I just moved into my first real grown-up apartment in my adopted home town of Santa Cruz, and having a place to live that I won’t need to vacate in nine months makes the idea of staying here very real, thereby making the idea of a significant other much more plausible.
That said, I’m also working not one but two jobs that require me to sit at a desk by myself, interacting only with various administrators and cranky tourists. My chances of meeting one of the many beautiful people I see out the window of the bus as I ride to work are slim, to say the least, and so in an act of what I admit to be slight desperation but mostly curiosity, I joined a dating app.
Online dating is never something I saw myself doing, because everyone I ever dated before I knew already from work or from school, and I assumed college would be the same. At this point though, I’ve been at college for two years talking to people and knowing them and here I am, still forever alone, so times change.
Part of me thinks online dating is almost cheating, like meeting someone in a non rom-com magic kind of way somehow isn’t as legit, but I’m not running into anyone in my mailroom and making dreamy eye contact as they help me pick up my dropped packages, so clearly, the movies lied to me. My disappointment is real and enduring, but so it goes. We move on.
I’ve been a member of OkCupid for almost a month now, and in that time the etiquette, or lack thereof, of this strange kind of underground world has become abundantly clear—there is no learning curve—and I’ve come up with a list a things you should and should not do if you too want to navigate the depths of the internet in a never-ending search for love.
Do: Try a couple different apps.
By using a variety of apps, you avoid being matched with the same people over and over. If you’ve gone through everyone OkCupid has suggested for you and you aren’t impressed, move on!
Don’t: Pay for anything.
OkCupid has what’s called an A-List membership that lets you do all kinds of fancy things, like browse people’s profiles without them knowing or see when someone reads your message, plus a few other things.
That said, the app works just fine when you use the free version, and while my dignity may have taken a hit, my wallet did not. Love is out there, friends. Save your money for the actual dates, don’t spend it here.
Do: Talk to your matches online.
Once you’ve matched, make sure to engage in at least a little conversation before deciding to meet them in person. The app might think you’re a match, but I once got a 94 percent match with a person with whom literally the only thing we had in common was that we lived in the same town. Whatever algorithm the site uses is not perfect, so make sure you actually have things in common before you commit yourself to dinner with someone.
Having said that,
Don’t: Feel obligated to talk to someone you don’t like just because the app says you should.
I’m a big proponent of trusting your gut, and if a person sends you a message that gives you a bad vibe, don’t engage with them. Someone named PrinceofSleaze messaged me asking if I modeled, but if you’re a self-proclaimed sleazy person, why would I answer that? (I didn’t.)
Do: Make your profile as honest and varied as possible.
People read those things damn closely, and if you mention something even in what you think is passing, someone could grab on to it and make it a bigger deal than it is.
Also, if you say you like a thing, the app will think your entire life is about that thing and match you with people who may like it way more than you do. Don’t say you love sports when you just kind of like them if you want to be matched with people who also like movies.
Don’t: Give people your private information right off the bat.
I know I sound like your mother, but I’ve watched way too many episodes of “Criminal Minds” to trust anybody. People are crazy. You don’t know them. Maybe they seemed great at coffee but they dropped you off at home and now they know where you live and that freaks me out just a little bit.
I met someone for coffee last week (at the coffee place) and he ended up being great, but he could have been a stalker in the making and I didn’t want him to have my address. Trust your judgment, obviously—maybe you haven’t seen enough “Criminal Minds” and are not as skeptical of humans as I am—but also be safe.
Do: Proceed with cautious optimism.
Yes, you might meet your next person online, because that happens to people, but don’t delete the app in heartbreak if it doesn’t work out for you. The world is very big and full of a lot of people, and you won’t be in the same spot you’re in now forever.
Personally, I’m still a quiet believer in movie meetings in mailrooms and bookstores, but as I said, the world is very big, and the internet connects people who maybe shop in different bookstores. Plus, the guy I went to coffee with said he would take me to the aquarium (!!), so you really never know what kind of gems you’ll find.
Don’t: Judge people’s photo’s too harshly.
People choose some interesting photos to advertise themselves to the world, but does anyone’s grainy bathroom selfie really look good? I was decidedly unimpressed with my roommate’s person’s (his title is yet to be determined) photos, but they don’t do him justice at all—he’s way cuter in person. If everything else seems perfect but the photo is just okay, the real deal might be just as good.