Red light district.
I can’t quarrel too vehemently with OkCupid because without it I may never have met Oren Regardie, and that would make me cranky, but I most commonly think of it as that place on the internet where I go to read mildly annoying things that are (theoretically) slightly more personalized than the sites I normally visit to read mildly annoying things.
According to my sophisticated survey data (research methods involved reading the Something Awful forums and talking to people who aren’t just me, OkCupid is not where you go to meet people you’re going to commit to; it’s where you find hookups. I wouldn’t be surprised if the relationship/casual fling ratio for all systems and brands of meeting one another was basically the same, but I’m aware of the following common taxonomy when it comes to meeting people online:
OkCupid: Used to order casual sex like delivery pizza. Yum.
Match.com: Normal1 people who want to go on normal dates and form normal relationships.
Eharmony: Heterosexual Christian people who want to go on heterosexual Christian dates and form heterosexual Christian relationships.
Plenty of Fish: People you definitely don’t want to date looking for other people you definitely don’t want to date. Or possibly you! Lucky you.
Nerve Personals: Best way to find someone cool from 2002 to date.
Craigslist: Used to order casual, anonymous STIs and serial killers like delivery pizza.
Grindr: Eharmony’s literal worst nightmare.
None of these are necessarily true. I’m sure there are a rich variety of lifetime commitments and one night stands alike originating on every one of these sites. But sites do get a reputation, and that becomes self-fulfilling, to a point. If I believe that Plenty of Fish is where boogers go to hook up with boogers I’m going to be much less likely to sign up for it if I honestly believe I’m an exemplary dating prospect. And, of course, there’s that rumor2 that Eharmony won’t let you sign up if you’re an atheist.
This may or may not have anything to do with why OkCupid messages annoy me so often. As much as I love sex, I’m pretty choosy about whom I have it with, and I need a lot of factors to fall into place–not the least of which is intellectual chemistry– to want to bone someone. Maybe OkCupid users are less invested in intellectual connection than the average person on the internet, but I find this highly unlikely. I just think that I am incredibly picky and I don’t like the way most people approach me.
See, OkCupid has a shorthand system for telling how much of a persnickety bitch a person is before you message them. People who reply to messages often get little green dots that tell you “All clear! Message them now! Go go go!”. People who are a little picky and “Reply Selectively” get yellow dots for caution because if you message someone and they don’t answer you then your face actually melts off like in *Raiders of the Lost Ark3 and you have to go sign up on Plenty of Fish4. Then there are the bitches who seldom reply and get the red “Replies Very Selectively” dot. Red is for stop. Do not message these people. They’re awful and if they reply are only doing so to toy with you and ultimately crush your soul. Are you getting this? THEY HATE YOU.
I want to be very clear about something at this point: My dot is always going to be red. Most of the time when someone messages me I have nothing to say in response. Because what they usually, predictably message me in ways that resemble the beginning of a conversation not at all:
- Most of the time people compliment me. I get versions of physically attractive, witty/intelligent, and interesting a lot. And those are really lovely things to read about myself, but I don’t know how to respond other than with a thank you, and I only bother to do that about half the time5. A surprising number of people tell me I’m intimidating. I think this is supposed to be a compliment and perhaps also charmingly self deprecating, but it’s also not a good conversation starter. Maybe I don’t want to talk about me or your self esteem right now.
- Surprisingly, the “Wanna ______?” messages6 are less common than the unsolicited compliments. Not what I would’ve expected, but I guess even internet people understand that you catch more flies with honey than with open flies and slurred come ons. I still get them, though. The innocuous “Do you want to chat?” is automatically irritating in spite of being harmless because someone I don’t know is contacting me and asking me to change communication formats without any enticement besides a question mark. That’s absurd to me. A couple times people have asked me if I want to get married. Once someone asked me if I wanted to form a superhero duo, so these are not all bad.
- Sometimes you read a message and you just know in your bones that it’s boilerplate. This is insulting. I get the shotgun approach to online dating. I do. But I’m not doing it, and if you do it I’m not doing you.
- I have gotten pleasant and even interesting messages that actually suggest the beginning of some kind of dialog and maybe even bring up an actual topic! I have. They just don’t come along all that often.
Of course, if someone’s profile is genuinely intriguing I will respond because –as long as the stars are aligned just so– I’ll have both desire and fodder for conversation right there. Sadly, the reality is that reading the average OkCupid profile makes me bored and a little sad.
And annoyed. Honestly, I so deserve to be red.
- Assuming normal is a thing. [↩]
- No idea if it’s true or not [↩]
- Originally I wrote “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom” for reasons I’m not even going to try to justify. My forever shame. [↩]
- Just kidding, PoF users. Love you wacky guys. [↩]
- Which is kind of how I do thank you notes, come to think of it. I am really rude. [↩]
- “Wanna fuck?” would be a classic, but there’s a lot of possible variation here. [↩]