I have been single for quite a long time. Partly, this is because I have chosen to be autonomous and don’t very much give much thought to the idea that a person who is single is somehow not “complete” or there is something inherently wrong with single life. Mostly, it is because I have a two remote control Lego trains in my living room, and for some reason that is not a libido riser. Being single for so long, I have had the (dis)pleasure of using dating sites and apps as an avenue for finding kindness in the company of strangers. Some think dating sites are creepy, but they are no more creepy than going to a bar or other public venue and talking to a complete stranger. At least with online dating, you have a little bit more of an idea of who the person is. It is like going to a bar, but you have that Terminator vision, where you can see your subject's skills, weaknesses, whether he/she is a Level 5 Night Orc, etc. Yes, it can be a sea of tiger selfies and duck mouth bathroom pics and very rude asses with a sense of privilege, but weave through that, and you may meet some nice people. I met some of my best friends online. So this is what I learned about five for which I’ve had success/failure...mostly failure.
PLENTY OF FISH (PoF) is a free dating site. It is very simple. You post your pictures, write a little summary, and fill out your profile, much like any other dating site. Fun fact: PoF has the highest amount of profile summaries with requests to leave your drama and your baggage at the door. Apparently, most people on PoF hate stage acting and packing heavy for trips. The main feature of Plenty of Fish is its “Meet Me” section. Here, you are shown flashcards of people’s main profile pictures with the buttons NO, MAYBE, and YES under them. Why MAYBE? I don’t know. It’s as if they programmed in the Fade-Away before one can even meet a person. If you would like to know who would like to meet you, you have to pay. This is a new feature. You can pay anywhere from $38.70 for 3 months to $82.00 for 12 months. Would that be worth it? I couldn’t tell you. While the phone app is a little bit dynamic, PC website looks like it was built on an Angelfire backbone. Perhaps if more people paid, they’d make a better looking site. The only other way to find out if someone wants to meet you is if you two “mutual meet” or if they reach out to you.
TINDER is app only. It is similar to PoF in that the parameters for searching are age and distance. Also, you are limited to about 400 characters on what you can say in your summary. You are also limited to four pictures, so choose wisely! The ONLY feature is the flash card “Meet Me” style interface, but without that pesky MAYBE button. In fact, it’s not even YES or NO; it’s a checkmark or an X. If hitting buttons is too complicated, you swipe right for yes or left for no, leaving a nice smudge on your phone screen if you forgot how greasy your lunch is. Tinder is essentially Plenty of Fish for illiterate people!
Many tout Tinder as Hetero-Grindr and say it is a hook up app. I think that is silly, because ANYTHING could be a hookup app. Also, of the few people who wrote a blurb beyond a few wine glass and plane emojis, the most common sentence you’ll see is, “Swipe Left if you’re looking for a hookup!” This does not deter some people. For a good laugh in horror, look up @byefelipe on Instagram…oy…
Most recently, Tinder created Tinder Plus, its premium service where you can undo left swipes, look for people in other areas, and get UNLIMITED SWIPES! The latter used to be free, but now you have a limited number per day, so you’d better choose wisely who you are judging strictly by headshots. Tinder Plus is only $9.99/mo, unless you’re over 30; then it’s $19.99/mo, because fuck old people!
All that said, the swiping can be fun. Of the actual dates I’ve had thanks to Tinder, we were so incompatible that it was laughable. It is as if only going by looks for your dating criteria is a bad idea!
OKCUPID is another mostly-free app and website. It does have the superficial swipey interface, called Quickmatch, as well, but you have a LOT more that you can fill out beyond the obligatory, “I’m not here for games; leave your baggage at the door”. There are profile questions that kind of guide you through what to say. Give a brief summary. What are your favourite things? What to people notice about you? What is the most private thing you are willing to divulge to complete strangers on an online platform? What is that on your shoulder? At what are you really good? What are you doing with your life? The latter is usually answered, “Living it!” This is great, because you can tell immediately that this person has very little imagination, and you can immediately pass him/her by! OKCupid also has the highest concentration of pictures of women doing yoga dangerously close to the edges of gorges and canyons in the world.
The good thing about OKC is that in your search, you can specify MANY more fields than simply distance and age. You can choose education, gender, marital status, drug/alcohol/smoking preference, job type, diet, height, eye/hair/skin colour…If you would like to date an athletic Bangladeshi polyamorous pansexual trans woman twin vegan chemist who smokes marijuana and pops ecstasy when walking her blue-eyed corgie, you can make that search.
Additionally, there are thousands of user- and staff-generated questions that you can elect to answer that range from dating to politics to sex to religion and beyond. When your accepted answers match up with another person’s accepted answers, a percentage grade for chance of match and enemy is generated. This makes the Quickmatch more enjoyable. The more questions one answers, the more likely those grades will be accurate. So yes, she may be hot, but we’re a 13% match and 75% enemy, so no.
|A sensible answer
The grading percentage system is both a feature and a fault. If one pays attention to it, you will likely have a good time with people who match from 80% to 99%. That is a solid B- to A+! You can’t go wrong with that, right? One flaw, though. Just like straight A students in school, The ARE great, and they ARE very close to matching with you, but like many straight A students, there is likely one little thing slightly amiss about them. You will not know what it is, until one day, you put the dinner forks in the lunch fork tray, and suddenly, they turned from perfect angel to egg-beater wielding harbinger of punishment, and ironically you have to jump out of a second-story window to escape bodily harm. Either that or you will be listening to the Jackson 5, and you’ll mention how much you like Jermaine, and they’ll turn with fire in their eyes and tell you, “You like Tito now. You ONLY like Tito”, at which point you realize the reason for the missing 10% of your 90% match rate, and you ironically have to jump out of the second-story window to escape bodily harm.
MATCH is not free. There is ad hoc pay. You want Match to write a profile for you? Fuck you; pay Match. You want to show up on top of all of the searches? Fuck you; pay Match. You want to send a message to that pretty lawyer? Fuck you; pay Match. You want to know if she read that message? Fuck you; pay Match. You want to “go incognito”, so that when you’re writing a message and looking at her profile, you don’t look like a creep? Fuck you; pay Match. However, if you pay for 6 months up front for the basic service and you do not find a match within the 6 months, you get 6 months free. This costs about the same as a really sweet Lego train. Alternatively, there is a free “Wink” option, where you can just wink at a person you like, similar to poking on Facebook. I am not sure why this is a feature. I am of the mindset that if you wouldn’t do it in real life, you probably shouldn’t do it online. I cannot imagine that anything good has come of a man walking up to a woman at a bar, not saying a word, just winking at her, and then walking away.
|Wink for free in a Starbucks.
The format of Match is such that you can line up your match criteria with another person’s to see if there actually is some compatibility. Things that do match are highlighted. One thing I noticed of Match: like all other sites, you can choose your ethnicity (or ethnicities), and you can choose which ethnicity (or ethnicities) you would like to date. You can choose from black/African descent, white/Caucasian, Hispanic/Latino, Asian, East Indian, Middle Eastern, Vulcan, Dead Rabbit, Other, etc. Let us ignore that EVERYONE is of African descent and they list three different synonyms for Asian. A lot of people choose only their own identified ethnicity. I call these the Basic Breadth. A lot of other people choose either all of the ethnicities or leave that preference blank, which is promising. A few who I call the Fetishizers choose only one or two ethnicities outside of their own. And then there are some who choose absolutely every ethnicity EXCEPT for Black/African descent. What on earth have they heard and internalized about black people that they would date absolutely everyone BUT black people? Are they just streaming AM talk 24 hours a day? Do they really think a Dead Rabbit or an Other is going to be much better of a partner? That is disappointing and confusing. Oh well.
|This is pretty much every ethnicity EXCEPT black.
eHARMONY has a very specific formula for how they determine matches. Yes, you can browse, but your matches are more based on a slew of questions that you must answer, and you will receive notices of people they think will be good for you. Because of this, I wager that the only reason eHarmony is called that is because someone already owns the rights to eYenta.
There are a few issues I have with eHarmony. You cannot use it if you are separated. You MUST be divorced. You also cannot use it if you are polyamorous. Most annoying is that if you are gay, lesbian, or transsexual, you cannot use eHarmony. The excuse that eHarmony claims is that the meticulous formula that they concocted was only made for heterosexual coupling, that they just did not think about gay individuals. Right, because gay people come from a different galaxy, and therefore no one really knows what they would want in a relationship. Including them in the eHarmony formula might create a fissure in the space/time continuum! You MUST be a CIS-gender heterosexual strictly monogamous man or woman who legally has no marital ties to play. This excuse is utter bullshit. What kind of shitty formula are they using that it is so fragile that adding the variables X or Y where X= “Guy Who Kisses Boys” and Y= “Recently Separated Individual Strong Enough to Put Him/Herself Back Out There” will throw it off? I know eHarmony might work for me, but by virtue of the fact that they choose to exclude an entire demographic, no matter how small that demographic may be, fuck eHarmony.
There are hundreds more dating sites out there; some cast wide nets and some are honed down to one specific subject. You can look up InterracialMatch.com, FarmersOnly.com, JDate.com, Gk2gk.com (Geek to Geek), FurryHump.com**, etc. this is just an assessment of the ones I have tried. Now, I am going to get back to my Lego trains.
*There are no PhDs on PoF. Stop looking.
**FurryHump.com is not a dating site. Yet.