Students get arise out of online dating
Paige Garland is a green eyed, dark haired, 21 year old photography student who doesn't have any trouble finding dates. She has been online dating since late last year, and has already met about 10 people in person from the online dating site OkCupid.com.
Garland is among a surge of young people using online dating websites such as OkCupid. com, and PlentyofFish.com. In September 2010 OkCupid.com reported 1.1 million active members. Now, less than a year later, the site reports 7 million active users, and PlentyofFish.com claims over 30 million registered members.
"In their advertising, you can tell it's meant for a younger audience 'cause it's kind of cartoony, and it's free – you don't have to pay for (the service)," said Garland, who also considers the aesthetic appeal to be part of the reason for OkCupid. com's surge in popularity with young people. Garland said it was a smooth step from using other social networking websites such as Myspace and Facebook. Since she was old enough to date, she said, she's never had a relationship that was not aided by messaging online or texting. Myspace, Facebook and texting were already ubiquitous by the time she graduated high school. So when a friend recommended OkCupid. com, she joined immediately. "Why not? I need to meet new people," Garland said.
OkCupid.com helps members meet those people by using a matching scheme that allows users to choose the questions they want to answer – ones that they think are important to have in common with potential dates. Any potential pair of people can see how close they match each other, according to a match percentage. For example, when Harry browses Sally's profile page, it may show that they are an 87 percent match (if they are a good match).
Users agree that the match percentages are helpful for meeting people. SCC student Joshua Huffines, 31, said, "The better dates that I had from OkCupid, I had higher match percentages with the people."
The site allows members the freedom to message and instant message any potential friend or date, regardless of how high or low their match percentage may be. "I wouldn't base an entire relationship on the match system," said Garland, who recently dated someone with whom a 15-20 percent match was shared. "He only listened to folk music…so I couldn't listen to my music around him, I was like, 'This sucks!'" They dated for two months before breaking up, Garland said.
Though she has since edited her profile to better prioritize similar interests, she said the conversations shared through the site's messaging system were more important to her for determining compatibility with a person. If they sense a connection, they usually meet in a public place, such as a cafe or bar. Garland has had relatively safe experiences, but not all of them have been comfortable.
"I got this guy Shay's number (who I had met before), mixed up with another guy (from the dating site). So I was supposed to meet who I thought was Shay, at a bar in Ballard; and when I got there, the person that walked in was definitely not him. I was thinking 'OH MY GOD' and I couldn't remember his name for the life of me. So I texted my room mate and said 'I have no idea who I'm on a date with, and he wants to go somewhere else'"
Garland's room mate came to the bar and the date eventually ended. "He got the hint and never talked to me again," said Garland. With the risk involved, online dating isn't for everyone. Although Huffines said he had some decent dates, he found enough reasons to quit online dating.
Often members solicit people despite low match percentages. For Huffines this led to an incident when another member sent him an instant message. "I looked at her profile, not necessarily my type, but I am an affable fellow, and will chat with someone, so – struck up a conversation while editing my profile and she immediately asked for my phone number so she could start sexting me," said Huffines. After refusing to give his phone number, the situation escalated when she began to force the issue, said Huffines. After asking her to stop and telling her he was uncomfortable with the conversation, he eventually blocked her user account.
"Then 15 minutes later I got a message from someone who had just set up their profile (a new account), and it was her, and she said, 'your're not gonna get rid of me that easily.'" After that and other similar bad experiences, he decided to delete his online dating accounts. "I've had far better luck with the girls I've met in real life … so I'm kinda goin' old school," Huffines said.
Luke Forney - contributing writer