I’ve been doing some “market research” on the free online dating industry. Yes. Market research.
I started with Ok Cupid, so well designed and full of interesting, educated people with witty profiles that it has almost single-handedly sucked the shame out of online dating. I quickly went through all the girls who met my basic criteria. As a result I’ve been on a brunch date at the Nasher and had interesting conversations with more girls I may see soon. I grew curious about the other types of free online dating sites. Would more queer women be on them? OK Cupid is the the crossover success. How much worse could these other sites be?
I checked out Plenty of Fish (literally the market leader,) which was horribly designed but not very sketchy. My inbox on Plenty of Fish is a repository of banal “Hey pretty” and “You’re adorable” messages. On DateHookup, I received my first no-strings-attached sex solicitation from another woman. (This could have boosted my ego, but I hadn’t even uploaded my first profile picture!) Now that I’ve received catcall messages I see it as less of an ego boost than a let down. Like getting a text, only to realize it’s from my Dad (which usually goes something like "Make sure you are using wifi while on campus!!" or "Do you think Texas will beat Bama?") I liked the idea for How About We, a site designed to match people based on their ideal date. Unfortunately no women who live in the Triangle and meet my basic criteria use this site.
I wanted to revisit the Mogenic of my youth (whichwas not just for teenagers,) but it has shut down. The first Google hit for “LGBT social network” was Downelink. What Downelink has in quantity (over 700 women in the Triangle who fit my basic criteria, over 500 of them black) it loses in quality. Sifting through profiles on Downelink is like looking at woman seek woman on Craigslist crossed with Myspace. All eyesore backgrounds and unsolicited music. I discovered people who spelled “younqq” instead of young, who wanted to meet “FUCK THAT A BANGED AZZ GIRL WHO I CAN CALL WIFEY” and self-identified as 15 year old jailbait. One girl replied with “That was the most refreshing msg I have received on here.” As a Duke student, I also found her refreshing. She had traveled throughout the South, meeting with a former slave owner, and had lived in New York City while auditioning for Broadway plays. For good or ill, unstructured wandering is not in the conversational repertoire of the typical Duke student.
I enjoy this research project, but it is not sustainable. Crafting opening messages beyond “Hey what’s up?” requires the type of close reading of a profile normally reserved for applications and cover letters. I don't have the time or interest to tease out personality from people content to say "I go to NCSU." Every time a message exchange abruptly ends I feel like I've expended much more effort than if I had just talked to a girl for 20 minutes at a party.
Results: My outlook has expanded beyond the terrarium known as Duke. I now realize just how many queer women are in the Triangle, some a bus ride away. The opportunity to check out many women at once is something straight people can take for granted but I rarely do in real life. When I start to think I'm the only queer femme, fashion conscious, intellectual, ethnically ambiguous lesbian in the Triangle I think of this quote by Frida Kahlo:
"I used to think I was the strangest person in the world but then I thought, there are so many people in the world, there must be someone just like me who feels bizarre and flawed in the same ways I do I would imagine her, and imagine that she must be out there thinking of me too.Then I check my new matches on OK Cupid.
well, I hope that if you are out there and read this and know that, yes, it’s true I’m here, and I’m just as strange as you."
[I'm currently undertaking a ridiculous stunt to meet a lot of "my type" women in person. If the stunt is over in two weeks I'll post an article about it.]