In which OkCupid is almost forgiven

No. Just no.

When I reactivated my OkCupid account, about a month ago, I was pleased to see that some things never change. “We live in a world of flux,” I reminded myself. “Our circumstances shift from day to day. The economy ebbs and wanes. The circle of life continues. Even the bloody Sugababes can’t keep the same lineup from one minute to the next.”

OkCupid, by contrast, was reassuringly similar to how I remembered it. Admittedly, I’d only deactivated my account three months previously, which wouldn’t really have given them time to tweak the typeface, let alone to, say, pimp out the domain name to a provincial firm of painter-decorators. But when you’re looking for bedrocks of constancy, you’ll take what you can get.

This comfort was boosted further by the fact I’d also joined Plenty of Fish. I don’t know if you’ve ever encountered Plenty of Fish, but if you haven’t, I would recommend you open that tab right now and count your blessings. Look at all those typos. Look at that low-budget use of Arial Bold. Heed the slightly unsavoury whiff emitted by that name, which, let’s be honest, sounds less like an endorsement of limitless romantic potential and more like a ‘blind lesbian in a fish market’ gag. And then tell me that OkCupid isn’t the best, the classiest and most clued-up free dating site you’ll get.

Honestly, Plenty of Fish is bafflingly bad. A mishmash of ominous looking mugshots and poorly targeted advertising:

‘England Flat Belly Tip: If you are 25 you can cut 3 kgs of belly fat every week by using this 1 weird old tip’

the fun really kicks in once the messages start. And I can’t speak from the guys’ perspective, but if you’re rocking an extra X chromosome, start they will.

The messages are so lame, so abundant and so generic, they make the worst message ever sent on OkCupid look like the musings of Oscar Wilde’s wittier twin. A good 80% are some variant on ‘hi how r u’. The remainder are split between the illegible, the ultra illegible, the cat-walked-across-their-keyboard illegible and the downright offensive:

‘See I couldn’t get your sight away from my eyes ..and last night I had this dream of you singing alongside pussy cat dolls ..dontchya wish your girlfriend should be hot like me..dontchya wish your girlfriend should be sweet like me ..dontchya dontchya ..and jadey I literally woke up yelling I DO I DO lol hahahah ok ok Yes I do intend to bring you roses when we will meet because I want those roses to realise what real beauty is 😀  So me and you going out is on cards? Or you don’t like to date brown breads lol’

Truly weird. I’m still on that site, and plan to stay, purely because I can’t not look.

Anyway, despite their marketing spiel, I’m fairly certain my putative ‘soulmate’ is not hanging round on a website named after a bad smell.  But I do know for a fact there are some decent guys on okcupid. And when I rejoined, and the inaugural message came from a man who’d actually bothered to read my profile, I could have kissed my computer screen.

OkCupid, I thought, all is forgiven. Here be actual human beings, with actual cognitive abilities. Admittedly all my reservations about online dating came flooding back too, but it was nice to feel at least like I wasn’t alone in my bemusement.

You see, this is the downside of that familiarity. Everything that troubled me about online dating before still perturbs me now. I still think it’s  all about the quick fix. I think for men, it’s a royal route to frustration; and for women, to cynicism and distrust. I think it encourages superficiality on both sides. It leads people to see each other as commodities that can easily be replaced, and over time it corrodes a part of you, leaving you feeling like your soul’s been eaten by the Staff Robot.

On the other hand, far be it from me to turn down a social opportunity involving half-decent conversation and malt scotch. We’ll see how long I last this time round before the soul-destroying element trumps the scotch…

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