Thursday, September 5, 2013

OkCupid vs. POF

I can not seem to resist the allure of online dating.

I call it Shopping at the Man Mall.  At 9pm as my daughter turns out the lights in her room, I pull my laptop onto my lap as I sit in bed, and I go man shopping.  "Hmmm, this one seems too short, this one too big, this one not _____ enough, but oh! maybe this one will fit?"

Shopping at the man mall is a bit like going swimsuit shopping.  I'm dreaming of the beautiful vacation on white sand beaches with palm trees overhead, sun on my skin, and maybe a cabana boy delivering me a something tropical...but first, I have to go into a small room with three way mirrors that reflect the depth of my cellulite to frightening degrees.  I enter the man mall full of hope, thinking, "There are hundreds of men here in my area!  Surely there is one who will interest me?" but as I try them on I think "oh this isn't good at all!" and it's all I can do not to tuck my tail and run.

But the idea of that white sand beach keeps calling me back, so I keep trying for the perfect swimsuit; so the allure of the perfect mate, and so I go back to online dating.

I've tried it on and off for about a year now, and I think I've learned a few things about online dating.

First, the websites:
I'm cheap.  (Okay, let's say frugal, shall we?)  I chose the free sites, because, well, why not?  Plus, I read an article in The New Yorker about OkCupid and how it was the hot website and just as good as the other websites that charge a substantial amount, so I thought if it was good enough for The New Yorker, it was good enough for me.  Then my cousin met someone on OkCupid, and married him, bought a house together, and had a baby, so I thought, "Hey, this works!"  He was her first date.  I thought "Well, that sounds convenient!"

Let's just say I didn't have quite her luck on the first, second, or fifth dates.  Luke was from OkCupid, and that was a mostly good experience, but finding him was a needle in a haystack (to use the clich√©) and he wasn't even the right good, just the good-right-now guy.


Pros include that you can look up just about ANYTHING you'd want to know about someone, including the minutia about their political views, dating style, etc. because OkCupid asks zillions of questions that you can look up on all kinds of subjects, so I found that I could look for their views on gay rights (as someone with gay friends who have kids, if someone is anti-gay-marriage I could never be with that person), on how soon they expect to have sex (I learned that almost all guys say before the third date, so that question didn't yield any true info), on whether they have kids, on whether they like dogs.  The website has an algorithm that creates a match percentage, and while I found that it didn't always select the right people for me, it did rule the right people out. (Any match under 90% was probably a very poor fit for me, but I also had some 99% matches who were poor fits.  Go figure.)

OkCupid seems to attract a relatively educated crowd, and if you're an education junkie like I am, that might be interesting.  There was a high percentage of white collar workers.

Cons of the website include that it is possible to know too much about someone before meeting them.  There were a lot of questions about sex - a LOT of questions - and so you could know exactly - and I mean exactly - what someone's sexual preferences were.  First, that seems like a bit much to put out there on the internet; second, that means that things that are (in my opinion) best revealed over time and with some seduction are instead just in black and white, and that seems about as unromantic as it comes.

When I would log on in the evening, OkCupid would have maybe 150,000 users online, at the peak of usage.  But after hanging out there for a few weeks, it seemed like the same people were there all the time.  My chosen demographic is pretty narrow - age 40-49, educated, non-smoker - but it seemed like it didn't take much time to look at everyone in that demographic and rule a ton of people out.

Plenty of Fish:

I noticed that Luke kept popping up on OkCupid, where we first met, and it made me feel weird after we stopped dating, and I didn't want to see him there or have him see me there, so I decided to go elsewhere.  When I first signed up for online dating, Plenty of Fish had a reputation as being a serious pick up joint for casual encounters (not my thing), but a few months ago they actually made changes in policy that made it difficult for people to use the site for casual encounters (including the interesting choice that a man can not email a woman pictures, because men who email women unsolicited pictures tend to go all Anthony Weiner).  I figured I had nothing to lose, so I signed up.

Holy smokes.

Pros:  There are a zillion active users on POF.  Within the first week I had received more emails than I got in a month on OkCupid, some from interesting people.  I put a note in the system that only people with photos could contact me, and the system attaches profile pictures to every email sent to me.  (I have my pictures up, so it's only fair if the gentlemen do, too!)  When I log in in the evening, there are usually 500,000 users online.  I have set my preferences that only users within 75 miles (their smallest distance parameter) can contact me, and I continue getting messages daily from new users I've never seen before.

I've had three dates in less than three weeks, with my same "particular" standards that I had on OkCupid, but it has been much easier to find users who are interesting to me.  Still difficult, but more interesting.  :-)  None of those dates yielded someone who I was interested in seeing again, but they were all three decent human beings, just not "my" guy(s).

Cons: The education level is much lower on POF.  There is very little discussion of books, much more of TV, in the profiles I read.  Maybe that won't be a con for some, but it certainly is for me.  I also wish that I could tighten the distance parameters, because 75 miles away might as well be on the moon when it comes to dating - I am a busy woman, and it's hard to find a three hour chunk of time in my schedule, and at that distance I'd spend the whole time driving.  (It won't happen.  Not even for someone who looked "perfect" because I'd never have the chance to get to know them.)

Overall, I prefer Plenty of Fish.  It has been really fun to get this level of attention, and my phone buzzes with messages MUCH MUCH more often than it ever did on OkCupid.  (It's a little crazy, actually.  I haven't felt this popular ever before.)  In the end, it seems like a numbers game: some might get lucky, as my cousin did, and meet her dream man on her first online date, but for the rest of us, it's about the learning curve, and about meeting lots of people in order to find the one we're seeking.  I feel more likely to find that person in a big crowd than I do in a small one.

This weekend I have two more dates; a coffee date that will probably be "nice" but not yield a love match, and a slightly more interesting sounding dinner date.  (I'm breaking my own rule for the dinner date - I usually keep it really short on purpose, choosing coffee or happy hour.  I hope I don't regret this!)  And then maybe I'll back off for a while, because life is busy.  But you know what?  It's nice to have a choice, it's nice to be sought out, and it's nice to have an option like online dating.

Because shopping at the online Man Mall is about the only place this busy single mom goes where she could meet men. :-)


  1. Seems you've fallen victim to the "always a better guy" mindset. Reminds me of a famous experiment in which market researchers offered samples of 20 different types of strawberry jams / preserves in one store, and 5 different selections in another. After the taste test, consumers were asked to purchase a jam from among the selection they had samples. Many purchased nothing. But, nearly twice the amount of consumers who sampled from among the 5 jams chose one. Meaning that those with choice were most likely to purchase nothing! Choice can be overwhelming.

    This post was clearly written some time ago. Hope you found the right guy for you.

    - A Guy on OK Cupid

    1. What an idiot! Men (and women) are not jam. You can live with bad jam in your fridge but not a bad man in your life. The more choices the better. It's not like she's taking them all home and sampling them.

  2. So true, POF is all about attention ;)

  3. "Man mall"? I think you went about this wrong. You see, every single "swimsuit" you were viewing in there is a fully sentient human being. There's no reason for men or women to treat each other like that.

  4. Hi, Anonymous 1, 2, and 3. Thanks for stopping in.

    Anonymous 1: You raise good points! With a zillion choices, I walked away from online dating and (gasp!) recently went on A Real Date with a person I met in person. Choice CAN be overwhelming.

    Anonymous 2: You're right. But it got old pretty quickly (I don't need that much attention!) and I left. :-)

    Anonymous 3: I am sure that I went about it wrong - see my post "Online Dating Makes Me Shallow" - so you do have a point. And yet, a little humor to lighten the situation seems like a good idea, don't you think? Online dating IS a lot like shopping. People put up pictures of their goods, give a little sales pitch, and hope for the best. We can do side by side comparisons, examining features ("hmm this one likes hiking but wears fishing waders a lot; this one looks great in a suit but doesn't enjoy the outdoors....") and data (height, weight, age, etc.). It's not that different than real life except that it's so much more extreme!

    I like to treat people well. I promise. :-) And don't forget....the men are doing the same thing to the women, looking at this and that. When we go online we might get 100 matches, and I doubt very much that anyone wants to go out with 100 people, so we have to decide somehow.

    Thanks for the comments, all!

  5. You're not looking for a relationship, you're looking at men to fulfill your ego.

    A) 'Man Mall'

    B) 'Tan, sun-kissed, beaches'. You're dreaming the thematic Cinderella story, a real live ballet, the Rom Com.

    Reality is not even close.

    Relationships are an *investment* they take work. People are flawed.

    C) You even indicated you prefer OK for the kinds of people, but admitted you truly like POF because 'it makes your phone ring more often' - each buzz a little dose of endorphins.

    Now, we could call you shallow and egoist on those points alone, that could be partly true.

    But it *is* true when you realize there are guys on the other end of all of that.

    Even good looking guys spend all their time formulating messages, only to have the vast majority of them shot down. Constant, constant rejection.

    You can do it because you can, admittedly - maybe we'd all be in your position were the tables turned.

    But the fact is - this is why Men will continue to rule the world. You want to be coddled, told nonsense, fibbed to ('you're the most beautiful girl ever, you're butts not big, you are interesting' etc.).

    Almost all the guys I know with girlfriends or who are married are basically perpetually coddling and toting to the emotional mores of their gfs/wives. Treading lightly around issues.

    Are you dogs? Pets? Or are you responsible human beings?

    Because in order to make the game work, we have to treat you like pets: buy you stuff, coddle you emotionally, stroke your egos etc..

    You definitely do not want to be treated as equals.

    If you did, you'd be messaging guys, you'd accept the fact that most of the flattery is BS and be kind of insulted by it.

    So long as you want to be the Princess, you will be, just don't be expected to be allowed to have any amount of real responsibility - that takes reality.

    I offer evidence: from OkCupid statistics - when men are asked to rate women's profiles 0-10, they form a nice bell curve with 5 in the middle. When women rate men's profiles, they give the 'middle guy' (at the 50-th percentile) - about a 2.8.

    Meaning when you see an 8 out there - he's actually a 10. When you see a guy and think '5 - he's just average' - he's actually about a 7.5. When you see a 'shlubby' 2.8 - he's actually 5 - an average looking guy. In other words, you think there is this wide gambit of guys out there that simply do not exist.

    But don't worry - the 'alpha guy' will come around, romance you, f*** you a few times and move onto the next girl. Several months later, another alpha will come along and do the same thing. Again, again and again. Why? Because you let him.

    In short - very scientifically speaking - according to OKCupid data itself, women have a condescending and contemptuous view of men.

    Try this: find 4 photos of a decent looking guy. Make a basic profile. Message some girls. Try that for a week. Welcome to a Man's world.

    Because as it reads, your post is pretty insulting.

    1. Anonymous, you should read my post "Online Dating Makes Me Shallow." I'll agree to several of your points, because being online at the man mall brings out the worst in me.

      As for the rest, you've missed your mark. The alphas get chased off before the f****** stage, and I don't have time to even consider the ridiculous flattery that you mention, because it IS insulting. Princess? Hardly - I'm too busy running my own life. Coddled? Hardly. I'd rather be alone than subscribe to that nonsense, or argue with misogynists who believe that women need have emotional issues that require men to tiptoe. (What, are you afraid to speak your mind?!)

      But as for insulting, if that's your view of women, perhaps the insult goes both ways.

      I've read the Rudder blogs - they're interesting. And depressing. Proof, perhaps, that online dating is not for me.

  6. Today, I went to the beachfront with my kids.

    I found a sea shell and gave it to my 4 year old daughter
    and said "You can hear the ocean if you put this to your ear." She put the shell to her ear and screamed.
    There was a hermit crab inside and it pinched her ear.
    She never wants to go back! LoL I know this is entirely off topic
    but I had to tell someone!