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Yahoo, where first-quarter revenues jumped unexpectedly thanks to rapid growth in its personals business, is aggressively pursuing people in their 20's.'' We're investing in that younger group,'' said Katie Mitic, the general manager of Yahoo Personals.

'' They're driving tremendous growth in online dating services.'' The reason seems to be the fundamentally different ways that younger and somewhat older Americans view personals.

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Tjong began checking the online service several times a day to see how many responses his ad had generated.

For younger people, using online personals is ''not a somber, mildly terrifying business of pairing off before you die,'' said Rufus Griscom, the founder of It's entertainment.'' As with the day-trading boom a few years back, the Net seems to have created a volatility in the romantic marketplace, especially in cities like New York where there is a coffee shop on every corner; the speed of online communications often translates into a quick invitation to meet face-to-face.

Dating once implied ''a very long process where you disclose things over time,'' said Robert Rosenwein, a professor of social psychology at Lehigh University.

Out of curiosity, he said, he signed up with an online personals service and posted his photograph -- an artsy profile shot in which he resembled a brooding Johnny Depp -- and described himself as ''passionate and sexy (and in great shape),'' someone who was ''working on not being an intimidating know-it-all.'' Mr. In just a day, he got e-mail responses from a dozen women.'' It was a great ego boost,'' he said.

Tjong, a 26-year-old associate at a major New York law firm, was coming off a breakup and wanted to play the field.

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