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Programming Note: Listen to CNN's Daniel Sieberg and CNN Headline News anchor Erica Hill talk about "Modern Dating" at CNN.com/podcast.

The mythology of 21st-century dating

By Daniel Sieberg
CNN

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CNN.com PODCAST

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(CNN) -- These days, it seems either you've done it, or you know someone who has.

According to a study by Jupiter Research, more than 17 million people viewed online personals last year, and about 2.5 million paid for them. (It's usually free to browse; the money kicks in when you want to connect with someone.)

The stigma around online dating has largely dissolved, opening up a wealth of choices for singles -- or those simply seeking someone of similar persuasion. There are examples of people getting married after meeting online, and it's like a smorgasbord for serial daters.

But that doesn't mean it's any guarantee for success.

Problems can range from as little as a wasted night out to as dangerous as being the target of a sexual predator and everything in between, including profiles that look better than they are.

There are several major sites to choose from, including Match.com, eHarmony, Yahoo! and the aptly named Plentyoffish.com. Each allows someone to create a profile, fill out a questionnaire of desired traits, and search the scores of others out there. It's made looking for a partner as easy as a few mouse clicks.

But what happens when you take that next step and meet in RL (real life)?

Guidelines abound on what to avoid during your first encounter, such as maintaining your anonymity, checking for photos, talking on the phone first and meeting in a public place. And before you even get that far, creating the right online profile is essential to moving beyond just being "browsed."

As part of a CNN Radio special, CNN Headline News anchor Erica Hill and I hosted a radio show discussing the opportunities, pitfalls, and the best way to make online dating work for you.

"Modern Dating" is available as a podcast at CNN.com/podcast. We talked to the folks behind the major sites, as well as people who've used them.

We offer some tips and talk about sites like Truedater.com, which aims to weed out the fictitious dater postings.

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