OkCupid, the “free” dating website, is surprisingly accurate at matching people. But according to the people who use it, you need to be honest and patient, and a little bit funny, to find the right people.
The following are some tips from real OkCupid users:
1. Be open. Jordan, a media liaison in Washington, D.C., said, “The system is smart, but it can’t detect someone putting up a front. If you really want to find someone, be open [with other people].”
2. Be honest. “Faking it won’t get you far, and being someone you’re not will only bring your heartache,” said Tamara, who recently found “the love of her life.”
3. Know what you want. One way to ensure success is to know what you want in a romantic match. “I took time and wrote notes about what I was looking for,” said Nicola, a graduate student. “I had this clearer mental picture of the right person.”
4. Make your profile stand out. Take the time to the write a good profile. “You need to spend some time working on [your profile] because the longer my profile was, the better I did,” said Michael, who met his wife using OkCupid.
5. Be funny. Michael said, “Be funny.” That’s how Savontae, a church music director, landed most of her dates. “Display some humor,” she said, “and be personable. I describe myself as a nerd who loves learning and loves to laugh. I talk about my quirks and things I love, like music and cooking, and things I can’t stand, like crappy TV and wet socks.”
6. Avoid the glamour shot. Pick the perfect profile picture, but choose one that actually looks like you. Jason, a youth pastor, said he showed a dozen pictures of himself to his closest friends. Each friend picked the same photo for him to use. “It’s not the one I would have picked,” Jason said. “But I’ve been on two dates now and both girls told me how much they liked my picture.”
7. Don’t rely on profile pictures. Just because you’re avoiding the glamour shots for your own profile doesn’t mean other people will do the same when creating their own profiles. “Some of the pictures people use in their profiles are not always the best, and neither is the profile information,” said Meghan, who met her wife on OkCupid.
8. Change it up. If you’re not meeting the right people, try changing answers to your profile questions. “I just got frustrated after while, so I changed my profile and changed answers to some of my questions,” said Jonelle, a single mother in Charlotte. “Boom! A whole different kind of list of guys popped up.”
9. Engage people. “The best way to start chatting is to ask about something they put in their profile,” said Savontae. “It shows that you care about people beyond their looks.”
10. Be patient. The recurring theme from all of these OkCupid users was simple: Patience is a virtue. Don’t expect to find the love of your life in a few clicks. “Give it time to work,” said Jonelle.
~ A version of this column appeared in The Vindicator, Sunday, September 28, 2014.
Christian Rudder knows what the heart wants — thanks, in part, to his endless data stream from people looking for love.
Rudder is co-founder of the free, online dating site OkCupid and author of “Dataclysm: Who We Are [When We Think No One’s Looking].”
He wants you and your data. More importantly, he wants you to be a part of his massive social experiments.
The premise behind OkCupid is as simple as it is complex.
The simple part: Users develop profiles by answering basic, sometimes awkward, questions. Some users answer hundreds of questions in order to build a perfect profile.
Profile questions might ask: “Do you enjoy discussing politics,” “Would you consider having an open relationship (i.e., one where you can see other people),” and “Which would you rather be” with answer options of “Normal” or “Weird.”
The complex part: OkCupid uses advanced algorithms (i.e., math) to make matches.
Rudder and his crew claim the process of finding your perfect match is extremely accurate. The OkCupid site states that “as long as you’re honest, and you know what you want,” you’ll find a date.
The best part: It doesn’t cost money, which is a huge benefit to people who aren’t ready to commit to popular, fee-based matchmaking sites such as eHarmony and Match.com.
But there’s a catch.
By providing answers to profile questions, users are giving up information on preferences, convictions, morals and more. And while this might seem invasive, most users probably don’t stop to think about the personal information they’re giving away for the chance to find love.
Of course, fee-based sites are available, but the competing sites can be expensive.
For example, eHarmony costs between $15 and $60 per month, depending on which plan you choose. Match.com costs between $18 and $36 per month, and comes with a six-month guarantee (find a date in six months, or get six months free).
If you can’t afford what could ultimately cost more than $250 a year, and you’re willing to give up some information, OkCupid might be your best option.
Patrick, a 26 year-old graduate student and OkCupid user, said “The questions are kind of weird, and they’re randomly generated.”
He also questioned the amount of time people commit to making complete profiles. “I know the questions are used to determine compatibility,” Patrick said. “But if I answer 1000 questions, and someone answers two questions, we still might have 100 percent compatibility.”
This probably shouldn’t surprise Patrick or other users who find the process, and OkCupid’s algorithms, odd at times.
Some OkCupid users are merely lab rats in massive social experiments. Rudder once boasted about an experiment in which one algorithm was manipulated to make terrible matches for some users, all in the name of science.
Still, this shouldn’t stop you from using OkCupid to find a date. After all, according to Rudder, more than 10 million people will use his site this year. With those numbers, the odds of finding a date might be in your favor.
(This is part one of a two part column. Next week: 10 tips for finding love on OkCupid from the people who use it.)
~ A version of this column appeared in The Vindicator, Sunday, September 21, 2014.
New Friend on Facebook
A few days ago, I received a friend request from someone I’m fairly certain I’ve never met face-to-face. It’s not the first time, and I’m open to these kinds of requests.
But before accepting any new friend requests, I usually check to see how we’re connected, if at all.
How many friends do we have in common? What kinds of posts is my new friend making? Is my new friend “new” to Facebook? (Tip: A relatively new Facebook profile is usually a red flag.)
Here’s what I found:
So, I took a chance and welcomed him in to view the profile information I’ve opened up for “friends” to see.
Of course, I still don’t really know this person. We may not even recognize each other in a face-to-face setting, let alone call each other friend.
Thanks to Facebook, we’ve been forced to redefine the term “friend.” The traditional definition of friend, according to the Webster dictionary, “is a person who you like and enjoy being with.”
For some reason, I’m friends with the local Dairy Queen. Yes, I like and enjoy being with Dairy Queen. But I don’t think this is what Webster had in mind.
If you’re on Facebook, do a quick scan of your list of friends. There are probably people (and businesses) on that list that you like, and would enjoy being with.
But would you classify them as friends? Probably not.
This is because we just don’t have the mental capacity for maintaining stable relationships with that many people. We’re not built to sustain a large number of friends.
Robin Dunbar, an anthropologist at the University of Oxford, suggests there’s a limit to how many names and faces our brain can process. According to Dunbar, we can only maintain about 150 stable relationships — knowing who people are, and how they’re connected to other people in our circle of friends.
Of course, this doesn’t stop us from looking for and accepting new friends.
Regardless of mental capacity, making new friends in social media is easy. But it comes with risks.
If you’re accepting new, unknown friends, always answer these important questions before accepting requests:
~ A version of this column appeared in The Vindicator, Sunday, September 14, 2014.
According to its mission statement, Facebook gives people the power to be more open and connected. Thanks to Facebook, we’re able to share with the world the intimate details of our lives, complete with pictures and videos.
Apparently, some of us have shared too much. While we’re connecting with others on Facebook, we may be disconnecting from the people we love the most.
A recent study published in Computers in Human Behavior linked increased Facebook use to higher divorce rates and a decline in marriage quality.
Is this new marriage vow: Until death, or Facebook, do we part?
To read the full study, go to www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0747563214001563.
According to researchers at Boston University, Facebook use was associated with increasing divorce rates in some states.
Using Census Bureau divorce-rate data, and state-by-state data on Facebook use, the researchers were able to make some general claims about the links between divorce and Facebook use.
Between 2008 and 2010, Facebook use was positively correlated with divorce rates.
Survey results also showed a link between increased Facebook use and marriage- satisfaction issues. For example, increased Facebook use was associated with those who reported lower marriage quality and those who were thinking about separating.
They suggest several reasons for why Facebook may be leading to higher divorce rate and waning marriage quality.
First, they suggest that obsessive Facebook use creates problems for people in social settings such as school and work. This, in turn, leads to problems at home.
Second, they suggest that higher levels of Facebook use could induce feelings of jealousy between partners.
Third, Facebook users are exposed to information about others, and ultimately stumble upon new, attractive partners. For some, a new partner might provide a better life, and lead to divorce.
But like most social scientific studies, few suggestions are offered for fixing the problem. The knee-jerk reaction might be to eliminate Facebook and other social media if you think your marriage is on the rocks.
Eliminating Facebook might actually aggravate the problem.
And should we really blame Facebook? Of course not. Divorce rates have been high for decades.
Facebook connections may be happening in response to failing marriages, not causing the marriage failure. It could be that divorcees are going to Facebook to seek out new partners or to look for social support when things are already bad.
While the connection between the use of social media and divorce rates is important to investigate, it would be rash to say that Facebook causes marriage failures. Instead, we should take actions that would reverse the trend.
Use Facebook and social media to connect to your partner. Send direct messages with sweet nothings. Post a wedding picture on “Throwback Thursday” to declare your love to your online friends.
Remember: Anything that can be used to exacerbate your problems may also be capable of solving them.
~ A version of this column appeared in the Sunday, September 7, 2014 edition of The Vindicator newspaper.
Dr. Adam C. Earnheardt is special assistant to the provost and professor of communication in the department of communication at Youngstown State University in Youngstown, OH, USA where he also directs the graduate program in professional communication. He researches and writes on a variety of topics including communication technologies, relationships, and sports (with an emphasis on fandom). His work has appeared in Mahoning Matters as well as The Vindicator and Tribune-Chronicle newspapers.