Anyone who follows this blog will recall my most popular post to date, about controversial dating website BeautifulPeople, which accepts wannabe members using a voting system based purely on attractiveness. The number of views that post still gets makes it quite obvious that people are endlessly fascinated with this website, and, seemingly, dating websites in general. So, in the name of journalistic investigation, I threw myself to the wolves once again and signed up to OkCupid to see how it compares.
OkCupid, thank the lord, is nowhere near as appearance-centric as BeautifulPeople. Yes, there are photos, and yes, some people have a lot of photos, but it’s not the primary focus at all. The most interesting part of OkCupid is its matching algorithm. Although not compulsory, users are strongly encouraged to answer questions on a vast range of topics, from political views to tastes to sex. You can also select the responses you’d accept from a potential match, and how strongly you feel about the matter. For example:
Here, you might say that you do not approve of hunting at all. You might only want a partner who feels the same, so you would tick only that box in ‘Answers I’ll accept’. You might then think, well, it’s important to me, but it’s not the end of the world if they’re pro-hunting, so you might tick ‘Very important’. The algorithm then matches you with others who match your acceptable answers and gives you a percentage in three categories:
- Match – Based on both of your answers matched up with the answers each of you will accept; for instance if you both answer that you disagree with hunting and will both only accept that as an answer, this is a match. Also based on how important the answer is.
- Friend – Based only on your answers and acceptable answers; importance doesn’t factor into it
- Enemies – Based on how many responses you disagree on.
A really fun thing about this is that once you’ve answered all the questions you can face, you can check the algorithm’s assessment of your own personality on your profile. This is what it had to say about me:
You can also see other people’s personalities, as assessed by OkCupid’s questions, on their profiles. Clearly, nothing like BeautifulPeople, where you get next to no information about the person, aside from some trivial information like ‘Are you a homeowner?’ and ‘Do you have a car?’ If you find someone OkCupid particularly thinks you’d clash with, you get a little tab saying ‘Y’all Got Issues’ where you’d otherwise find the ‘Personality’ tab. Look at this poor soul; we’re not exactly a match made in heaven with a 96% enemy rating:
The dashboard is a lot more comprehensive than BeautifulPeople’s. Compare:
It’s like OkCupid is genuinely trying to help you find someone. There are suggestions for matches all over the shop. Your most recently visited profiles are saved on the left-hand side, with a good selection of well-matched members. You can see peoples’ answers to recently answered questions at a glance, and it even suggests activities for you to better complete your profile to make you more interesting to other members… something I clearly never got round to doing. BeautifulPeople, in comparison, makes it all a bit of an ego-stroking operation. It’s all about YOU. It shows you who has liked YOUR photos and YOUR rating (based on your photos, of course) and the visits to YOUR profile. In fact, BeautifulPeople just doesn’t really work as a dating site at all. Unless you pay (which obviously, I’m not going to do), you can’t read your messages. The forum is behind a paywall. You can’t see who is ‘following’ you without shelling out for full access… which is just a bit creepy.
Another interesting feature is that OkCupid tells you how often someone replies to a message. As far as I can tell, it’s supposed to help you figure out who it’s worth trying your luck with. I’ve noticed that a lot of guys have ‘Replies often’, accompanied by a green light, presumably meaning ‘go ahead, I’m open to talking’. I got a friend to check mine, and apparently it says ‘Replies very selectively’, which probably makes me sound quite harsh but then, that’s not really what I was there for, so it’s to be expected really. I’ve seen lots of people online complaining that OkCupid girls are really up themselves because so many of them have ‘Replies selectively’ or ‘Replies very selectively’ on their profile, so I’d just like to clarify that that isn’t something you determine yourself – OkCupid does that for you, I assume by comparing the number of messages you receive to the amount of replies you send.
And this brings me on to the final big difference between OkCupid and BeautifulPeople: on OkCupid you’re actually encouraged to talk to people. The messaging system is free, unlike with most dating websites, BeautifulPeople included, making you much more likely to receive messages from prospective suitors. The only slight issue is the calibre of these messages… anyone thinking about setting themselves up on OkCupid, take heed of what not to say in your message to your ideal beau, from the boring to the bizarre, and not in a good way:
You wouldn’t think it would be difficult to say something a bit witty or vaguely interesting or enchanting would you? As in real life, you have only one chance to make a good first impression (unless you’re in 50 First Dates, though you probably don’t have that excuse), so just because you’re online, there’s no excuse to be boring. Yes, people can come to your profile to find out more for themselves, but where is the incentive?
Overall, I would recommend OkCupid over BeautifulPeople any day. On a practical level, it’s free (unless you opt to pay for an upgrade, but by the looks of things it’s unnecessary), it helps match you up to suitable members and it ACTUALLY LETS YOU MESSAGE PEOPLE. Furthermore, it’s much more about the personality on OkCupid, with questions and tests to help you find out more about them as a person, rather than trying to glean anything at all from a (possibly highly edited, or totally fake) profile picture on BeautifulPeople.
To be honest, I’m glad to finally be able to delete my profile and return to the real world with my real personality… but if you ARE thinking about trying online dating (good on you, very 21st century), or you’re just curious, then OkCupid is the one to go for. Or, if you’re a bit lame like me, you’ll get addicted to answering the personality questions when you can’t sleep and get through 700 of the little blighters, just to see if the algorithm ‘gets’ you…