Need help with dating site for people with socially stigmatized health issue.
January 31, 2008 3:07 PM   Subscribe

I have an idea for a dating site for people with a certain socially stigmatized health issue, and I need ideas for making them feel comfortable about signing up.

Anyone with a socially stigmatized health issue is going to feel mighty nervous about posting their photo on a dating site unless they could feel reasonably assured that only people with same issue were going to see it. My first thought was to screen applicants via personal statements, but that's just going to be too time-consuming.

My second thought was to require a sizeable membership fee, large enough to discourage gawkers. But it's not reasonable to charge a high membership fee during the startup period when there are few members. I assume (erroneously?) that most of these sites get going by offering free membership in the beginning, then phasing in membership fees once enough people have joined.

My third thought was to AskMeFi. Suppose you had a health issue that seriously diminished your chances of having a normal romantic relationship without the help of a specialized dating site, but that public revelation of the health issue could damage your career or reputation in the community. What would be a good way to protect your privacy and make you feel comfortable about joining the dating site?

(Obviously I'm a complete novice at this, please go easy.)
posted by Enroute to Computers & Internet (15 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
You shouldn't put the photos on the profiles. Individual users can send them when/if they feel comfortable.
posted by grouse at 3:10 PM on January 31, 2008

What if each user had a profile picture that wasn't shown by default? Instead, when they "friend" someone (or whatever action is appropriate), they are given the option to share their picture if they want with their new friend.

You could screen by personal statement, and that's scalable up to a few hundred people if they're short and you're really devoted to your idea, but those can be faked, too. Unfortunately, there's no ethical way to get "proof." I'd leave it up to the users to decide for themselves who to trust.
posted by svolix at 3:17 PM on January 31, 2008 [1 favorite]

You mention "gawkers," so I assumed the health issue is one that is readily visible. Otherwise, what would there be to gawk at? (Then again, you mention "public revelation," which indicates it's invisible, since if it was apparent in a photograph, everyone would already know.) In either case, why not leave the decision to the member, and only visible to logged-in members or a specific "friends list" of the member's choosing?
posted by desjardins at 3:19 PM on January 31, 2008

Are you stealing my idea of doing a dating website for people with herpes? I did that site, in 2004. I was spurred to action by a roommate who met loads of guys at that place "It's Just Lunch!" only to get rejected, repeatedly, by otherwise great guys two dates later. I remember the conversation: ME: "Gretchen, why do these guys have such a great time and then clear out so fast?" HER: "Maybe it's because I have both kinds of herpes." ME: "Gretchen, why don't you date guys who have herpes?" HER: "I never thought of that."

I warn you: herpes sufferers don't really have an interest in herpes sufferers. Why? Because most herpes sufferers don't want to talk about having herpes, strive for a cure, and hold out hope that everything will get back to normal. Maybe this is a website for something else, like ALS, in which case the road is still quite steep for success.
posted by parmanparman at 3:24 PM on January 31, 2008

Take a look at how your competition does it.
posted by kcm at 3:25 PM on January 31, 2008

OP here: It's not herpes, and it's not visible. By "gawkers," I meant people who might be interested in taking a look, for whatever reason, at the type of person who might have need of this site.
posted by Enroute at 3:33 PM on January 31, 2008

Seconding desjardins "Members Only" idea. Photos are only visible to others who have signed up for an account. Takes care of the privacy issue while not preventing the site from growing.
posted by The Gooch at 3:36 PM on January 31, 2008

As someone with such a condition, I can tell you what would would make me more comfortable. A set of small hurdles.

1. Charge a $1 fee. Take every method of payment possible, including paypal. (the purpose of this is not money for you, it's just the first small hurdle.)

2. Members must fill out the whole personality/hobbies/etc questionnaire before becoming a member.

3.Once a member, someones profile and their ability to view the profiles of others should remain in limbo for 5-7 days - in the meantime, they can be offered the opportunity to flesh out or edit anything they've written, add more information, upload pictures, take personality tests or fun/silly quizzes.

4.Encourage people to upload photos by explaining what you've done to keep search engines and the casually curious from caching/viewing images and profiles.

5.Allow different levels of picture viewing. Perhaps the ability to designate a certain picture/s as viewable by everyone, and another set of pictures viewable to only people you've "matched" with this person or people who this person has elected to give access to.

As a person who would have used a site like this if I had found one for my somewhat "socially stigmatized health issue" (psoriasis), this sounds like a good idea. I didn't find anything out there that I liked at the time, so I opted for OKCupid - where I met my wonderful fiance.
posted by terpia at 3:54 PM on January 31, 2008 [1 favorite]

So, some jackass says to his friend, "d00d, let's go check out the weirdos with condition x!" Jackass + friend go to your site. "Aw man, I gotta register first!" Jackass registers for the site with a fake email and name. Jackass peruses profiles. "d00d, there are 23 people with condition X in Stupidtown! Let's tell them how wack they are! Aw, I need a credit card to be a premium member and send people messages? Fuck that shit. Let's just look at their stupid pictures. Aw, I need a credit card for that too? Fuck it, let's go play Xbox."
posted by desjardins at 3:58 PM on January 31, 2008 [3 favorites]

Is there something about this stigma that automatically disqualifies anybody who doesn't have it from dating people who have it? If the Internet's taught me anything it's that for any arbitrary subject you can come up with, no matter how perverse, bizarre or banal, there's somebody out there who's turned on by it. Not that I have anything like that myself, mind you.
posted by scalefree at 4:07 PM on January 31, 2008

I hope you already know this, but do not require pictures. Don't imply that people should upload pictures, it needs to be completely optional. Or offer suggestions such as if someone is too nervous about posting a whole body/ head shot they could first do a just the eyes or and artsy pic of just their lips or whatever feature they like best.

When you are starting up (possibly) be honest and send a message to first people signing up saying "look, I know people are nervous sometimes about posting pics, and to help encourage people to get over that nervousness, i would really appreciate you uploading some kind of picture. because it might be hard, i am offering that if you post a head or full body shot (of yourself) you will get Xmonths of memebership free."
posted by silkygreenbelly at 4:32 PM on January 31, 2008

maybe this is obvious, but, how about specific categories? divide the site into sections for the variable conditions that you are thinking of for easy navigation.
posted by rglass at 6:04 PM on January 31, 2008

You say it's not herpes, but the kind of scenario you describe is exactly what would apply to herpes sufferers. Google the words herpes and dating and check out the membership requirements and profile practices of those various sites. Surely they've had to tackle the same issues.

You could do the same for other ailments and get a sense of how they deal with the issue. I saw one for mental illness dating recently called That's certainly stigmatized, but it looks like they've got pictures and their FAQ encourages them.

I like desjardins' idea about members only. A gawker could still create an account just to see who is on there but you'd think it would dissuade many an otherwise curious person.
posted by Bravely Anonymous at 11:41 PM on January 31, 2008

My comment was actually based on a BDSM site, where people generally don't want their proclivities disclosed to a wider audience. I've been a member there for years and have never, ever received a "you're sick and perverted" e-mail nor any repercussions on my real life. (I have, however, gotten tons of HNG e-mail, but that would be true of any dating site.)
posted by desjardins at 7:31 AM on February 1, 2008

Don't know if this was said or implied above, but make the photos and names and personal ID data accessible only to viewers who have been friended by the member in question.

The friending would be on the basis of a publicly-viewable profile or essay followed by email correspondence.
posted by JimN2TAW at 8:11 AM on February 1, 2008

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