Wednesday, July 28, 2010

OKCupid's Arrow

I put out a call on the 'Nets for requests for topics, and someone asked me to speak on the topic of online dating sites and OKCupid in specific.

Candy says: I've been on OKCupid for years now. I get a lot of messages from creepers... and mean a lot, but sometimes I hear from some pretty cool people.

Dan says: OKC is a pretty cool site, although I don't tend to meet a whole lot of people there. Many women just never respond, no matter how well thought out my message is, but it's worth taking a look at now and then.

I will speak specifically about OKCupid as that is where my specific experience lies. Much of what I say will extrapolate to other sites as well.

OKCupid established itself as a leader in online dating because many years ago it was more of a social networking site, with more meaningful friends networks and events. People would be on there even if they were not on the dating market. Since then, the site has come to focus more specifically on hooking people up, eliminating events and limiting the networking functions.

The experience on OKC is very different for men and women.

Women find themselves deluged with agramatical, poorly written spam-like messages from men who think that quantity will beat quality in their approach. However, if they are willing to slog through the sludge that fills their inbox, most women will usually find that OKC is a good way to meet a variety of interesting people.

Men will sometimes receive messages, but, more often, it is the men who must initiate contact. When a man sends a message, it is important to make sure that the message is specific to the person he is contacting and well written. Text-speak is highly inadvisable if you actually want to get a reply to your message.

The important thing to remember when on a dating site is, as I say often on People I Meet, connections made on the Internet are not real. Only connections in real life are real. You can talk to all the people you want through OKC-mail, but unless you actually get together with someone, you don't even get to hold hands. If you are just looking for someone to talk to online, that's fine, but there are much more effective venues than dating sites to find online penpals.

With this in mind, before approaching a dating site, consider if you would be willing to meet someone in person who you came into contact with on the site. If not, then make sure to say so in your profile in order to save everyone a great deal of time and effort. It is my opinion that any online connection like that should have the eventual goal of meeting in person (or determining that this person is not someone you want to meet in person).

This is not to say that you should message someone saying that you want to meet immediately. A little foreplay is important in this one if you want to actually get a reply. I think that at least three rounds of messages is a minimum for how much you should talk on the site before thinking about meeting. However, it does eventually become time to take the plunge and meet.

When considering meeting someone, keep two things in mind. It is more likely that you will electrocuted by your own computer than it is that the person you are talking to is particularly dangerous. However, it is still wise to be cautious. Meet in a public location, look the person in the eye before deciding if you want them to know where you live, to be alone with them, etc.

(Read my post on People I Meet entitled When Opportunity Knocks, Don't Be Afraid to Open the Door on the topic of irrational stranger fear.)

This was a quick overview on my thoughts on OKCupid. I believe that it is a fun site and worth using. It is one of the better dating sites available, but as ways to meet people go, dating sites are a very hit-or-miss proposition. Good luck, be yourself, have fun. You'll find what you're looking for when the time is right for you to.


  1. Connections made on the internet are not real? What an incredibly privileged thing for you to say. Some people have crippling anxiety issues that severely constrain their ability to make connections face to face. Internet is basically all they've got. Some people have compromised immune systems that prevent random jaunts into the "real world" because it could kill them. There's a whole host of medical issues (and yes, psychological issues are medical issues) that can prevent or constrain making connections in "the real world."

    My life was quite literally saved due to people I've never been within 100 miles of. So yeah, this is sort of a personal thing for me. But, y'know, all it really takes to invalidate a general statement is one contradictory data point. So I guess it's time for you to rethink and refine your hypothesis on what makes a real connection.

  2. Yeah, I kind of resent my experiences being held to your standard. For me, connections and relationships formed over the internet are just as meaningful as any other connection. Meeting someone face-to-face is cool, and certainly for romantic relationships, being actually able to touch someone is important, but it really isn't a big deal for me either way.

    For you, clearly it is, and that's cool for you, but why on earth are you holding my interpretation of my relationships to your interpretation based on your experiences?

  3. Thank you both for your comments. It is comments like yours that keep me honest. I did, indeed, overreach when I said that online connections are not real. My point was that in-person, one can connect in a way that one cannot connect online.

    I quite agree that the Internet has done wonders for people who, for medical or other reasons, cannot get out into the world corporally, and this is a wonderful thing. While I don't tend to maintain relationships well with people that I have only met online, I know some people who have had very deep and rewarding relationships online.

    My main point here is that if someone does want to meet people for online relationships, there are better places to do it than OKC. Livejournal, Facebook, Fetlife, Myspace, and others make it easier to meet people and develop a deeper connection than OKC does. Given the expectation that OKC is about developing in-person relationships, going there to develop online relationships will lead to disappointment unless it is explicitly stated from the getgo.

    Thank you again for your comments, and I hope that you will continue to keep me honest and out of exaggerations.