Well, I did the unthinkable. I joined a dating site in the midst a COVID case spike.
As some regular readers will recall, I previously had a line on a guy I was hoping to have for some companionship during this awfulness. We’ve been out before, so I know he’s trustworthy when he said he’s taking precautions. For example, espite being a gym rat, he stayed away when they reopened and worked out at home. Damn that’s sexy in a pandemic.
Alas, he’s saving for a house and is therefore taking all of the overtime they throw at him — which is a lot. Plus he has a side gig repairing/rehabbing motorcycles.
So there was no telling when he’d be available to see me next, and visits would be sporadic at best.
Also, honestly I was a) morbidly curious to see what’s going on and b) figured it might make for a fun post.
I talked to a guy I saw a few times last year who had gotten back in touch. He was on Match.com and said there were seven women active on there who’d marked themselves as liberal.
Not seven he was attracted to. Seven total. Eek!
Anyway, on a friend’s recommendation — he’s on all the sites — I tried OKCupid. I didn’t want to use my usual dating site accounts, where I date more casually without much commitment. I worried I’d burn through matches that might work in the future (if the world ever rights itself).
So OKCupid it was!
How OKCupid works
It’s an interesting site.
Besides a basic summary that people will see, you answer questions — as many as you like, and there are a ton of them. Then you choose which questions’ answers are important to you (because the questions range from stuff like “Do you clap when a plane lands?” to “Should we build a wall to Mexico?” and “Could you date someone with a considerable amount of debt?”). You also choose which answers you’d like to see from the other person.
The site then creates a compatibility score based on the weight you/they give the question, how many matched, etc.
Of course, you still want to go through the profile to read what the person wrote for their summary and to see which questions you guys did and didn’t match on. Then obviously you choose to swipe left or right. If you Like someone, you can leave it at that, or you can write an intro.
That’s important because anyone can see intros, but only people with paid subscriptions can see a list of people who’ve Liked their profile. Meaning that if, like you, the person is a cheap bastard who doesn’t want to pay (and really, don’t we money-conscious people find that hot?), they may only see your profile if you write an intro.
I didn’t start out doing many, but later I started writing an intro for anyone I had at least a moderate interest in. So basically most of the guys I swiped right on.
As for how that’s working… I have gotten a few matches from it, but not nearly as many as I wrote. So either the guys just weren’t interested or simply aren’t active on the site right now. My ego prefers to think it’s the latter. Still, it’s best to gird your ego for a fair amount of crickets. (I will note that the benefit of writing so many intros is that I can barely remember who I wrote to. Which means no response doesn’t bother me as much.)
Women = Likes (probably)
I can’t speak to how it is for the men on the site, but I’m pretty sure women just generally create a feeding frenzy.
That is, even at the best of times there are pretty much always more men on dating sites than women. Add to that a pandemic where a lot of people probably aren’t very active and… Yeah. My guess is most women are going to do well.
To give you an idea, I made the profile at 8 p.m. By 7 a.m. the next day I had 330 Likes. Two hours after that, it was at 400-something. Thankfully, it did slow down a day or so later to a more reasonable rate.
And hey, I chose good pictures and tried to be interesting/witty in my profile (success was kinda dubious though — I hate self-summarizing). But my guess is scarcity played a big factor in my popularity.
I don’t know other women who on the site, so I can’t guarantee that all women will get the same interest level. But I’m not conceited enough to think I’m truly that amazing.
Chatting on a site
The thing about dating sites is that even when you match and start a conversation, at least 1/3 go nowhere.
They just sort of peter off. I’ll ask questions for a time, but if the guy continually offers only short answers and/or doesn’t ask much back, I’m only going to do the heavy lifting in a conversation for so long.
Others obviously flow more smoothly and can of course be fun. Maybe you hit it off enough to switch to texting, which has the benefit of allowing you to exchange more pics. Or maybe you prefer to keep to the app. Most guys will ask to switch to texting pretty quickly. Your choice. Obviously, it ups the chances you’ll get hit with a dick pic.
One way or another, usually after one or two hours of chatting or several hours of delayed back and forth, it’s my experience that the guy is probably gonna broach the subject of meeting. Fairly standard stuff.
Of course, it’s always your choice to demur and want to chat more first. But the subject probably will come up within a couple hours of chatting.
Chatting in a pandemic
Here’s the issue: the guys still asked quickly about meeting. If anything, they asked more quickly.
In fact, as I’m writing this blog post I just had a new speed record. The guy asked where I was in the city. I responded and asked him. After he responded I asked what he was up to today, and he said, “Wanna meet?” (At least he mentioned wearing masks. That’s… something. But he also mentioned kissin, so…)
Now, part of the speed issue could just be a difference in app culture. Different dating apps seem to have different flows. Maybe a shorter chat time is common on OKCupid.
But honestly, I’m guessing that once again we’re down to an issue of scarcity. I think they want to lock down a shot with the woman because a) there aren’t many of us so it’s exciting to get a match and b) they know there’s plenty of competition from other men (and hey, maybe women).
Regardless, you’d hope that during a pandemic guys would want to chat longer than usual. Instead, out of the 15+ guys I talked to for any length of time, I think five didn’t ask me what my evening plans were within the first 30 minutes. Two of those waited a couple of hours to do it.
The other three, to their credit, have not yet brought it up. But one works 55 hours a week, so he might just not have had a free night to suggest. And one I only texted with yesterday — and he’s yet to answer today’s message. So he might’ve just lost interest.
Meanwhile, so far exactly one guy has volunteered information on what he was doing to keep safe. I had to ask every single other one. And often still volunteer what I’m doing to stay safe.
That’s not worrying at all.
And of course, even once you have the information of what they’re doing to stay safe, how do you know that they’re telling the truth?
You get to try to feel them out in general. Not just to see how you click, but to see if they seem trustworthy. Which sucks. Because even in normal times, it was tough to feel a guy out — and that could be done in person. Over the course of multiple dates. Doing this via text and maybe video chat is… not easy.
Granted, sometimes they do make it easy. Like the guy who said that he worked for Apple, but with the stores closed they had employees mainly doing product training. Which sounded off to me because wouldn’t they be trained already? And even if they were getting more in-depth training, how would there still be training after three months of being at home? Apple doesn’t exactly have hundreds of products to cover.
Anyway, he asked about meeting, and I explained that I was being careful and wanted to get to know someone better before meeting to reduce risk. He then assured me that Apple sent weekly COVID tests, so he was definitely clean. I said that seemed strange that they’d do that for at-home employees, and he said, “It’s Apple. They want to make sure we’re all okay.”
To be clear, he was suggesting that Apple is paying for every one of its stores’ employees to be tested every week. Even though those employees can’t infect colleagues or customers.
Apple. A company that manufactures products in China to take advantage of the painfully low minimum wages there. A company that had to install “suicide nets” because too many workers were jumping off the roof.
Yep, definitely sounds like a company that would care enough to spend millions of dollars testing at-home employees.
I tweeted Apple to see if I could get them to officially repudiate his claim, so I kept talking to him for a bit to see if I could do a gotcha. Alas, no response. But in the meantime he asked again to meet that night. Sigh.
I tried to jokingly demur that meeting would require me to put effort into my look. He said not to worry about that. I said no, I’d have to at least shower and wash my hair and that just sounded like too much work haha. He tried to insist it was fine, so I finally just asked him whether pressuring a woman to meet after she’d said no generally worked for him.
He backtracked quickly and said he was just presenting solutions to the obstacles I mentioned. Ignoring that I’d said no to meeting so soon earlier in the conversation. Whee.
When we’re not mired in a quasi-apocalypse, choosing a guy is relatively easy. You chat a bit with a few guys, narrow down some promising candidates, and then go on some dates to see how you click with them in person. Then choose the one who works best. Or if you’re me, just keep seeing the ones you like.
Now you have to try to figure out which guys are trustworthy, which ones you’ll click with in person and then try to figure out who is the best, safest choice — all without actually meeting.
And for obvious reasons, if that doesn’t work, you probably need to wait two weeks before meeting the next one. And that’s not even taking into account that they now estimate that 40% of cases are asymptomatic. So even 14 days with no symptoms doesn’t guarantee you’re not a plague-bearer.
I guess if you meet with masks and stay six feet apart, you could meet with multiple guys in short order. But at that distance and with half your face covered, I personally don’t think that tells you anything more than a video chat does. And at least in a video chat you can see what they look like (as in, whether the profile pictures were accurate).
I’m well aware I might get some grief for even thinking about dating — especially while Phoenix is a hot spot.
I know it’s smarter to stay alone. especially while things are bad. But this spike is going to go on for many weeks. Frankly, I think that as things die down and we reopen, people are still going to go back to bars and clubs and other generally packed areas. I don’t trust them to learn their lesson with just one spate of deaths and hospitalizations. I hope I’m wrong, but I don’t think I am.
We’re gonna be a hot spot for probably months. Again, would love to be wrong but…
And humans need other humans. Yeah, that’s kind of a cop-out. I’m sure technically I could make it until a vaccine/herd immunity. But it wouldn’t be pretty. So I’m choosing to try to be careful to try to mitigate risk and still explore dating in a COVID world.
I’ll have the details of my efforts thus far in part 2 which will be up next week.
Anyone else dumb enough to brave the dating sites?