OkCupid, man! People talk about it. The Internet talks about it (see: the recent Nice Guys of OkCupid tumblr hoopla). I also talk about it, seek out advice about it, give advice about it, and hear people make sweeping statements about it, and I am going to aggregate all of these things for you here right now so I can do my little proactive part to prevent having the same carbon-copy OkCupid conversation over and over again.
Everything I’ve Ever Said About OkCupid by the dork who calls herself The Enlightened Sexpot:
On “the stigma”:
We are fast approaching a time in which online dating stigma will have disappeared. I argue that it’s already disappeared in cities and liberal areas. Also, people who can be secure about online dating are the kind of people I want to be dating anyway so if we’re talking personal life, whether or not all of mainstream society is down with people meeting on the Internet is kind of a moot point for me. There are people who get on OkCupid and then write things like “I’m still not sure about the online dating thing” and send messages like “hey, I don’t really know what to say and I’m new to this”, and I say to these people, fake it ’til you make it if you’re already on it! If you realize it’s not your thing, that’s ok because…
OkCupid doesn’t have to be your thing
…just be respectful of those who choose to use it. Even if you’ve been on the site in the past and had a bad experience (or many bad experiences), it doesn’t mean it’s an awful site that no one should use. There’s sometimes an implication from non-online daters that those who are on the sites are there because they are defective people: that they’ve resorted to looking online because they just can’t find anyone in real life. This is not a very kind or open-minded attitude. The bottom line is that people meet people in different ways, and if there was only one way it would be a total mess.
On “did OkCupid work for you?” and other such baffling questions:
I hear it and see it all the time: “does OkCupid work?” “Have you had any success on OkCupid?”. Too often, “any success?” means “are you still single or no?” and this reinforces the single/in a relationship binary that I think does a lot of damage and is at the root of a TON of happiness-related problems. I’m a big believer in the value of being secure in oneself as a single person, which also means being secure with others as single people and not assuming that everyone who is not in a Serious Relationship is on some level looking for one. That said, it’s completely fine to be looking for a serious relationship if you’re not the kind of person who likes hookups or dating “casually”– I just think it’s important to come to that conclusion from a place of knowing yourself and having practiced being single for a while, not from a place of “I should have a girlfriend because all of my friends do” or “I hate being single and want to avoid it at all costs”. Being on OkCupid for a month and then marrying the first person you met IRL could be called an “OkCupid success”, but being on OkCupid for three years and learning about yourself via meeting and dating and sleeping with different people (or not) is also a completely valid and awesome OkCupid success story. The same goes for people who say “success” and mean “sex”: great if that’s what you want and you’re getting it, also great if that’s not everyone’s goal with the site. Speaking of goals,
It’s important to be clear about your goals while online dating:
This is important in terms of you and your general feelings about yourself but also important in terms of other peoples’ feelings. I think that the “looking for” section on OkCupid is actually the hardest section to fill out, because so many of us are scared to admit to ourselves, let alone other people, what we’re actually looking for. I certainly did this, putting on my profile at one point in my life that I was O.K. with “short-term dating” even though if I had been being honest with myself I really wasn’t looking for that. I added “short-term dating” along with “long-term dating” and “friends” (two things I actually wanted) chiefly because I’d been socialized to think that most dudes stay away from/look down on girls who want to be in long-term relationships, and I thought that no one would want to meet me if I wasn’t interested in maybe keeping it casual. Fuck that, right? I shouldn’t have been putting things on my profile that I didn’t mean or entering into situations that I wasn’t ultimately happy in (and UGH that this idea about guys was so looming in my brain)! I understood that when one is dating there’s generally a casual getting-to-know-you period of indeterminate length before a Relationship has space to develop, and I was excited about to doing that type of short-term in order to see if the chosen human and I would become long-term, but short-term was not my end goal at that moment, and I should have been honest about that since I was looking to meet someone who was in a similar life-place.
For some people, short-term dating and/or casual sex and/or just getting to know people without possible emotional commitment lurking is the goal and the life-place, and that is absolutely absolutely fine: once again, though, it pays to be honest about it. I imagine that there are people who do the opposite of what I did and say they are cool with long-term dating in order to not seem like a jerk, but saying this kind of thing and not actually meaning it can only backfire. Just like in real life, people are less likely to take the hint that you think you’re giving them than you think they are.
Speaking of “taking the hint”, on first-meetup etiquette:
People do the first-meetup in different ways: some people talk for a really really long time before meeting up, some meet up quickly, etc. Some people meet several people in one week and some stick to one at a time. I don’t think there’s a right way to do this because everyone has different comfort levels about what they want to know before meeting someone, although I’d always say be safe and get a real name, meet in a public place, tell a friend where you’re going and listen to your gut feelings, and you can bail on that first meetup at any point.
Usually it becomes pretty clear pretty quickly during the first meetup what level of attraction there is and whether this is a person you’d want to see again or not. I think that communicating your stance at some point soon after the meetup is a must: it’s good to practice being honest with people and yourself about feelings, etc., and so even though some people might argue that after a first meetup there’s no obligation for a follow-up, I believe in a short “hey, it was great meeting you, I don’t see this becoming a dating situation” text/call/voicemail/email even after a first meetup. I would also say that it may seem like a nice person thing to say “we should be friends!” but unless you mean it, there’s absolutely no reason to say it. My feelings on this apply to longer dating situations, too: I think it’s always important to let someone know if you’re not feeling it anymore pretty soon after you’ve come to that realization, and not do the “slow fade” thing or the “I hope they get the hint” thing. I just don’t think that accomplishes anything except maybe making someone think you’re acting like a jerk. I’ve done the hope they get the hint thing in the past and I still feel like a jerk about it. I’ve also done the call someone after one or a few dates thing, and oh my gosh does it feel way better and more mature.
When I’m giving advice to people about telling someone that they’re not interested in them or not interested in them anymore, I always talk about giving the other party some credit: everyone talks about “not wanting to hurt” the other person, but what actually is hurtful is not showing someone the respect of letting them in on your feelings, and/or believing that somehow they are not equipped to handle the news. Every person you ever date/sleep with had a life of their own before they met you, and even if you’re the most specialest of snowflakes, I’m sure they’ll be fine without you (as difficult as that may be to imagine). Be the good guy(/girl/person!): be forthright!
As you may be able to glean, I believe in treating people like you want to be treated in real life and also on OkCupid.
I know that this is the Golden Rule from Kindergarten, and I also know that I have messed up and not done this plenty of times in my life, and will continue to do so because I am a human. But this rule is a particularly excellent guide for some of the very most talked about and debated parts of OkCupid, including some of the things touched on above.
How about what to put in/leave out of the profile?
Again, I don’t think there are any solid rules about this because if you’re authentic about yourself on your profile then people who like the look of your profile are more likely to click with you if/when you meet up. I do think that super long essays for every section often get skipped over and skimmed, and that more than one photo is a must (because you want to dispel any doubts that you are not a real person). In terms of photos, I use photos that I think actually show what I look like and not necessarily my very most attractive photos, because my goal is to meet people in real life and I want to make sure they aren’t disappointed by the real right-now version having only seen photos of the Instagram-filtered/sophomore year of college version. Also, if you’re not a spelling person I’d have a friend look over the spelling or mention that you’re not a spelling person on your profile, but maybe that’s because I think both good spelling and self-awareness are very attractive qualities.
On sending messages:
People get all “guys do this and girls do this” about messages and I really hate how the world speaks in gender binaries so frequently. Yes, as a girl attracted to guys I typically get into conversations more easily when the guy messages me first, but that doesn’t stop me from sending messages because I like to practice being assertive and would like to meet people who think assertiveness is attractive. I am a huge enemy of copy/paste messages (or to be all Reddit-cool, messages that can be found on /r/OkCupid) and of messages that don’t specifically reference things in my profile (“hey I think we’d get along”). There’s all of these websites that talk about gaming the system in order to get “results”– which, I mean, you can go back to the goals part of this post and remember to treat people like human beings even if they are one-night stand human beings.
On responding to messages:
I have mixed feelings about this: there are messages that I don’t respond to, especially those that don’t seem personal or that talk about how I look. I also don’t respond to messages if I don’t think I would want to meet the person in real life after viewing their profile. I think it’s totally fine to be selective about replying to messages and to expect that not everyone is going to reply to your messages, because sending messages is a no-risk activity whereas having a longer conversation through messages/meeting up with someone holds more weight. There are times when you get into a conversation and you’re just not feeling it after a while, and I have done the “hey, actually I don’t see us meeting in real life” thing and also the not-response thing. I think based on the information divulged in the messages and the general rapport you can gauge whether or not it would be rude to leave a person hanging, and I would also say that sending a message or text saying that you don’t want to meet someone after having a conversation could very well lead to that person trying to persuade you/saying rude things to you, and that’s just a risk that you have to take and be prepared to deal with/ignore and move on.
First meetups can be really nerve-wracking,
but the other person probably feels that way, too, and it’s such good practice for so many other aspects of life. My advice on first meetups involves doing it in whatever context is low-risk and safe-feeling for you: lunchtime or coffee for no more than an hour if that works best for you, and don’t let people convince you to meet at a bar on a Friday night if you’d really prefer coffee for an hour on Sunday afternoon for a first meetup. If someone tries to persuade you to do something you don’t want to on a first meetup, they are already showing you that they don’t respect you as a person with boundaries and this is a person to be avoided.
As with any vulnerable situations, be clear about those boundaries and stick to your guns!
If you don’t want first-date sex, don’t do it. If the person doesn’t want to use protection, don’t have sex with them. If you’re feeling uncomfortable or trapped, you CAN leave and you’re not a bad person. There are strange and awful people out there who will try to make you feel guilty for not sleeping with them/not wanting to see them again/wanting to go home early, and the best thing you can do is not try to reason with them and just do what you feel you need to do in order to feel safe.
Most of all, most things are funny and/or learning experiences
Barring unsafe situations and rude/disrespectful situations, everything you do in the online dating world is going to give you fodder for funny memories. Doing the groundwork of honest goal-articulating beforehand will help you be in a space where you can take things in stride. If you’re worried at all (even a little. Be honest.) about rejection, take a look at my other experience-based user guide to dating, Never Let Rejection Cramp Your Style Again!, and remember that you are a great smart fun interesting person regardless of whether or not you find people on the Internet who want to put their mouths on your genitals. But you probably will find those people. GOOD LUCK!!!
Anything I missed? Did I get anything wrong? Am I the worst? Email me at email@example.com and feel free to school the fuck out of me.