On Tinder, you match with people based on whether you’re attracted to each other’s photo. You can get a little glimpse of who they are by looking at their profile, but it’s pretty basic stuff, and it definitely doesn’t tell you what a relationship with that person would be like. When you match with someone, all the app is telling you is that they like you back. Actually, not even that. You’re really just being told that the person likes your profile, and then you have to actually date them to find out whether they actually like you, or whether you like them.
On OKCupid, they do the work for you (or at least, they claim to). We learn very intimate things about a person not only before we decide to date them, but even before we decide to message them. And when I say intimate, I’m not just talking about sexual things (although there is quite a bit of that). I mean you learn about the person’s past: they ask you if you had a happy childhood, if you were one of the popular kids in school, if you’ve ever been in an abusive relationship, what your relationship with your parents is like, what your overall opinion of yourself is…and then, of course, there are all the sex things on top of that. My favorite is “Do you like the taste of blood?”
And you reveal all this information about yourself thinking that it’s going to help their computer algorithms find the perfect person for you. You trust the math. You’ve given them everything they need to know, and they’re going to use that information to help you find the ideal fit.
So they match you with someone who’s supposedly 99% perfect for you, but that person turns out to have some deal-breaker that you haven’t even thought of, maybe something that didn’t come up in the questions or something you didn’t even realize you had a problem with until you tried dating this person. The 99% match doesn’t tell you everything, and you know that, but it’s still something to work with. You assume that someone who matches with you in the 90 percent range is going to be a better fit than someone in the 80 percent range, and anything below a 70 percent should probably be filtered out. I mean, I’m a high school teacher. That’s not even a passing grade. And truth be told, being a B student myself, I rarely messaged women who matched below 83%.
But the longest relationship I ever had via OKCupid lasted six weeks (with a 94% match), and I’m a guy who usually has long relationships. I was never going to meet my soul mate on a dating site. I didn’t meet my wife on a dating site, and I know that didn’t work out the way it was supposed, but it lasted six years. Contrast that with six weeks.
Then contrast that with where I am right now, madly in love with someone I’ve been dating for six months, someone I didn’t meet on OKCupid and never would have, because she was a 44% match. When I showed her my Tinder profile, she told me she would have swiped left, because I seemed too serious and self-involved. And that isn’t really an insult. She knows the person she imagines when reading my profile isn’t real, and that the person she fell in love with is. But it’s further affirmation that online dating was never going to be the way I would find a partner.
When you go out with someone you’ve met on OKCupid, you go in already feeling like you know everything about them. You expect an instant connection. If you don’t feel the connection or they don’t feel it with you, it’s rare that you’ll even want to try to be friends. You just move on and hope it’s there with the next person.
My girlfriend and I met at a bar, specifically at a poetry reading at a bar…where I was performing. She had a boyfriend at the time, so we became friends first, and it was better that way. It allowed us to get to know each other without any expectations of anything. The best case scenario was I was going to get a good friend; the worst case scenario was I would hang out with someone I met at a bar and discover we didn’t have much in common.
But instead we were both surprised by how much we did have in common. Every time we got together, we would discover new things about each other that reaffirmed our compatibility. It was like we started out thinking we were a 44% match, and then every time we learned something new about each other, we watched that number grow. That’s how it should be. You shouldn’t be able to base your compatibility off of a questionnaire that you get to read before even meeting the person. You should meet the person, and let the natural process of getting to know them help you realize which questions were important to you in the first place. Some of the “issues” that caused our OKCupid profiles to match at such a low percentage are based on questions that neither of us has ever cared about in our actual relationship. Some of the things that make us so great together are things that we never thought to answer questions about, or that OKCupid’s automated question-asking system never thought to ask us. You just don’t know…and that’s a terrifying feeling, but also a rewarding one.