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Aaron N. Tubbs

Dragon chaser.

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I was in a committed relationship from 1995 until now, so I’m a bit rusty on, well, everything about single life. I don’t know how to pick people up. I don’t know how to flirt. I’m not prepared to make a move. I don’t even know how to dress up to go out. I’ll make you a deal: Just pretend I carry on woe-is-me style for another few minutes, and I’ll spare you the tedium.

I’m not sure I’m ready to be single. I’m not sure I’m ready to be in a relationship again, either. I’m not sure of much right now.

And, because of that, I made the brilliantly stupid decision to delve into the world of online dating websites.

Well, plural is a bit misleading. I got an account at OKCupid, because it’s free.

Now, this is probably obvious to everybody else in the world, but I thought I’d explain how this works, since I’d never been exposed to it before:

Step one is to create a profile. You list details about yourself and describe how you like long walks on the beach. You upload some photos.

Next, you start to answer a lot of inane questions questions, and describe how your ideal mate would answer the same question, and then you describe how important their answer coinciding with your ideal is. Based on my unscientific sampling, and memory, 50% of the questions are about oral sex, 25% of the remainder are about being overweight, and the rest include cheap shots at virgins.

Most of the questions are, well, here are some examples:

“Do you believe in god?” (Answers are “Yes” and “No”)

This sort of question is overly general. Do I believe in the Judeo-Christian God? Well, he’s a nice myth if you take him metaphorically, and not too seriously, just like Zeus. On the other hand, do I believe in the Einstein/Sagan God? Sure.

“Love without pain is like food without flavor.” (“True” or “False”)

So, I hit the [skip] button on questions like that, because questions that look like blanket statements, I don’t believe could possibly be useful.

Next up, you’ll frequently get questions like this (you probably think I’m joking, but I can’t make this sort of stuff up):

“Suppose, hypothetically, in a moment of candor, one night, your long term relationship partner indicates they hate performing oral sex on you, and they decide they will no longer do that for you from now on. What do you do?” (Choose between “Dump them on the spot,” “Convince them to change,” and “That’s fine, it wasn’t important to me anyway,” and “I don’t know, I’m a virgin/I’ve never had oral sex.”)

How would your ideal match answer this question, and how important is their answer to you?

Right.

I have a hard time answering a lot of questions. I find myself wanting to provide feedback in a different fashion all the time, such as “If somebody really cares about this question, I really don’t want to be matched to them.”

“Will you teach your children to believe in Santa?” (“Yes” or “No”)

Yes. Just like God. I’ll build an entire guilt system around him as well, related to whether or not they get presents or coal. And then I’ll crush them later by telling them their new God is a myth.

But will I spank them and leave a mark? Now that’s the question. And will my ideal mate?

There are a lot of questions that there are answers that are obviously correct, and answers that brand you as a jerk if you pick them. I skip these questions. They strike me as pointless, and they’re really irrelevant to the idea of finding my “ideal match.”

I get off track. So you fill out a number of questions. As you answer more questions, okcupid then knows you “better.” They keep track of this by using a number of stats to indicate their knowledge of you. I think I broke into the four out of five star range when I cleared 500 questions.

Yes, I spent half a day answering questions yesterday. Well, that and browsing “matches.” It’s probably the best free entertainment I’ve come across in, well, forever. I’m sure the novelty will wear off, but I’m pretty sure I could answer inane questions all day, all in the pursuit of okcupid knowing me better, and elevating my highest possible match percentage.

Yes, the more questions you answer, the higher your “possible match” is. So, with about 500 questions answered, my highest possible match is 95.5%. Then you go into the search to find matches (in your area or otherwise), which can range from 0% to your highest possible match amount (I think, therefore, this should be scaled to the domain, but whatever). Then you read their profile, look at their pictures, and try to figure out if they’re really a match.

In their profile, you’ll get some (not necessarily all) of these things:

  • Basic metrics, where they indicate they’re just looking for friends, anyway.
  • Some commentary written by the user. This is full of atrocious spelling and grammar more often than not, and it’s helping me lose faith in the human race, especially those that are young and potentially at risk for procreation. You’re prompted to tell about yourself, favorite books, list the six things you can’t live without, and so forth.
  • Some photos. This is where you try to prove that you’re younger than you actually are. I always thought this was a joke, but now I know. There are a lot of people out there lying. That or I’m a terrible judge of age. I can’t possibly be that terrible of a judge of age.
  • They have a journal where people can write posts about … whatever, I guess. Based on my scientific sampling, there are no users who have ever used this functionality in the entire system. At least none that are matches with me.
  • Test results; you can take tests; Internet survey multiple choice sort of affairs, and these don’t do anything, but they give you a bit more color on a user. Turns out I’m a vocabulary vixen (17 out of 17 on BIG WORDS ARE SEXY), 42 (my REAL age), and I’m a Very Kinky (sexual purity) devoted lover (Lover Style Profile). Oh, and I’m apparently most aligned with Kucinich. The horror. And I’m OCD. But I carry on. As far as I can tell this part of the system has no point.
  • Badges! It’s just like girl/boy scouts, only better. Based on question answers (I think), okcupid forms up visual indicators of your preferences as “personality awards.” This is nice when you come across the user that has the “less interested in sex” “less kinky” “more spiritual” “less giving” “more conservative” “less outgoing” “more interested in love.” icons, because you can safely close that tab without ever reading the rest of the profile. Unfortunately, due to question category skipping, or just never answering questions in the first place, or just not answering a significant volume of questions, about all this section really says is whether somebody is kinky or not. Anyhow, the good news is I’m a well-mannered, kinky, interested in love, emotionless, not old fashioned, robot, who is socially free and doesn’t like messes. Also, I apparently hate god, and am a pessimist. Alright.

So, as a source of cheap entertainment, it’s not so bad. I have very little hope of it ever doing me any good, however. Part of the problem is that I’m not sure I really believe that trying to define exactly what you’re looking for, and then being matched to that, is how dating, and indeed love, really works.

Sure, if you can enumerate that you’re looking for a one-night stand with a former (or current) sex worker who is herpes-positive (or at least would consider dating somebody herpes positive), doesn’t believe in the tooth fairy, and will be willing to perform analingus if you ask … well, I think this whole idea of matching may actually work for you in that case.

But, and perhaps this is an overly romantic notion, if people are actually looking for lasting relationships, friendships, and love, I’m not sure the whole matching thing is going to work out. For one thing, it’s hard to define, even to yourself, what you find attractive. More importantly, I bet a lot of people have fallen in love with somebody that shares an orthogonal view on their pet issue of supreme importance.

So, at best I’m treating the matchmaking ratings as a very crude heuristic, and then looking in the fringes. I’ve yet to find anybody that’s a near-perfect match with me that I’d be interested in corresponding with, let alone seeing. It’s … odd. But, it’s an interesting experiment, and we’ll see what happens.

Edit: I forgot earlier: nearly all of the questions are repeated dozens of time. Phooey.