By Milas Bowman and Stella Dennig
We have always wanted to get reader mail. Our goal for this week? To be asked out by a reader. Successful? The ball is in your court. See end of article for email addresses.
OkCupid for dummies
If you haven’t already heard from the growing number of Tufts students who have joined, OkCupid is a free online dating and social networking site that has started to shift some of the stereotypes of online dating. The site generates “match,” “friend,” and “enemy” percentages with users in your area, based on an extensive series of questions and your self-marketed profile. These questions, exclusively written by users, are part of what make OkCupid unique. “Good” questions, defined as questions that users (1) disagree over and (2) feel strongly about, climb to the top, so they are answered first. When answering a question, users indicate which answers they would accept from potential matches and the question’s level of importance. For example, OkCupid’s very first question is a crucial one. The site asks: “Regardless of future plans, what’s more interesting to you right now?” Possible answers: “Sex” or “True Love.”
OkCupid provides a number of ways to connect with users in your area. At the top of your homepage, OkCupid generates suggested matches and active users nearby. There is also a tab that links you to a more in-depth match search. Here, you can set specific parameters by ordering the results based on highest match percentage or restricting results by age, relationship status, or even astrological sign, among other things. The whole process is at times strangely, almost intrusively, intimate.
If you decide to get in touch with someone, you have two primary options: either chat them if they show up as “Online Now” or shoot them a message. Oh, and OkCupid notifies others when you visit their profile, so impulses to stalk should be kept at bay.
Milas gets hooked fast
OkCupid is addictive. Within 72 hours of signing up, I uploaded my profile pictures (yes, plural – the standard is to have three), filled out my entire profile, and answered well over a hundred survey questions. Oh, and stalked boys. How could I not? No matter what page of the site I am on, OkCupid finds some way to slip in the profile of a cute boy who also finds red pandas adorable or who shares my crippling addiction to Sriracha.
The power OkCupid has over me is not insignificant: I have not changed my Facebook profile picture in over a year and a half, and yet this site successfully took over my life in a matter of days. Granted, the honeymoon period did end, but emails with new matches arrive just frequently enough to not be annoying, so I never stay away for long.
Stella’s encounters with OkCupid at its best and worst. Mostly worst.
1. I visited the profile of someone who seemed interesting, funny, and sarcastic. Then I saw that he answered “yes” to the question: “Do you think women have an obligation to keep their legs shaved?” I immediately closed the tab. In some ways, it’s good to get this information up front before I grow to know or like the guy, because either way, that relationship was doomed to fail. On the other hand, it eliminates first chances, let alone second ones.
2. Apparently OkCupid tracks your location. I did not know this. I went to Savannah, GA over spring break and got a message from a local. I had not been on OkCupid in over a week. Maybe it tracked me through my phone? This seems questionable. I do not remember agreeing to this.
3. I was invited to join a threesome with a man and a woman in a sexually open relationship. They invited me to participate in two radically different activities: “book club discussions and ‘parties’ which can get quite erotic.” I did appreciate this last bit of the message: “It’s meant as an open forum to explore whatever you are comfortable with and there are very strict rules around confidentiality and consent.”
4. On every OkCupid user’s profile, there is a section entitled “I’m really good at.” Unfortunately, writing “I’m also really good at being on the receiving end of brunch” has gotten me a number of sleazy and nauseating replies. Unintended consequences.
Milas learns to message
Receiving a message on OkCupid is like a mini-shot of self-esteem. In fact, most of OkCupid is geared towards slowly turning you into an egomaniac. Let me tell you, it works. I think the site knows it too, as an email informing me that I was on the site’s list of attractive people also told me “not to let it go to my head.” I was not really sure what else I was supposed to do with that nugget of information, so I ignored the advice and am now even more unbearably narcissistic. Of course, not all messages are quite as eloquent as the prose in this column (I reiterate: I am insufferably egotistical now), and eight messages in a row of “hey how r u??” or “nice profile” don’t exactly inspire responses.
I can appreciate the safety of the banal introduction, because after I overcame my initial hesitation towards messaging someone, I quickly realized that I sound like a total nutcase. Some of my choice conversation leads have involved a reference to The Phantom Tollbooth and conspiracy theories about aliens constructing the Nazca lines. However, this is arguably great foreshadowing for what interacting with me is actually like, so I choose to view it as my (quirkily endearing?) attempt at embracing the OkCupid mentality of laying all the cards on the table from the start.
Stella’s take on Online Dating v. IRL (In Real Life )
The handshake v. the hug: the first IRL meet-up dilemma I confronted was whether to give a handshake or hug. A handshake, particularly in the life of a college student, feels overly formal and is more often used in a professional setting. Yet a hug with someone you do not know is often awkward and borderline unpleasant. So I decided to go in for the shake. I felt good about it.
Recognizing someone you saw on OkCupid… IRL: Do not make eye contact and whatever you do, do not approach them. Just get out. There is something very tangible about the invisible line drawn somewhere between the online world and real life that is difficult to successfully cross. Though we have the ability to learn shockingly intimate details about total strangers, any acknowledgment thereof in real life is completely taboo. Personal experience may or may not have informed this fervid advice.
On physical attraction and second chances: I believe in the malleability of physical attraction. Depending on how compatible I am with someone, my physical attraction to that person may change substantially. Yet due to the nature of online dating, this aspect of IRL interactions is almost entirely absent. When I receive a new message from someone, the first thing I do after reading it is check out their photos, and only if these make the cut do I even head to their profile. While I don’t enjoy this superficiality, I just do not have the time or enthusiasm to give everyone a chance.
Milas goes on a date…and then another
When a boy asked me out and I said yes, I had a strange realization that OkCupid is about more than just window-shopping. That is, the reality of an impending first date with a stranger was a little nerve-racking. Suddenly I began to doubt my latest obsessions—the addictive powers of both MSG and Miley Cyrus—as first date conversation material. After arriving at the bar a little early, I wandered around some quiet side streets in Cambridge to clear my head. Somehow, I still ended up starting the conversation with the imminent derailment of the Red Line, but that was probably safer than breaking out into a spontaneous, tone-deaf rendition of Toby Keith’s “Red Solo Cup.” Thankfully, my date humored my non sequiturs, and I had a lot of fun until I had to sprint to the T to catch the last train home.
As alluded to by the title of this section, my date actually went well enough that he asked me out again, which provided me the opportunity to present my argument for why Arya Stark is the greatest character in modern literature as we walked to see The Artist. Actually going on a date with someone you have just met feels weirdly formal compared to the standard hook-up culture that pervades college life. I regularly found myself totally perplexed by the norms and rules of actual dating, but it was certainly a fun diversion.
OkCupid and online dating itself were new experiences for both of us. While we sometimes fumbled around, we just had to remind ourselves that the stakes of online dating are low. Sure, having an awesome-sounding someone stop responding to our messages is disheartening, but other than the temporary hit to our egos, it’s not like we could realistically call ourselves heavily invested in that anonymous cutie. So if you’re curious or maybe you feel trapped on campus, give OkCupid a shot. We are not saying it won’t be weird some of the time, but hey, we go to Tufts. Or, you know, this is crazy, but here’s our number, so call us maybe? You can email Stella at email@example.com and Milas at firstname.lastname@example.org.