My week with online dating
Love—it’s magical in the sense that it has evolved as a basic necessity of human life; it has become an required step. You’re born, you grow up, you fall in love, you have a family, you die. Love has become as necessary as food, water and air.
That’s why Valentine’s Day really sucks for single people like me.
This day of love has taken over the days between January 2 and February 21. When the stores put away the noisemakers and confetti from New Year’s Eve, and move onto paper hearts, foil cherubs and chocolate. So much chocolate.
It’s hard for a full-time student, part-time worker and, albeit, socially awkward human being to date. My last romance consisted of me seeing an attractive guy, obsessing over him and then moving forward. It’s something straight out of a John Green novel.
Online dating is a very attractive option for someone like me. I can let someone get to know me through my carefully worded messages before they meet the absolute weirdo I actually am. So, I wanted to see what the Internet world had in store for me. Because I’m cheap, I only downloaded the two free apps on my phone: Tinder and OKCupid.
The names of people I met have been changed.
Here’s what happened during my week.
Tinder is pretty easy. It links up with your Facebook profile to get your pictures, and so it knows you’re a real person. A person’s picture comes up and you can either swipe left (reject) or swipe right (approve). You can only send or receive messages to or from other users if you both swipe right to each other for a match.
To be 100 percent honest, I was, am, and always will be terrified of Tinder. I’ve seen the Tinder fails on Reddit and Twitter, and I know that it has a stigma of being a place to find a hook-up buddy.
The first step was, obviously, trying to get matches. I’m a picky person, so I had to make some criteria. First, age was definitely a factor. I’m 19, so I didn’t really want to be matching with anyone over 22. Cigarettes and smoking as a whole were a definite no-go. I didn't leave a criteria for peoples' bios because I think making a list about what someone must be is unfair. I wouldn't wish it on me, so I wouldn't do it to others.
First up for a match option was Jeremy, 26. His profile picture is a collage of him with some women showing pretty serious cleavage. One of his pictures shows him with what looks like a cigarette of some kind in his mouth. Before I swiped left, though, I wanted to read his bio.
“Hope You Got A Big Trunk. Cause I’m Putting My Bike In It.”
How many times can I say “ew” until those words leave my mind?
Next was Matt, 18. He says he’s, “Just doin' what I do best.” He’s a good looking guy for someone whose picture looks like a mug shot Photoshopped onto a high school prom photo. He’s an athlete, from his pictures of himself with his mouth guard hanging out and a football jersey laid out very neatly. I swiped right on Matt. Why not give him the benefit of the doubt? There wasn’t anything too horrendous on his profile.
Next up was R, 19. Seriously, his profile name is just an initial. His picture is a shirtless Snapchat selfie with a kissy face emoji, and his bio is just his Snapchat name. He only has two other pictures, only one of which he’s wearing a shirt in. It’s pretty clear to me what message he’s trying to send, and I’m almost positive he’s not just trying to show off the illegible tattoo on his chest. I heard my mother’s approving voice as I swiped left.
Daniel, 22, made a good first impression. His bio was short, sweet and not perverted. His profile pictures — minus the typical bathroom-mirror-looking-at-the-phone-screen selfie that I’ve seen too many times to count — were very safe. I didn’t care for the nose ring, but compared to R, it’s an improvement. Definitely swiped right for Daniel. And it’s a match!
AJ, 21, seemed like he would be friends with R. The only difference is that AJ is “just tryin to get married,” which is really exemplified by his at-the-gym mirror profile picture and a Justin Bieber-esque sun-glasses-falling-off-my-nose while vaping in a car photo. Intensity freaks me out, so I swiped left on AJ.
Next is Steven, 22. His profile picture was a dog. I immediately swiped left.
Perhaps the most interesting profile I came across was of Prince Liam, 21. Before anyone gets too excited, it’s a promotion for E!’s new show The Royals. However, that doesn’t mean Prince Liam’s profile isn’t without possibilities. He enjoys “playing darts with the lads” and encourages even the commoners to “swipe right for a royally good time.” To this corgi-toting, polo-playing fictional character, I definitely say “cheerio” as I swiped right.
A message came in from Prince Liam—though I’m pretty sure it was automated—that read: “You are the most beautiful woman I’ve ever laid eyes on. You could be my princess any night.”
I don’t think anyone could top the laughs I got off of this account.
OkCupid is for the more serious dater, as opposed to Tinder. OKCupid works similarly; you “like” people by swiping right and you reject matches by swiping left.
OkCupid doesn’t sync with Facebook like Tinder, so you have to create a profile. It goes pretty in-depth, so it took me a solid 20 minutes before my basic profile was constructed. Then it goes on to have you answer questions that help rank other users and how compatible of a match you are.
OkCupid employs usernames instead of real names, so it’s interesting to see people’s choices.
Unlike Tinder, anyone can message you. This feature got unbelievably annoying. I’ve been single for a couple of years now, so I got used to my phone not buzzing every minute. Getting that much traffic was unnerving and, honestly, irritating.
In fact, I ended up just deleting the app from my phone and relying on the email notifications for when to log on. Even then, the emails were unrelenting. The app sends you emails every single time you get a new match, message or like. In just one day, I received 106 emails from OkCupid. 106. You can turn this off, but I didn’t find out until after I was bombarded with enough digital mail to crash my Gmail app several times.
I said above that it takes some work to make your profile. Before I finished writing a bio about myself, before I had uploaded a photo to use, four people messaged me. I didn’t even bother to respond to them.
After I got a profile constructed and I started actually matching with people, I realized how different OkCupid is from Tinder. The funny interactions didn’t really happen in the matching process but in the messages they sent me. Below is the dialogue from some of my favorites.
Mark, 22, 61 percent match
M: “Hey beautiful I was thinking we should talk cause it seems like we would get along really well *smiley emoticon* and I guarantee that lol”
Oh, really? You can guarantee that? Well, goodness, put a ring on it. I’m completely convinced.
Rick, 22, 81 percent match
R: “Hello I’m Rick~ I’d like to get to know you if you’re up for it”
N: “Hi Rick! I’m Nicole, nice to hear from you.”
R: “I didn’t speak, I typed o_o”
Arthur, 38, 72 percent match
Honestly, “Arthur” never gave me his name. He just looks like an Arthur. Some of the dialogue here is shortened, but all these things were said.
A: “Would you be interested in a mutually beneficial relationship?”
N: “I’m curious about what a mutually beneficial relationship means.”
A: “It’s a very common term. It’s like a ‘boyfriend’ who helps you [out] financially. If you are interested, we need to talk on the phone and meet in person. I don’t discuss specific details in writing.”
N: “No, that’s not something I’m interested in, but thank you for the offer.”
A: “There are nice older guys out there that you could ‘date.’ Take advantage of it while you are young.”
This was by far the creepiest, most cringe-worthy message I got. No, I don’t want a sugar daddy. I want someone to respect and love who I am, but thanks for an…interesting encounter.
What I learned
When I reflect on this experience, I have mainly learned that I value my privacy and my solitude. I was more annoyed than flattered when I kept getting messages. I have things to do and people to see, and I just did not have the time or patience to be messaging someone 24/7.
More than that, though, OkCupid actually introduced me to some nice people. I don’t think that I’ll ever actually meet them, let alone date them. Tinder almost completely eradicated my faith in humanity, but OkCupid brought it back. I know from the messages I included it doesn't seem that way, but I promise I had some great conversations. There are some genuinely nice people out there, and if you think that Internet dating is right for you, then go for it. Don’t let the weird messages and negative stigma scare you away from love, no matter how you come into it.
Reach the writer at email@example.com or on Twitter @nicoletyau_asu.