Following the end of a very long term relationship this past December, I took some time off from dating and certainly did not entertain the concept for quite some time, but recently I’ve gotten into the online dating process, a very unfamiliar one peppered with lots of murk and confusion, that I’m sure is very relatable for a lot of singles seeking romantic connections out there.
It can sometimes feel forced, awkward, or uncertain when we simply meet a person at a bar or club, without any idea of their background, interests, or activities.
So for a relatively shy person hoping to find a match with someone likeminded, online dating becomes the (seemingly) only option. Or a last resort, dependent on your personal views. While Tinder is the app I started with, closer to the end of the aforementioned relationship, I’ve come to find more success and stronger matches with the free app and site (works via any smartphone or web connection) OKCupid, which also has a “double take” option, where you can say yes or no to a prospect based on photos alone.
Perhaps most infamous for a variety of interesting, and sometimes disturbing questions, OKCupid has an algorithm that matches you to prospective partners based on responses to questions relating to background, values, politics, and more. After creating your unique profile, the quizzes begin. At first you’re thrown all of the normal ones, i.e. “dogs or cats?,” “do you have a job?,” and then somewhere along the line things get strange and devolve into a certain internet black hole that’s challenging to pinpoint, and you’re seeing questions like “in a certain light, could homelessness be exciting?,” “which is worse: abused animals or starving children,” and the much more forward “would you date a serial killer?”
As for the latter, I’m surprised there is no mental health red flag button created by the interwebs to identify and help whomever answers in the affirmative. Also, I’m uncertain if someone finds starving children is worse in comparison to abused animals means this is a love connection.
This review covers some overview and the interface of the app and how to use it, some main pros and cons to bear in mind prior to download, and a final verdict, in determining the success rate of the algorithm (to the best of anyones individual ability).
How To Set It Up
Compared to a lot of other dating apps on the market, OKCupid is really simple and fast to set up with a high degree of ease of use.
You can sign up with your phone or get started on any web browser, and can login using Facebook or an email address. You upload photos and select a profile photo, fill out all of the sections including “What I value,” “What I’m doing now,” “You should message me if,” and “If I were sent to jail I’d be arrested for..,” with the latter it’s interesting to see responses.
It’s akin to hearing people duck the biggest weakness question during a job interview, with responses and one-liners like “being framed for walking an elderly lady across the street without knowing she’d just robbed a bank.” You don’t have to answer all of these and can select different introductory lines if desired, but they aren’t customizable.
There’s also space to fill out favorite shows, movies, foods, fashion trends, and books.
It’s definitely advisable to buff up as much of the profile as possible, and edit if desired over time. Given a natural proclivity for verbosity, this was not an issue for me, and I quickly started having to delete areas- thinking I’d perhaps overdone it. Truly writing way too much, especially depending on use of space and style, can also be a bit visually jarring or confusing. You’re required to answer several questions, but you can opt out of answering ones you don’t want to.
Unlike other apps, the questions on OKCupid (though a few are rather disturbing, as mentioned previously), are really quite fun to answer, and fast to fill out. You can opt to answer as little as a few questions, or start filling out hundreds of pages worth of Q/A. It is encouraged to fill out as many as possible, at least answering deal-breaker questions, to get a more sensitive and accurate match. The company founders suggest answering at least 500 questions, which seems like a hefty goal for a beginner, but becomes possible in time.
You’ll find that some people generally answer all of the same certain questions the same way, but there’s also a lot of variety, so you can feel free to set up the profile and get started with your desired comfortability (in terms of question content and rate). You also set your own preferences for what you are seeking- in terms of desired age, gender, proximity, and what you’re seeking (friendship, casual, long-term relationships, short-term relationships, and interest in monogamy).
You’re asked to fill out your own stats as well, everything from body type to zodiac sign to location and age is covered.
Sample Information Displayed On Every Profile:
Sample Questions When Viewing Matches Responses:
There are paid features if you wish to see likes or boost your profile, and while I wouldn’t recommend this as it doesn’t seem necessary, some may opt to do this, especially if you aren’t on a budget and want your profile to get the most views.
With the paid “A-List” basic option, you can see everyone who has liked your profile, all ads are removed from the site, view read-receipts, and use advanced search filters (i.e. body type, attractiveness, and how they have answered specific questions). This may be a good option if you’re in a minority category for the site (not referring to race), perhaps you want something extremely specific that’s not very common, and are seeking a likeminded partner.
6 months of the A-List Basic service is $9.95 per month, 3 months is $14.95, and 1 month will run you $19.95. Unless you’re in this for the long haul, trying this out is pretty pricey. If you’re seeking even more advanced features, like daily auto-boosts to promote your profile during peak hours, be paired with more attractive matches, see other users public answers to questions before revealing your own, message priority (yours will always top the page), plus all of the same benefits with the basic membership, then the premium service is for you.
The A-List Premium service is $24.90 for a 6 month subscription, $29.90 for a 3 month subscription, and $34.90 for a single month subscription. While I see how you might enjoy using the basic paid services, the premium services seem very costly, and a 6 month investment of a service designed to ensure many dates and opportunities seems a bit counterintuitive.
With that said, if you’re really a fan of the services and money is no object, this is quite the online dating indulgence.
Example Of Matches (Special Blend):
Example of Matches (Percent):
Example Of Matches (Distance):
Dating: What to Expect and Experiences
While everyones experiences will be unique, something I’ve learned in during the process is certainly not to set expectations that are too high, or be picky to a degree you wouldn’t want someone to be to you.
It’s important to not expect perfection out of any human, and not go into the date with incredibly high expectations, even if the match is 100%. Meeting someone in person is always a bit different, and sometimes you learn or see things that were not mentioned or included in the profile. With that said, if you get a good sense of someone via messaging, or talk on the phone or text prior to a date, and read through their profile and questions, there’s a very strong likelihood everything will be fine, and at worst you’re probably looking at a new friend or someone who is polite but you won’t connect with again, which is fine.
While everyone has different experiences and the process will be unique to all, I can share a few personal tales to help in providing a general sense of what is out there.
My first date off the OKCupid app wants to meet for drinks and talk near the Chelsea neighborhood, so I commute from Brooklyn to meet and arrive on time, and wait for about 15 minutes (we were supposed to meet at 8PM- it’s 8:15) outside, not eager to go into a bar alone. After 10 more minutes, I go inside and order a drink, still waiting. I’m texting this “gentleman,” but not receiving any response. He works in the healthcare field and I figure an emergency must have come up. 20 more minutes pass and as I’m about to leave, in walks Date #1, I’ll call him “Dave.” He apologizes but doesn’t provide any real excuse for the delay, and to my surprise it appears he’s been drinking already, so hopefully he was not at his job. We order drinks and chat about jobs, favorite foods, and all those typical first-date topics (when an honest date like this looks like “I’m going to text my friends that this could be going better as you head to the bathroom.”) There was at least conversation and no awkward silence, and the drinks were good. He picked up the tab even as I offered to split it, inebriated delay partially forgiven. This is someone I would have remained friends with as well, however he was a bit too aggressive and continually invited me over despite the lack of interest, so we did not remain connected.
As far as online dating, safety always takes precedence and it’s always important to trust you instincts.
Date #2, “Keith,” is a laid-back and seemingly very friendly guy who has huge dogs, owns his house, and creates new websites and does e-commerce merchandising and construction on the side. He presents a cute stuffed dog as a gift and meets close to my neighborhood. We head for drinks and have a great conversation flow, he tells me he’s had help selecting the outfit from female friends (plus 1). He wants to take me for dinner at his favorite local Asian fusion restaurant. When we arrive it seems to have been closed (maybe a Park Slope rental issue?), and he becomes flustered and confused. He’s quite disappointed, but I don’t mind at all and love the conversation flow. We go down several blocks filled with pizza joints which he refuses to take me to, although I mention I am happy with anything. We find a cute Mexican restaurant and enjoy more drinks and food. After that we head to Union Hall for more drinks (not advising anyone to do this, bear in mind) and he asks for a second date which I confirm. Ultimately we decide to just remain friends, and the app remains great for this purpose as well.
Date #3, “Marc,” is a finance guy with a passion for music who wants to meet at a local whiskey bar followed by a Beck concert at Madison Square Garden. I’m surprised he would offer this as a first date option, but we seem to connect really well, so I’m happy to try this out. While he’s quite nice, there isn’t much chemistry, and he spends a good portion of the date talking about women seeking him out for money, which may be true, but wasn’t a great opener and certainly not a personal interest. He’s still very polite and holds all doors, trying to make as much conversation as possible. The concert itself was amazing, and we wish each other genuine continued success on the process.
Note to the wise: never purchase drinks at Madison Square Garden or stadiums, that was the downfall of the evening.
Positives and Negatives
The main pros in this case is a user-friendly free dating app that’s fairly middle of the road in comparison to other apps in the category, and the ability to use several different functions at once.
The founders of OKCupid are Harvard-trained mathematicians, and their algorithm seems fairly accurate, though difficult to calculate. In terms of negatives, there common features with most dating apps, and for the most part I would not say they are any worse at all then any other service in the category. If anything, different site features are better designed to prevent unwanted contact or inappropriate language, in comparison to other mainstream apps.
There are also some common features that fans of other apps will enjoy, similar to ones seen on both sides of the fence (in this case referring to comparing the most casual to the most formal). Here are a look at some key pros and cons to bear in mind prior to download:
- Different ways to search and match: users can opt for the “double take” feature which lets you like or dislike a profile based on photos with names, match by distance (proximity to your zip code), by match % (which can get fairly high, I’ve certainly been surprised to see 99% matches before), or you can use the default settings or “special blend” which is a combination of matches and matches with visible messages (displayed with blue boxes around the users profile)
- For the most part, users are highly respectful, and many send thoughtful and kind messages, I’ve found a much higher majority of users (that I initially anticipated) will send a longer message or one that suggests they’ve read your entire profile, the “hey” and “what up girl?” messages are thankfully few and far between, especially in comparison to apps that are more casual, like Tinder
- You can opt to send someone a message (and most users do this), but you can also open with a response to a certain photo, or respond to a particular section of their profile, if you prefer more casual chit chat with the awkward introduction
- In comparison to other dating apps, this one seems like the standout, or perhaps a personal favorite, as the questions section and corresponding algorithm seem to really be fairly accurate, and you get to know a lot about your prospect prior to dating (especially if you have “deal-breaker” questions
- Great middle of the road app: for those seeking connections and different relationships, this is a happy medium between sites that feel like you’re planning a wedding before meeting, and ones that are infamous for casual culture
- If you’re interesting in chatting or participating in group discussion, there are forums where users can chat about common dating issues, as well as blog features on popular dating concerns and tips
- The site is quite liberal, and LBGTQ-friendly, if you’re seeking a same-sex connection
- As with any dating app, many will experience varying forms of undesirable messages, and while the rate is low on this app in comparison to some others, you can expect (especially if you are female) to receive some unwanted commentary and at times inappropriate language, thankfully the app has report and block functions, so you can end communication immediately or ask OKCupid to review more serious behavior or situations, but it is important to remain safe and bear in mind this is the digital world, and anyone could be behind a screen
- Especially for men: there are a fair amount of “bots” or fake profiles, usually scams designed to get credit card numbers or financial gain of some kind, while I have never seen a male “bot” profile, it’s advisable to be on the lookout for these (especially if you are male), and to never give financial information out to someone you have not met, luckily from what I have heard it’s fairly transparent and you can usually tell right away if this applies
- Considering the amount of messages and mutual likes you will receive, this likely won’t be an issue, but some complain that unless they purchase the paid version of the app, they can’t see likes (this is true- using the basic app without purchasing will notify you if someone is a mutual like or match or sends a message, but will not simply show everyone liking your profile
- As with most dating profile sites and apps, men traditionally send far more first messages than women do, so women are encouraged to make the first move if they want (why not?)
- If you really enjoy photos, you’re limited to selecting 6, so this won’t act as another form of social media or include any galleries
- While I have not experienced this or known anyone who has personally, some reviews complain that their profiles were shut down with no cause and no inappropriate behavior prior, and when they contact the company the complaints are not responded to (this happened to me with Tinder, and remains a strange mystery)
The Final Verdict
For those new (or returning) to the dating scene, OKCupid offers a solid middle of the road approach, without being a formal marriage assessment or veering too close into the casual hookup culture notorious with different apps. It’s great if you’re seeking different types of relationships, and can even be used to make friends and meet people if you’re new to the area. Certain features help decrease the odds of being harassed, and safety features ensure you can always report a user if they’re being disrespectful or send unwanted photos or comments.
The algorithm helps match you to those with likeminded values, shared beliefs, and shared political views.
While this is a middle of the road app, it can work if you’re on one side of the fence as well. The most important factor to bear in mind is not having expectations exceed reality, as often ideas of finding this “true perfection” preclude us from second dates with strong matches that we would likely entertain further if we didn’t return to the app to see other prospective connections. Although personally I have not found a long term relationship out of this, I can say this app is probably my favorite in the category, and it remains popular and tested over time for years.
I am however, excited for maintaining friendships and connections formed on the app, and for the prospects of a first date with that attractive software engineer from Brooklyn, I’ll call him “Liam.”
I would definitely recommend this app if you’re seeking connections and variety, with free use and download, that’s fast and easy. Recommended for download, and good luck!