Help me get the most out of OKCupid!
July 30, 2012 6:57 PM   Subscribe

What should I be expecting from OKCupid? Assume my profile is just fine.

I'm a thirty-something single man in Seattle. I've only started using OKCupid like... yesterday. Let's assume for the sake of argument that my profile is good, with decent photos and well-written prose that accurately conveys who I am and what I'm looking for. What are your tips or tricks for maximizing the potential for meeting someone special? For example: Should I only be sending messages to women that I have over a 90% match with? Should I always respond right away if someone writes back (or miraculously writes to me out of the blue)? Should my initial message be a simple couple of paragraphs asking questions about things they wrote in their profile? What worked or didn't work for you?

I really should just relax, right?
posted by evinrude to Human Relations (27 answers total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
In my opinion, the first message should be short and ideally not take itself too seriously. If I saw multiple paragraphs asking in depth questions about my profile, I would think it was a little intense.

I would say ask one or maybe two questions, and those questions should be light in tone.
posted by Sara C. at 7:06 PM on July 30, 2012

Yes, you really should just relax.

Unless you have way more confidence than me in their matching questions, people's ability to know what they want and be honest, and the algorithm, I wouldn't look at match percentages with that level of granularity. Don't date a 20% match, sure, but don't rule out an 81%.

Write back when you have time and want to. You're 30-something and presumably looking to date another grown-up, no one is reading that much into when you are on the internet etc.
posted by J. Wilson at 7:07 PM on July 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

Online dating is a numbers game. Write to everyone who catches your interest, and try to tailor your messages to each woman. Keep your expectations low, be persistent, and eventually you'll get some good possible matches.
posted by StrikeTheViol at 7:09 PM on July 30, 2012

try to tailor your messages to each woman

I'd go a little further and say ALWAYS tailor your messages to each woman.

It's OK to have tried and true approaches you use habitually, but I can always tell the messages where the person is just copy-and-pasting the same stock message to every woman.
posted by Sara C. at 7:13 PM on July 30, 2012 [7 favorites]

Should my initial message be a simple couple of paragraphs asking questions about things they wrote in their profile?

Sentences. Simple couple of sentences. You try to write paragraphs to everyone and you're going to burn out after a week.

Also bear in mind that, unlike men, women are barraged with message. If you don't get replies, it may very well be because you're lost in a morass of "sup baby ;)" and not because there's something up with you. Don't try to work the site like it's a cocktail party where you see an attractive person and try to chat them up. It's closer to speed dating -- lots of relatively shallow interaction hoping that one or two will work into an actual conversation.
posted by griphus at 7:14 PM on July 30, 2012 [3 favorites]

You should definitely relax. Meeting people online, even people who have a somewhat arbitrary percentage attached to them (remember, what people answer on multiple choice surveys does not always accurately portray their true feelings), is a lot like meeting people in real life. The bonus is you almost always get to carefully consider your responses to them, so you're less likely to be tongue-tied at a bad moment.

As you browse, take the time to really look over the profile and make sure that potentially special someone has what you're looking for - whatever it is, odds are you won't find it in a quick skim over their favorite quotes and a 45-second perusal of their profile pictures (and you'll get bonus conversation points for actually having relevant things to discuss that they've posted about; look for things you have in common). When I used the site, I learned a lot from profiles but also a lot from the quizzes people had taken and the results they got. If you're into language, check out their responses to the commonly confused words test (and take it yourself!). I'd advise against commenting on pictures in messages, unless the picture begs for comment (e.g. she dressed up as a Nazg├╗l for Halloween and it's the coolest costume ever).

When you send messages, and you should, to anyone whose profile interests you regardless of percentage points, keep them fairly brief. Pick the one thing that interested you most about the profile and ask about that. If they answer briefly, maybe it isn't the most interesting thing to them, and that's a new topic right there. If you get something more enthusiastic, well, then you're golden. If someone does message you out of the blue (and they will, if my experience is any guide), read it over carefully, check their profile for any red flags, and take the messages on a case by case basis. If, based on what you read, she sounds like someone you might want to know better, message back. Answer her questions but also raise your own to keep the conversation from being too one-sided (i.e. if one person is asking all the questions, it's a bit tiresome). If it goes somewhere, great, but don't get too hung up on eventual results - rejection can be soul-crushing, even over the internet, but there are always new people to talk to if one doesn't work out.

Also, don't be afraid to just use the site to make some friends and have a good time - it's not just for romantic arrangements, and sometimes the friends you meet might have other friends that just love that same part in that movie you like that no one else has heard of.
posted by the artless dodger at 7:16 PM on July 30, 2012 [2 favorites]

Oh, and after an email exchange where you each determine that the other person is relatively interesting and not obviously an axe murderer, take it offline as soon as you can with a specific date and time. You're better off with "let's meet up at Joe's Diner, Friday at 8" instead of "so when do you want to hang out?" She might hate Joe's Diner and be busy Friday at 8, but now you've got something to work with instead of a nebulous date some time in the future.
posted by griphus at 7:21 PM on July 30, 2012 [7 favorites]

Also, when choosing who to message, take a look at the "enemy" percentage, which takes into account how many of your "unacceptable" answers they picked (for the match questions).
posted by baby beluga at 7:32 PM on July 30, 2012

Timeliness: respond fast enough that I don't think I'm somewhere in line behind several other women you're currently juggling. That doesn't mean instant, just soonish.

Length: several full paragraphs is too long, usually. I've responded positively once to a message of that length, partly because I was just surprised to see that someone wrote me a novella, and that person had relevant and good things to say. Your best bet is going for a few sentences; less than three is probably not enough to distinguish yourself, more than ten probably leaves nothing for the first date basics. Leave plenty of hooks for later.

Match %: good at establishing a floor of compatibility, but it gives you no real idea of the person's humor, maturity, or if you'll have any kind of chemistry. Take a closer look at the individual questions and answers more than the score- I could be 93% match and only 1% enemy with someone who is a pack-a-day smoker, but that's a dealbreaker nonetheless.
posted by slow graffiti at 7:32 PM on July 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

try not to insult the ladies you're messaging. it sounds dumb to say, but I was honestly surprised how many men sent me messages trying to be clever and witty that just came off as judgmental and rude.

"you seem too pretty for internet dating, what's wrong with you? ;)"

"you seem really interesting and cool so I'll probably never hear back from you"

"I hope to hear back from you, if not, maybe you need to lower your standards"

are all extremely rude in my opinion and ruled otherwise nice messages out. I don't know if people are trying subtle negs (or a few outright that were ridiculous) but most people who aren't 18 don't fall for that.

also, this is a little thing I guess, but I didn't respond to anyone's messages whose "looking for" was 18-29. A grown man who would want to date a teenager and thinks women expire at 29, I find very unappealing.
posted by euphoria066 at 7:43 PM on July 30, 2012 [12 favorites]

For what it's worth, as a woman on OKCupid, I do not ever reply to any messages from guys who clearly treat it as a "numbers game". Generic messages will get ignored, as will people who push for immediate meeting offline. Sorry, but if you're not looking for me, specifically, then you're not looking for me.

Here's my interpretation guidelines for the types of messages I get:

"heyyy sup :)" - junk, next;

"Hi, how are you doing tonight?" - junk, next;

"I know you must get it all the time, but you're really gorgeous" - LOLWUT that's a pathetic PUA wannabe line. I don't even have a close-up photo in my profile; delete, block, next;

"Your profile sounds really interesting and I think we have a lot in common!! Can you recommend some good bands?" - LOLWUT part II, my profile clearly states I'm not into music; delete, block, next;

"You sound really interesting and I think we have many things in common, so I'm writing to you despite the age difference" - yeah, the only thing we have in common is that I'm 20 years younger and he wants to bang a chick 20 years younger; delete, block, have a moment of disgust, next;

And so it goes. I will also ignore messages from people with low match score (I carefully selected the questions and carefully answered them, so I know what I'm doing), people who don't even bother to fill out their profile properly, trying too hard to be cool or impressive, and I'll be suspicious of messages coming towards the end of the week (dude's looking for a weekend hookup).

Sincere, intelligent, modest, and friendly (not flirty!) messages are most likely to be answered.

I might be in the minority, but I really don't have time or effort to get into conversations with people with whom I have little in common. There's enough of them around in the real world.
posted by Ender's Friend at 7:53 PM on July 30, 2012 [14 favorites]

I'm curled up in bed next to the gem I met via okcupid.

His first message to me (he opened communication) was 'I do think it's possible to believe in science and god at the same time.'

This was awesome. So. So. Awesome. Because in my 'you should contact me if...' section, I included, 'you think it's possible to believe in science and god at the same time.' and it was clear in my profile that I'm an atheist. We had a lot to talk about. We still do. He's in med school and he really is the type of human being I always hoped I'd get to spend lots of Ike with. Considerate in a hundred genuine ways. Listens when I call him out for bein not as considerate as I think he wants to be. Handsome. He's reading right now a book for pleasure. He knitted the blanket that were under, because he wanted to impress me. Now he knits for fun.

I wouldn't know any of his if he were one of the guys who sent me a message about my legs, or had a shirtless picture of himself, or asked what I like about the city we lived in at the time.

Instead he noted something meaningful to me that also resonated with him.

Find that thing for each of the women you send a message to. If it isn't there, keep moving.
posted by tulip-socks at 8:14 PM on July 30, 2012 [16 favorites]

Ignore everything anyone suggests to you, and just be yourself. That way you'll find someone who likes you for yourself.

(At least, thats what worked for my boyfriend and I. We met on OKCupid 6 years ago.)
posted by MexicanYenta at 8:36 PM on July 30, 2012 [4 favorites]

Send a genuine message. By that I mean when you read a profile is there anything about it that attracts you? Take that as a cue. Not sure about numbers game as that concept was always strange to me. Out of 100 profiles i see, only one or two might hold my interest.
posted by pakora1 at 8:39 PM on July 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

What are your tips or tricks for maximizing the potential for meeting someone special?

-In your initial message, write maybe 4 to 8 sentences that are tailored to the woman's profile. I would say, don't copy/paste anything from another message. Don't *just* talk about yourself and don't *just* ask about her, try to do a mix. When you ask her questions, try to make them ones that are based on her interests. When I was doing online dating, there was one guy who wrote me a message that I would have otherwise replied to, but he linked this piece of obscure experimental music and asked me what I thought about it. Don't get the wrong idea, that was not a faux pas at all, and it wasn't some kind of terrible sin. It wasn't some kind of Seinfeldian, "how DARE he not ask me the perfect question" it was just that I honestly didn't know what to say about the music, had trouble thinking of a reply, eventually I put it off too long and then felt weird writing back at all. There was nothing in my profile to indicate that I had interests in experimental music, so that was just a question that wasn't the best for sparking a conversation with me based on my profile.

-If you're not hawt yourself, don't write exclusively to hawt women. Write to women who are around as attractive as you are. I mean, write to whoever you want to but this is just a tip for maximizing success.

-If you're 30-something, write most of your messages to women who are 30-something. If you're 34, don't have an age range that's 18-33, 21-33, or 25-33. When I was doing online dating, I avoided guys who had really lopsided age ranges like that even though I was in a time in my life when I was on the younger end of those ranges. Try to make it even. 25-35, if you're 30 years old. Depending on how far into your 30's you are you may creep people out if you publicize looking for women under 25 at all.

Should I only be sending messages to women that I have over a 90% match with?

Not necessarily, but take a look at the "unacceptable answers" the two of you have. If you think something that she would probably find to be an abomination, like if her profile mentions having a gay family member and one of your answers says you think gay people shouldn't raise children, or if she has a bunch of photos of herself with her cats and you say you despise cats, you will probably not have success getting a return message from her.

Should I always respond right away if someone writes back (or miraculously writes to me out of the blue)?

I think you if someone initiates contact with you, I think it would be best to reply the next day. When I did online dating I was almost always the initial maker of contact, and most guys replied to me quickly. If a guy took too much longer than that to write back, I would probably think he was not that interested. Again, it's not some kind of faux pas or sin, though.
posted by cairdeas at 8:52 PM on July 30, 2012 [2 favorites]

What cairdeas said about the age appropriateness.

I'm a female who receives close to 50 messages on OKCupid each week, in spite of a profile that pretty clearly spells out "I am a standoffy picky old bitch." I do not initiate contact, almost ever,. I browse anonymously and block extravagantly.

The guy I'm currently seeing most seriously is not, objectively, that pretty, and is (quite) a bit older than me. I responded to his initial message because:

1: He did not have a creepy age range (for him). I'm at the bottom of his range, which listed the same number of years older than him.

2: He said "You and I have [this place we both lived in] in common. The robot thinks we'd like each other. Can I buy you dinner?" and some yada yada about at least having an interesting conversation. Straightforward, unambiguous. Chicks dig it.

Good luck!

For. The. Win. Older Guy. FTFW.
posted by 2soxy4mypuppet at 9:06 PM on July 30, 2012 [4 favorites]

Also, in case it is at all useful, here are my thoughts on why copy/pasted messages are so frequently not successful with women.

Someone puts up a dating profile to show people that they exist. Like walking into a bar. When you write a tailored message to that person, that is your first attempt to make a connection with that person, to actually interact with them and relate to them. It takes a bit of effort, like actually coming up to them at the bar and striking up a conversation.

But when you read someone's profile and see that they exist, and send back a copy/pasted message, that is pretty much just announcing that you exist too. It's like they walk into the bar, and then you walk into the bar too and just look at them. It puts the onus on them to make the effort to try to find common ground, connect, start a conversation.

I think you have a way better chance of success if you make that effort yourself rather than just kind of volleying it back to the other person and hoping they will take it up.
posted by cairdeas at 9:08 PM on July 30, 2012 [1 favorite] much 'well-written prose' is in your profile? is it much more than other profiles? i find that anything over a paragraph or two screams 'self-involved' (even if that's not really the case) EDIT! ...a little mystery goes a long way, and you want something left to talk about on a first date, no?
posted by sexyrobot at 9:15 PM on July 30, 2012

oh I was also going to say.. move it offline as quickly as feels natural for you and her... I had three or 4 email strings a mile long that never actually resulted in a date? which was just useless and frustrating.

so yeah, I agree with most people, send a short-ish, 3 to 7 sentence message mentioning some things you think you have in common and asking some questions (hey this is important because it gives a jumping off point in a response.. otherwise it's hard to know what to say back?) and then after you've gone back and forth a couple times move it offline if possible. I was super frustrated with endless emails back and forth. I think me and the guy I'm seeing now (amazing!) only exchanged about 2 before he gave me his cellphone number and we set up a date. I initiated contact so that may have speeded it up, but I hated typing huge emails to people who I turned out to have no physical chemistry with.
posted by euphoria066 at 10:47 PM on July 30, 2012

I once had a guy email me ten times -- I would not have continued this except he was extremely cute -- and then asked to Skype before meeting. Dude. No. Don't be that guy.

If you're 34, don't have an age range that's 18-33, 21-33, or 25-33. When I was doing online dating, I avoided guys who had really lopsided age ranges like that .

I think this is wise advice. Men who specifically didn't want to date women who would literally have been in their high school graduating class always turned me off. Ditto with the weird negging -- I've gotten several emails that are like, "you're so gorgeous, too bad you really like [x]. I hate [x] and I never want to do [x]." This is so bizarre to me -- you are not so hot that I am going to give up [x] for you despite never having met you. So, in other words, respond POSITIVELY to something in someone's profile. Good luck!
posted by Countess Sandwich at 12:10 AM on July 31, 2012

Yes, you should just relax. OKCupid and its ilk are just another way to meet people of the gender(s) you're into. So go on with the meeting (and I second the advice above to meet as soon as possible).

Next, maybe it won't work for you, maybe your experience will diverge strongly from everyone else (being female, for example, does not actually mean you automatically get tons of messages.. I sure didn't. Your response rate may be higher/lower than people around you, and that's ok). Keeping this point in mind I'd encourage you to keep up with other methods of meeting people- have activities that you do that involve other people and keep an active social life outside of dating. It'll make you happier, which will give you more success on the online dates you do go on, and hey, you might meet someone there too.

Lastly, I have to agree with Countess Sandwich: negative emails don't work. I got several bizarre ones, including "you're a climber. Are you one of those women who can't handle climbing with someone who's worse than her?" I had no idea how to respond, so I didn't.
posted by nat at 3:00 AM on July 31, 2012 [1 favorite]

It IS a numbers game, but I had success on OKC when I had not on other sites. I recently moved in with a guy I met there over a year ago :) I think his first message to me was about a TV show I listed in my profile. I replied, and he wrote back with something else we had in common. We wrote back and forth a few times, each time getting longer and more detailed, then when we met in person we felt an instant spark.
posted by JoannaC at 5:05 AM on July 31, 2012

A million years ago when I was single- okcupid was an incredible joy in the sense that it was a never ending sourse of entertainment. I was looking for something that had the potental for a LTR, but I didn't take it so seriously that I would get frustraited. I dated online and offline, and had roughly the same percentage of shity\lack-luster on dates sourced from either side on the keyboard.

My biggest advice is this: be open to possiblities but don't make it your mission. All dating is an endurance game. You have to keep going in order to wade though until you connect with someone. You don't want to get so flabbergasted or bitter that you burn out three dates from meeting someone great.

And anyway- every bad date can be a super awesome conversation for later. I had one dude pour his beer into my purse, another who exposed himself in a public bar 20 min the date, another who spent an hour trying to convert me to veganism... with graphic photos. Half the fun of single life is laughing over all humanites' hamhanded attempts at getting laid.
posted by Blisterlips at 7:32 AM on July 31, 2012 [2 favorites]

Dating is a numbers game. I've used OKC both as a single and a poly lady and I literally receive somewhere between 10-15 messages EVERY DAY. The messages I respond to are always messages that ask me about something specific in my profile or engaged me in a positive way from people with a high-ish (75% or higher) match percentage that were within my age range and close-ish (with in 1 hour's traveling distance) to me. I have never responded to a message that says "sup?" or "Hi I'm Steve let's chat" because that says nothing about who you are or why you contacted me.

My current partner/boyfriend simply messaged me with a "So, art school. Did you go to [this school?]" and our messages got longer as we kept chatting, as we talked about things we both were interested in. Don't drag out the conversation, don't ask them to text back and forth (please no!), just ask them out for something short like coffee or a drink. Keep your expectations low. Be sincere.
posted by godshomemovies at 8:02 AM on July 31, 2012

I've had two pretty great relationships from dating sites. Each was the result of a completely different strategy.

First time, I prepared a short description of myself, and some of the ways that companions might benefit from knowing me. I sent that, in a single sitting, to just about everybody, including someone who I would have never selected to approach had I not been doing a blanket offering. The unlikely candidate responded, and it turned out that a friend had made the posting for her without her knowledge. She was kind of trolling for inappropriate responses for entertainment purposes. My response was the only one she answered. We spent quite some good times in a monogamous relationship.

Second time, I was casually browsing a site. I saw one profile in particular that moved me, so I joined the site with a profile that was specifically targeted to her, by her profile name. I spent 4 years with her and almost married her.

The first one did not show very much effort, just short and to the point. The second one was fairly long and crafted in great detail to respond to her posting. There's two extremes, two opposite approaches, my only forrays, and both had fantastic results.
posted by StickyCarpet at 10:24 AM on July 31, 2012

Find that thing for each of the women you send a message to. If it isn't there, keep moving.

I think this is pretty good advice. When I was using OKCupid, I more or less ignored the match percentage and simply looked for profiles (something specific) that caught my eye and sounded really cool/interesting. From there, initiating conversation is usually pretty easy. Personally, I always had good luck sticking to short (maybe 3-4 sentence) messages starting out - and always try to end with a question expanding on whatever about them you find interesting. It shows interest and keeps the conversation going. Overall, I would say follow your gut. If you see some profile and think "wow, how cool!" then by all means message her. Ditto when it comes to asking for dates, etc - just relax and follow your instincts. The more people you talk to, the easier this will get.

I personally used OKCupid off and on for a couple of years and had a lot of fun with it. While I ultimately met my now-girlfriend through a Meetup group, I still found OKC to be a great place to get out there and get my feet wet. The vast majority of the dates I was on were pretty good even if they didn't go anywhere; it made for a nice chance to meet someone new and have an hour or two of interesting conversation. I would approach online dating (and real dating too) like that - just a chance to meet someone interesting and learn a little more about them.
posted by photo guy at 3:31 PM on July 31, 2012 [1 favorite]

Should I only be sending messages to women that I have over a 90% match with?

No way. I found no real correlation between match percentage and how the actual date went when I was on OKCupid. My theory was that match percentage was a good way to weed out the people that you almost certainly would not get along with, but that anyone above, say 70% or 80% (depending on the profile and how adventurous you are feeling) is game.

Should I always respond right away if someone writes back (or miraculously writes to me out of the blue)?

Try to respond soonish (within a couple of days). If you can't respond soonish, respond anyway. What've you got to lose?

Should my initial message be a simple couple of paragraphs asking questions about things they wrote in their profile? What worked or didn't work for you?

My rule for the initial message was as follows: Two to six sentences, should include a question or a specific observation about the person's profile, and preferably both. Also, dispense with the introductions. Get straight to the point.

Find that thing for each of the women you send a message to. If it isn't there, keep moving.

I don't entirely agree with this. Obviously, it's ideal to "find that thing," but not every profile has a "thing" and behind that profile could still be an awesome person. Further, online dating really is a numbers game, especially for guys. You could come up with what you think is an awesome message, and get no reply. You could come up with what you think it a lame, half-assed message, and end up with an awesome date. Yes, a great message has a higher probability of success; but it's just that, a probability.

Cutting and pasting is a terrible idea; it's a waste of everyone's time. Just saying "hey, what's up?" or "you look good" is a terrible idea, too. But if you want to message someone, message them. As long as your message shows that you actually read their profile, it just might work.

I would approach online dating (and real dating too) like that - just a chance to meet someone interesting and learn a little more about them.

This is, in a nutshell, the correct approach to OkCupid.
posted by breakin' the law at 5:28 PM on July 31, 2012

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