Here’s what’s up: I’ve been single a while. For the most part, it’s pretty great. I do what I like, when I want to do it. My weird schedule doesn’t affect anyone but me, and the only arguments I have at home are between me and whatever jar I can’t open. But despite the pros, sometimes a bit of human interaction is a really nice thing. And meeting new people… it’s not easy.
It seemed everyone but me has tried online dating (to varying degrees of success) and I wanted to find out what all the fuss was about. So at a friend’s suggestion, I signed up for OKCupid (“It’s great! You’ll love it!”). I set up a brief profile, added a passably cute photo, and started having a scout around. It was low commitment and low cost and low effort – basically the opposite of every dating experience I have had in the past.
Dating, I am sure, has never been an easy thing. Today, thanks to our social media addiction, dating is a bigger minefield than ever as we negotiate this age of total visibility – we know when our messages have been seen, we get notified of people checking out our profiles. We monitor our visitors, collect our ‘likes’. We are present. We are seen, and unavoidably so. We conduct so much of our business in the digital realm I expected online dating to come pretty naturally. For me, it didn’t. For others, it doesn’t seem to either.
Usernames are hard.
I get it. You want a username that says something about you but also stands out from the crowd, and one that isn’t taken. It’s hard. If you are using a handle along the lines of ‘supernicedude’, ‘fuckboy69’ or ‘theguy4u’ then you may – may – be trying too hard. OKCupid also has a range of standard name endings you can add to turn your ordinary username-already-exists name into a viable username. The sort of thing that turns you from ‘Bill’ into ‘Bill-osaurus’. One of them, perplexingly, is ‘-taco’. Greg-taco. It tells me nothing. Who are you Greg? And do you even like tacos?
Uploading appealing pictures is hard.
A picture paints a thousand words, right? I like to think I’m not that superficial – that’s why I signed up for a dating site where people can write profiles instead of merely flicking left or right through photos and formulating opinions based purely on a person’s aesthetic fuckability. But a good photo is a good start all the same and it’s fascinating what people think are good dating profile photos. Here’s me with my mum! Here’s me posing with a comically large plasticine penis – see how zany I am? Here’s me in a large group – I’ll leave you to guess which one I am. Here’s a photo of my dog instead of me.
I don’t care how cute your Labrador is, I don’t want to date him.
Creating a profile is hard.
I kept my profile fairly brief at first, until I had a rummage around the site to get a feel for what people were saying. Much like the photos, some people were trying too hard. Conversely, some people weren’t trying at all. My rule of thumb was if I couldn’t think of anything I thought was witty enough for a section, I would leave it blank. Others should have perhaps followed this advice:
After a few days of being bombarded by people who were going to try and turn anything I wrote into some kind of vague innuendo (“you like Terminator 2 and you drink a lot – well, aren’t you just saying all the right things in the right way *winky face*”) the urge to start trolling was strong.
So for my own amusement, I changed my ‘I’m really good at’ section to this:
I hadn’t included my height in my profile and two separate people messaged me about this. One dispensed with a cursory hello and just said ‘height?’ like that was a valid introduction. Hint: it’s not.
Which leads me to…
Messaging people is hard.
Within one week of being on the dating site, I had received 73 messages from prospective suitors. Most were of the ‘hello, how are you?’ variety, which was fine. One guy chose ‘yummy!’ as his greeting of choice, which was not. Another wrote me poem about massaging my feet and brushing my hair.
One guy said hello and, when I hadn’t responded after 3 days, wrote again to say he supposed I wasn’t interested (he’s quite astute). My favourite was the guy who purported to be a 19 year old virgin who wanted an experienced girl to show him “how it’s done”.
If I had a dollar for every ‘baby’ or ‘honey’ or ‘sexy’ that was tacked awkwardly into the messages, I’d be able to buy a pizza and a pretty nice bottle of wine.
Figuring out who to message is hard.
OKCupid suggests matches based on ‘powerful algorithms’ generated from your answers to a range of personality questions. The idea is, the greater the match, the higher the chance your would-be date will be receptive to your messages.
I put little faith in this for two reasons. Firstly, the ‘why is the earth a circle’ guy above was an 80%+ match.
Secondly, and more importantly, the questions the site asks get pretty weird pretty quick, flip-flopping from personal details, to job interview questions, to logic puzzles and everything in between. The not unexpected ‘how long would you like your next relationship to last’, for example, is followed up with ‘what’s worse – child abuse or animal abuse?’.
I think about carbs A LOT. You know why? Because carbs are delicious.
I don’t need a ‘powerful algorithm’ to tell me I am 100% certain the strength of my next relationship is not going to hinge on whether or not my partner likes historical re-enactments, the taste of beer, or reading the newspaper. Similarly, for them, is it a deal breaker that I prefer tea over coffee and know the ‘wherefore’ in ‘wherefore art thou Romeo?’ means ‘why’ and not ‘where’?
Maybe it is. Maybe that’s what dating is about these days. If so, I’m dating me.
And I don’t want to jinx it, but it’s going pretty well.
‘Til next time,