Is true love just a swipe away?

With the dizzying array of dating apps out there, it's hard to know what is right for you - or what is just right now. But technology is helping these mobile apps become much more customized to the user, in many cases, using the expansive reach of social media sites such as Facebook and LinkedIn to make smarter love connections, while also protecting privacy better. Most rely on software algorithms to more precisely -- yet discreetly -- find your match, be it your co-worker's cousin or someone from your alma mater.

Location-based software has also jump-started a new era of online dating. Apps like Tinder let other members see who's within a certain distance, allowing for spontaneous meet-ups.

Other new apps on the scene are taking the opposite approach, making connections through a more selective process instead of having your profile up on a website for anyone to see.

A professional matchmaker for 15 years, Samantha Daniels recently launched The Dating Lounge, a service that uses some of the same criteria to make long-term connections, such as income, alma mater, and career titles. It uses Facebook as a way to connect to friends of friends -- all within the privacy of the app.

"The key thing is, it's by invitation only," says Daniels, who has homes in New York City and East Hampton. "What I hear is that dating apps should imitate real life and feel as authentic as what goes on in the real world."

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That sounds like a great idea to friends Megan Grahofke, 18, of West Babylon and Bethany Wilson, 19, of Northport. The college students have been on some dating apps, but find the public nature of them unsettling. They are often too much about casual hook-ups and not about meeting someone in a serious way.

"You feel very exposed," says Grahofke. "It's almost creepy."

Wilson has downloaded a more private app, Coffee Meets Bagel, and finds the privacy factor more to her taste. "They don't even show your name," she says. "It's much more private, and more comfortable."

MEET THE APPS

Tinder

COST Free; Tinder Plus premium service still under construction

AVAILABLE iPhone and Android

HOW IT WORKS Members register through Facebook, swiping through photos - right to "approve," left to "forget" - to build a pool of potential matches. If two people happen to flag each other, they can initiate an in-app chat or face-to-face meeting. The app uses geolocation to let members meet other members wherever they are, whether on vacation or at their hometown pub. Meet-ups can be immediate, which some say takes the pressure off setting up conventional dates.

 

How About We . . .

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COST Free (some extras $8.99 and up)

AVAILABLE iPhone and Android

HOW IT WORKS Members post profiles with date activity ideas -- hiking, seeing a new movie -- that others scan and choose whether to go. The idea is that, rather than meeting for the cliched first-date coffee or drink, you can go do something, perhaps taking pressure off the first date jitters. And you start out by meeting someone with like-minded interests.

 

Coffee Meets Bagel

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COST Free (virtual currency for some premium services)

AVAILABLE iPhone and Android

HOW IT WORKS Members get just one match each day delivered at noon (called "the bagel") and have 24 hours to pass or proceed to a private chat room. The idea was to give everyone more privacy and pare down on endless perusing of profiles, notes San Francisco resident Dawoon Kang, 32, who co-founded the company with her sisters. "For guys, it can be a very entertaining exercise, but for women, it can be very tiring," she says. "They don't want to browse countless pictures."

 

The Dating Lounge

COST Free

AVAILABLE iPhone

HOW IT WORKS This new invitation-only app focuses on matching age, occupation, alma maters and such by algorithms that feed off of social media profiles. The app is able to glean key details and will even bounce potential members who should be off the table with a pop-up message: "No married people allowed in the lounge. Go spend time with your significant other," notes Daniels.

 

The League

COST Free ($15/month to view profiles while keeping your own private)

AVAILABLE iPhone

HOW IT WORKS Amanda Bradford has been getting quite the buzz, with stories in Forbes and the New York Times about her app designed for professional, ambitious singles. The difference, she says, is the personalized service offered, with "real human beings" acting as concierges; helping with profiles or answering questions. Members get five highlighted profiles each day at "happy hour," pulled from friends of friends on Facebook and LinkedIn -- and only those people have access to your profile. "I was one of those people," Bradford says. "I didn't like the fact that I couldn't control who was looking at me or swiping me."