“Hi Brian, what’s your favorite color?”
Here is a unique example of an Ok Cupid message I received about 24 hours after browsing this girl’s profile, writing her a polite message expressing what I found interesting and asking if she would be interested in meeting up.
Now, a couple of things are going through my mind:
1) This person is crazy. She genuinely wants to know what my favorite color is before she divulges her name, let alone decides if she wants to go out on a date with me.
2) This is a test. I should be clever in my answer. Funny, if possible.
3) TROLL! This girl is a troll!
But being a man who has been unlucky enough in love to resort to a dating website, I of course stumbled over my words and responded in none of the ways anticipating one of those responses would suggest.
“Um, blue? Why do you ask?”
Wait approx. 12 hours.
“Well is it blue, or isn’t it? I don’t particularly care, but I like a man with conviction.”
Here’s where I try to save myself:
“Conviction? Sure, got it covered. Blue? Meh.”
Wait 12 hours.
Now, I’m not entirely sure who’s in the wrong here. I am, after all, bad at this. But I would like to presume that the human proposal I sent initially did not return the polite, human response I expected. I don’t understand women. Tell me if I’m wrong.
What I am coming to understand is that a dating website, or Ok Cupid in particular, has nuances in communication just as any other social media platform does.
But what it does additionally is prove that although many people today resort to dating websites out of bad real-life experiences, shyness, rejection, fear, etc., dating online is no less difficult, frustrating or different than dating can be in person.
Because dating websites still carry something of a stigma, it was a tough choice to finally pull the trigger and set up an account. Which site should I choose? How much should I pay? How should I set up my profile? What color shirt should I wear in my profile picture?
The research I found was informative, but often unhelpful in making a decision. These articles read one of two ways: they were written by a woman who had wacky experiences meeting nothing but creeps, or they were tongue-in-cheek GQ and Men’s Health articles written by confident men who have never had dating troubles.
These people tried these websites for a lark, and their reporting touched on the extremities and the crazies that have become a cliché about dating websites, not the nuanced way real people actually interact on the site or with other actual human beings. The articles always seem to end, “More and more people are meeting the people they marry on dating websites today,” but then why are all the articles so one-sided?
I didn’t get into Ok Cupid to experiment. And I decided on Ok Cupid because of friend recommendations. Consequently, that’s the best advice I can give when picking a dating website: ask someone you know. Because as one quote put it during the coverage of Martha Stewart showing up on Match, “If you do not know someone currently on a dating website, YOU are on a dating website.”
The Pick-Up Line
Here’s what I’ve found: despite being from the comfort of your own computer or mobile app (but why no iPad support?!), dating online takes time, effort, patience, confidence, a way with words and a willingness to play the game, just as it does in the real world.
Girls will receive countless messages and will just be turned off by the number of times they are hit on, and good guys will be as subject to women ignoring them, being rude, being unavailable or being uninteresting. How is this any different from the crapshoot that is hitting on people in bars or clubs?
I messaged one girl who was listed as Chicago but went to school in Missouri and was unavailable till the end of the semester. The aforementioned “favorite color” girl was being a jerk for no reason. Conversations with others went nowhere. And many more were non-responses. After so many messages and searching, I just couldn’t find the time or the motivation.
I got into a dating website because as I started working, I wasn’t meeting anybody new, nor finding the time to try, and this ironically was no different.
That’s what a site like Ok Cupid provides: just a little bit of knowledge to ease the approach and hopefully make the whole process a little easier for the timid, unlucky or otherwise.
And in theory, it works great. The initial questions that gauge a person’s match, friend and enemy scores allow you to rate the importance of a question and select what answers you’d expect. It’s a good way of getting some of those fundamental value questions out of the way up front. Case in point, i.e. a real Ok Cupid question: “Do you think homosexuality is a sin?”
Questions range from topics of lifestyle choices, sex and dating, ethics and religion, so this also helps someone like me who values a question like “Do you like documentaries,” and the choices being “Yes!” “Ok” or “NO.” Maybe you can guess which of those answers I would require.
Then of course there are the bizarre, like this one: “STALE is to STEAL as 89475 is to…”
Ok Cupid then allows you to browse based on location, the most recent someone has been online, their age, their status and their sexuality. It also tells you how often a person replies to a message, whatever that means. I haven’t had much luck regardless of their response status.
For one girl however it read, “No one has messaged her this week. Go for it!” That was encouraging until I found out that girl had in fact visited my profile.
Ok Cupid provides you with a notification for each person who has visited your profile and when they do.
This is a strange feature to say the least, because if you’ve messaged someone, you know they’ve visited your profile, but they don’t message you back, what does that say? One time I had this happen to me as I was online.
That’s demoralizing in a whole other way, and because of that, I actually took the time to message back two girls who were nice enough to message me. I wasn’t interested, but I exchanged a few words just to be polite.
The thing is, these sorts of communication rules don’t exist on Ok Cupid. In fact, some of these rules are so uncertain, many of the “commandments” considered taboo by most men and women may not even reflect what actually performs.
So what are the criteria for a dating profile? If you’re like me, you’ll think about this too much and after a while question why things aren’t working. I was advised to keep the sincerity to a minimum, because it’s hard to filter through who’s for real and who’s faking. Rather, try and make someone laugh in your profile and in your message, and don’t come on too strong in either.
This advice came from a female friend who prefers to meet men from Ok Cupid at lunch and in public places for nothing too serious, only after a few back and forth messages. She has not had much luck either.
I don’t know then what to make of all this. One of my friends had a hilarious (and much shorter) experience with Ok Cupid, and she seemed to sum up the problem with dating websites in general in about one paragraph.
“I know it must be hard for guys who are actually looking for a relationship to use dating sites, especially a free one like Ok Cupid, because they get lumped in to this group of males that is 85 percent oblivious and creepy (according to my message box). What woman will take their message seriously off the bat?”
Is the percentage really that high? Am I in that 15 percent, or worse, am I in that 85 percent? Are the percentages any worse or better dating in bars and clubs, or does a man who would turn to a dating website in the first place really have any better luck?
My problem is, and perhaps why this post has become so long winded, is that I’m thinking too much. It all started when I read Aziz Ansari’s quotes in the AV Club back in February, shortly before I actually joined Ok Cupid. Here’s one juicy quote:
“When I talk to men and women, a general sentiment is just, “Where are the good, normal, nice, non-crazy people?” This is when people say things like, “Go to the grocery store” or, “Go to a museum.” I’ve gone to both, and it doesn’t quite work out. But maybe if I spent as much time at Whole Foods as I do drinking at bars, I’d have a different experience. I would also be a weirdo that hangs out at grocery stores way too long. I would have to live off those little samples. Hopefully it doesn’t come to that. The point of those jokes, though, is I just think it’s sad that the main places in our culture that we designate to meet new people are bars and nightclubs. I have not had great luck in those spots.”
How could one not think to consider a dating website after reading something like that? And at the same time, how could someone believe that a dating website may actually work?
Ok Cupid begs a lot of questions, but it’s not all a cesspool, and for people like us, are the alternatives that much better? There are good people out there. I for one am still searching.
Update 8/12: This post has been fairly popular, and about a month after writing it, my presence on Ok Cupid slowly trailed off. I had hit a certain number of messages sent with still no response and subconsciously called it quits. My profile still exists, and I even checked it a few days ago; about a half dozen girls visited my profile, and one even rated me highly, but I had no messages awaiting me. With that, I’d call this experiment about done. You may have better luck. My friend linked to above did not, and abandoned the site even sooner than I did. I’ve considered using Match, but am really back in the same spot I was several months earlier.