How many people do you think met their soulmates before the invention of the steam engine? If you wanted to get in on some Héloïse and Abelard action back then you had to work for it. In 1350 there were 370 million people on earth. Today there are 7 billion and they are all on OkCupid. The probability of finding someone who will put up with your weird toes and horrible personality is higher than ever. And wider familiarity with the internet and all those Match commercials with the cute, giggling couples I always wanted to strangle when I was single are quickly eroding any stigma online dating may have had. Since I’ve retired my jersey (and I’m 400 pages into Bolaño’s 2666 with no end in sight) let me share some thoughts for those still in the game. But hey bro, before you hit create profile on JDate play the field a little and find the dating website that really gets you.
P.S. None of this claims to be comprehensive and only represents my experience as an average looking dude interested in women. If you’re a smokeshow you can ignore all this and sail through dating as you do everything in life.
Bland and professional with a healthy brand presence that puts dollar signs in shareholders’ eyes, Match.com is the girl next door of digital love engines (free Goldfrapp song title). Rather than deluge you with profiles, its well-meaning but purblind algorithms curate a daily slate of matches that despite its assertions will never learn from your feedback, ever. The fact that my ratings never nudged my suggestions towards people I was remotely interested in made me long for a future in which tailored and efficient nanorobots beep when in the presence of appropriate love interests.
Match has a pretty traditional profile structure but more barriers to communication than comparable websites. Winking is worthless so you pretty much just have to take the plunge. But there’s something to be said for that because Match costs money and the people on it are probably interested in serious relationships and not just idly playing an infinite game of Am I Hot or Not. I met my girlfriend on here so I have to thank it for that.
Why It Works: It attracts a comparatively small but fierce group of committed seekers willing to put in time and money to find someone important.
Why It Sucks: It’s smaller because of the cash barrier. It costs money. Its interface works well but won’t hold your hand.
E-Harmony’s ad campaigns stress love and individuality complete with an aw shucks old family doctor who somehow created an online dating juggernaut, but the process is more bureaucratic than anything else. Like most of my generation I have a strong tendency to be really snarky when filling out forms so when faced with the 20+ page E-Harmony profile creator attempting to beat the deepest secrets of my personality out of me I at first got sarcastic and then just checked out. E-Harmony probably skews older because I think you’d have to be really dedicated to make it through even the first stage. The training wheels were really off-putting and filling out forms A-1 through J-8 sucked all the adventure out of the experience before it even started. Also I guess they’re super-Christian or were slow to accomodate gay dating?
Why It Works: For people who want to get all the work of dating out of the way so on the first date they can just shake hands and sign marriage documents.
Why It Sucks: E-Harmony hides it well (which is deeply creepy and insidious) but they’re probably a few holes on the bible belt away from being Christian Mingle.
Plenty of Fish
A fugly, back alley interface that looks like it belongs to a much younger internet turned me right around. People say they’ve had success on here but it seemed to make online dating exactly what it shouldn’t be anymore: kinda shameful. BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!
Why It Works: For people who never got iPods and don’t understand that this young century is about design and NOTHING ELSE, maybe it does.
Why It Sucks: Self-evident.
With its bells, whistles, stars, hearts, beakers, robots and lush color scheme, OkCupid is the dating site for our overstimulated, image-fattened culture. It’s a constant dopamine drip that makes Facebook feel like children’s tylenol. If you’re single and live in a major city, welcome to your new “social” life. OkCupid has almost too much functionality. The main page is a revolving door of profiles that meet your parameters as well as a Facebook style newsfeed that floods your theta waves with the slightest articulations of a prospective match’s finger bone. It also has a function in which you “rate” (ughhh) profiles, and if they also rate you favorably you’ll both get a message telling you that they’re “really into you” and you “should totally talk to them.” OkCupid is the world’s most selfless and unwavering wing(wo)man. This is a great feature because it confirms physical attraction before you waste precious minutes writing a message. No amount of wit or “I like rock climbing too!!!” is gonna do it if they think you ugly. Overall, if you’re in your 20s or are new to a bigger city, OkCupid is probably the best option.
Why It Works: It’s free and therefore has a larger pool of profiles. It gives you a ton of tools to make it easy to make contact.
Why It Sucks: OkCupid has abstracted from actual dating and relationships the purest form of social networking crack commercially available (I’m sure there’s something in a government lab making monkeys catatonic right now.) It’s easy to get so into playing the game that you forget about actually meeting people. And beware, this shit can colonize your self-esteem until you feel like you need some kind of OkCupid notification to get through the day. Stay strong. (This mainly goes for dudes, if you’re a woman you’ll probably just be insanely creeped out.)
Later: curing the incurable, loneliness edition.