What I learned when I went back to OKCupid

When my relationship ended, I decided to give OkCupid a chance. Well, another chance. I had used the site before to find my ex-boyfriend. I had only been using the service for a week when I met him and we soon fell into “coupledom”. I remember thanking the OkCupid gods for our serendipitous meeting. Who finds true love in a week? Their fancy algorithms worked magic for me, and I was hoping they would once more.

I began the process of creating a new user account, hesitantly inputting my information. Desired username: Single again and hopeless?  Fresh out of a relationship, and not completely sure if I’m over it yet? I would have chosen the latter if it didn’t exceed the maximum length. On my profile, I selected that I was looking for new friends and short-term dating. It took me almost an hour before deciding to include the dating bit. I convinced myself that I was only on the site to meet people. To make a new friend or two. If that happened to blossom into something more, I would welcome it. But, I wasn’t actively searching for anything or anyone in particular—only passively clicking through profile pictures and occasionally hitting the like button for the ones that managed to use full sentences and project an image other than creeper.

You can and should choose who you welcome into your life

One of the things that amazed me about the site was how selective it allowed the user to be. I was able to not only filter out search results based on basic information such as age, height, and body type, but once I spent $9.95 to upgrade to “A-list” level, I could search for guys based on personality, common interest and even level of attractiveness. It was like walking down the line at a buffet. With a few clicks, it was possible to literally shape an aspect of social interaction that I normally left up to fate. When I got past the initial shallowness of these tools (the attractiveness feature makes me cringe), I realized that it ultimately pushed me to be more intentional about whom I brought into my life. While I was open to meeting a diverse variety of people, I no longer felt guilty about choosing who I shared my heart with.

It takes time and some work, too

After the initial thrill of signing up wore off, my inbox looked pretty bleak and so did my chances of finding genuine connection. While I received some very thoughtful messages, the number of times I spotted a “damn, you sexy!” note from guys with default pictures of themselves shirtless far outnumbered those. I internalized this disappointment, thinking that it was me. Perhaps if I had a better profile picture that made me look thinner, or a more adventurous about-me section. Or maybe I needed to give off more of a manic-pixie-dream-girl vibe? It was only when I started treating online dating like a peripheral activity in my life, rather than the focus, did I start to have fun with the site. Besides, on OkCupid, there are hundreds of thousands of people online at any given time. Although I was lucky the first time around, in reality, it takes time to navigate the awkward pickup lines and feelings of rejection.

Know what you’re looking for

One night, I struck up a pretty good back-and-forth with a guy about meditation and dessert. The conversation was flowing and I found myself developing a cyber attraction to him. I pictured us out on a first date, stealing sweet glances in a yoga class. However, he cut our imaginary future short by saying he was only interested in making friends; he wasn’t sure if or how he wanted to move forward with me. I was mad. His profile clearly stated that he was interested in short and long-term dating. This guy had just wasted my time with his confusion. But wasn’t that the attitude I had employed on the site? I realized that most of the people I had engaged with on OkCupid didn’t really know what they wanted. The interest section of their profiles didn’t match their intentions. And, I was guilty of the same crime.

Be yourself

I went to dinner with someone I met on the site. We gushed over our mutual love of 90s boy bands and intense love of desserts. It felt nice to connect in this way with someone, but underneath the giggles and small talk, I compared every detail of the meeting to the first date I had with my ex. I was guilty of the same ambivalent behavior that I accused others of. I realized that my luck with the site couldn’t be determined by the accuracy of their fancy match algorithms but by my own emotional availability and health. This also rings true in love, I feel. It’s impossible to open yourself up to loving another if you’re not honest with yourself about your readiness to engage in a relationship. As cliché as it sounds, this was the final step in my OkCupid journey; learning to listen to my inner voice.

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