towards women, specifically those who identify as queer, lesbian and bisexual. While it's a dating app, it also has a community feel to it. You can read and share content, as well as find local events to attend.

Surprisingly, for such a normcore app, OKCupid offers 22 options for gender identity and 12 for sexual orientation, making it one of the most inclusive dating apps. OKCupid also makes it possible for users to make their profiles invisible to straight people, as well as hide straight profiles from their matches. For queer users who want to specifically meet other queer people, or who don't want to accidentally be seen by your straight co-workers, it's a helpful option to have.

Scared of dating a complete stranger? Try Hinge

If the thought of meeting someone you met on the internet makes you nervous, there are apps that can connect you with people your friends already know. Hinge connects to your social networks to match you up with friends of friends. This way you have some comfort knowing you have a mutual friend. The common thread can also work as a nice icebreaker for the anxiety-inducing social experiment that is dating.

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Misanthrope seeking misanthrope? Hater is for you.

Josh Miller/CNET

For the Negative Nancys: Hater

In S2E14 of "The Simpsons," Marge's sister Patty falls head-over-heels for Principal Skinner and they share a tender, vulnerable moment where they realize they're perfect for each other because they both hate the same things. If being mutually repulsed with your romantic partner is what you're looking for, try Hater. It matches you with other people who hate the same things you do, so you can hate them together. 

For hook-up purposes: Pure

If you just want to get your jollies off with a consensual human being that you find attractive, try Pure. Simply upload a photo of yourself and users in your area will be able to see it for one hour. If someone likes what they see they can then connect with you through the app. It's anonymous and discreet (no connecting to your Facebook account), and while ladies can enjoy it for free, man have to pay for the service after a free 7-day trial.