By Emily Townsend Editor-in-Chief
You sign in and a small cartoon woman in leather boots greets you. She says,“Welcome to OkCupid. Start meeting people now.” Like Facebook, your homepage is filled with updates. Unlike Facebook, updates come from other users in the pursuit of romance or “hook-ups.”
To improve your profile, you answer an ongoing personality quiz called “Match Questions.” One questions asks, “Do you often tell jokes that offend uptight people?” Based on your answers, a compatibility percentage appears next to each potential suitor in three categories: “match, friend and enemy.”
Regina Pell ‘13 has used OkCupid for the past couple years.
“I use it on and off, depending on what I’m looking for,” Pell said. “During the quarter I only respond to people when they message me.”
Pell said she likes to cast her net a little wider than the Kalamazoo College community.
“I identify as queer,” she said. “I feel like, especially when you go to a school as small as ours and when it gets into a subgroup, [dating] can get insestuious.”
Pell likes that she can restrict her settings so that only certain gender and orientation groups can view her profile.
Dimeko Price ’13 still thinks that online dating carries a stigma. He said that he thought web dating was for, “people who are socially awkward, really shy, people who are older, who need help getting out there.”
“I thought old people would use [dating sites], like 35 or older. When you mentioned college students used them, I was surprised. I thought it was easier for college students [to meet] with activities, campus and classes,” Price said.
Pell said that older people are surprised that she uses OkCupid. But she said she has never met someone her age who thought it was abnormal.
“From our generation, people don’t seem like they mind. I’m not only on it for dates; I’m there for friends, too,” she added.
Pell said she used OkCupid while traveling abroad to find other English speakers.
Willina Cain ’16 does not know anyone who has online dated. She is also apprehensive about meeting people online.
“With online dating, you don’t know the person. It’s hard enough getting to know face to face. When you’re dealing with an online profile, you have no idea who the person is,” Cain said.
OkCupid is one of many dating websites available. Pell says she uses OkCupid exclusively, “because most of them you have to pay for.”
About half of the top dating websites have membership fees — OkCupid does not. However, all top dating sites have an upgrade option that comes with a fee. OkCupid’s upgrade allows users to see how high they were ranked by others.
OkCupid has a youthful 25-person staff. Co-founders Chris Coyne, Sam Yagan and Max Krohn were students at Harvard together when they founded thespark.com, later evolving into Barnes and Noble’s Spark Notes. The Spark had humorous quizzes based on the Myers-Briggs personality test. Later The Spark allowed for registered users to search for other people with similar quiz scores. In 2001 a version of this site, OkCupid, was launched as a dating site.
Another Harvard alumni and OkCupid co-founder, Christian Rudder, runs OkTrends, a blog that tracks and codes users’ quiz answers. More recent posts include graphs correlating college tuition cost vs. sex drive; Twitter users’ romantic relationship length; and religion vs. writing proficiency level.
Price explored OkTrends for the first time last Wednesday. He said the blog was not what he expected.
“It gave people to people advice, stats, [dating tips] that worked. It was actually kind of helpful. But some of the graphs were difficult to interpret,” he said.
Rudder’s blog lists the number of OkCupid users polled, but he does not list a clear data methodology.
After looking at OkTrends, Price still thought he would probably never date online.
“I would rather know the person at the get go. I want to meet someone at a place where we have something in common. Meeting someone in person is more genuine,” he said.