Some Observations On My Personal OKCupid Data, Plus A Call To Join It

May 5, 2010 § Leave a comment

OKCupid (if you’re not one of those always-internetting internetters and don’t know what it is) is a social/dating website that is much more young/casual/up-to-date than either of the big 2, Match.com and eHarmony. The site also has a blog, which they (the founders of the site, from what I gather, are Harvard grad stat/sociology nerds)  use to report on sociological trends and results from research they do on their users. It’s really fascinating.

In any case, I have an account there because what the hell, I’m a single guy who’s 25 and spends a lot of time on the Web, and its free, and I might actually run into someone interested in meeting up in the real world…I’m in.  There also is a truly risk-free quality to it: there are people on there to find a third to join their married spouse in the boudoir, there’s people simply looking for new friends, and everything in between.

Much like the eHarmony model, you answer some questions and tests to allow the bots at OKCupid to try and assess your compatibility with another person. One twist, though: many of the questions are user-submitted. So while asking a mundane “Do you ever see yourself owning a pet?” question or two, there’s also awesome ones like “Is spooning in a bed with a person of the sex you’re attracted to but not the person you’re currently in an exclusive relationship with wrong?”. Furthermore, you have a chance to rate how important it is that the target of your interest agrees with your opinion on the question in question. It then takes these, runs them through The Computer, and then VOILA you have matches of compatibility, both locally and globally.

Here’s some random observations based on the people OKCupid has paired me with, based on the several hundred questions I’ve answered. I offer these up in the most stat-nerd-y way you can handle. Part of me thinks that my experience is indicative of the future for most of America, but that is so anecdotal and perspective-skewed as to be be laughable. Whatever. Here’s a few things I’ve noticed.

  1. The women who are compatible with me tend to be much more “alt” than the women I’ve been with in the past. I mean by “alt”: lots more lip-rings, tattoos, and extreme hair styles than past relationships. I’m totally cool with this assessment, btw, even approving/encouraging of it. But it does make me wonder if I’ve totally whiffed on a chunk of my life, assuming that the girl with the sleeve tattoo is totally not-where-I’m-at while missing the chance to find a smarter and more intellectually fulfilling experience.
  2. The girls I’m more compatible with are generally more visually appealing to me. To explain: one of the most prominent features of a profile page is a box with “___% Match, ___% Friend, ___% Enemy” indicating romantic compatibility, platonic friendship compatibility, and enemy-ness. I find that ones listed as 40% Match are by-and-large less appealing than ones that are 80% Match. Just to be clear, this “compatibility” is, as far as I can tell, rendered completely by my answers to written questions about life choices. I don’t recall answering any questions about whether I preferred blondes or brunettes (if there were any questions, they weren’t very many). Yet with this data OKCupid’s managed to find people I find quite attractive in a physical manner. This is some deep, deep, meta-level thinking here, but I’m honestly not sure whether knowing that they’re compatible makes my brain interpret these women as more visually attractive, or whether it’s coincidence that the bot’s assessed me the “pretty and smart” contingent of OKCupiders. The OKCupid bots are good: it figured out that if you like David Foster Wallace, noir, documentaries, being a bit of a foodie, Fugazi, or Alan Moore we’re gonna be doing well together on some fronts, and the bots have sent me a load of profiles in that vein.
  3. Compatible with a higher percentage of bisexuals than I thought. Now the disclaimer is that perhaps the nature of the medium of the Internet leads to more honesty, combined with a strong bias in the cohort selection (I’m thinking OKCupiders tend to trend more left, younger, and more openly honest than Facebook, for example),  but even then: it seems that among the women who are highly compatible with me, about 30-35% self-identify as bisexual. Again, I have zero problems with this, not even the least bit of pervy paranoid male jealousy about it. (Although I’m pretty much a down-the-line Breeder: Viva bisexuals!) Now, maybe womankind writ large is fully a third bisexual and OKCupiders are more willing to admit it, but 30% bisexuality is way larger than any experiences I’ve had to this point in my life. But I did grow up in Texas and Colorado Springs, so I might’ve just been sheltered at important points of real-world education. Or maybe, in all of this, I just have a worldview that makes me a bit more palatable to Girls That Like Both Girls And Guys, and that same worldview makes them more palatable to me.
  4. Certain cities keep popping up. I strongly suspect that this is a selection problem, that there aren’t many non-metropolitan or college-town users of OKCupid, but the number of times that Bay Area, New York, and Austin-based women show up in my “Global Matches” list is noticeable. Denver isn’t too bad either, but it finishes distant to those three.
  5. The perils of self-marketing. This is more a general comment than about my personal feedback. Spend more than a few hours on OKCupid, and it becomes apparent that there are people who edit their profiles to appear smart. You’ll see something like “my favorite books are [Nicholas Sparks novel/Dan Brown novel/Clive Cussler novel] and Atlas Shrugged.” We all know that the guy or girl in question read maybe 15% of Atlas Shrugged but felt like he or she had to include it to show off her non-vapidity. Hell, I’m a politics-nerd who’s honest-to-god favorite book is Moby Dick, and I only got through about 75% of Atlas Shrugged. Not much to observe about this phenomenon, as it’s hardly earth-shattering to state “people engage in inept sophistry and deception in the flirting/pursuing part of romance”, but just to say: you’re not fooling anyone, and a girl who admits to loving Calvin and Hobbes as her favorite book looks exponentially smarter than someone who misspells Milan Kundera in referencing The Unbearable Lightness of Being, a good read that is not really anyone’s favorite book. Honesty is a quality that’s really hard to fake, and honest profiles read much better and are more attractive.

If I wasn’t clear: I love the site, and the selection process has worked really well in terms of Search- the people I’ve run across that OKCupid thinks would get along with me, generally get along with me. I’ll admit that I’ve been a bit noncommittal and an infrequent user, but every time I invest a little more time and effort, it hasn’t been in vain. I’m looking to get a little more involved there in the future. I’m probably deleting my Facebook account later this week for privacy reasons, so I’ll enjoy having some other form of social media site to frequent.

If you’re single, sign up. Even if you don’t want to date anyone at the moment, there’s a lot commending it as a casual social interaction site where you get a chance to meet and befriend cool strangers, something that isn’t as easy to do on sites like Facebook or MySpace or LinkedIn.

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