Why OKCupid is my new Humans of New York


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OKCupid gets no respect. Or at least, not that much. Back when it launched as a website in 2004, the fact that it was free (as opposed to “serious relationship” sites like Match and eHarmony) gave it a Craigslist-light identity. While its raunch factor was nowhere near what you’d find on “Casual Encounters,” OKCupid’s audience definitely skewed younger—and finding a hookup or someone who shared your particular kink was part of the mix.

Today, as a digital dating survivor that’s still in the cultural conversation along with Bumble and Tinder, OKCupid is nevertheless struggling to be the prettiest girl at the dance, so to speak. But it shouldn’t. As far as I’m concerned, OKCupid is the new Humans of New York.

Remember when you first saw Humans of New York? Brandon Stanton’s portraiture of everyday people, and the off-the-cuff comments he miraculously pulled out of them, suddenly made all the slumped shoulders and blank faces on the subway look like untapped potential: so many poignant, poetic secrets waiting to be revealed.

With OKCupid, instead of shining a light on the humanity hidden beneath urban armor, the platform seems to be giving men a venue for expressing their hopes and dreams.

I know, that’s a lot to say about an app where a grown man wearing a “Thank You for Being a Slut” trucker hat told me I had a “beautiful and mysterious smile.” (Thanks but no thanks, Chris.)

I know, that’s a lot to say about an app where a grown man wearing a “Thank You for Being a Slut” trucker hat told me I had a “beautiful and mysterious smile.” (Thanks but no thanks, Chris.) And yes, I do get a zillion messages from Christian Grey wannabes looking for submissives: “Normal, fun, personable, attractive guy who just happens to be sexually dominant!”

But for me, the value of OKCupid is in all the lengthy written profiles (something that the swipe-right apps don’t have). These guys have so much to say—and so much of it is educational. Honestly, mansplaining was never so much fun.

I’d never heard this quote from Spanish poet Antonio Machado, for instance: “Hoy es siempre todavia.” That translates roughly to: “Today is ever always.” But I’ve thought about it nearly every day for the past month. (Thanks, David! You’ve re-ignited the “what is time, anyway” and “reality is a construct” parts of my brain, without getting high in a dorm room. Good times.)

Then there’s Sergei, who says he thinks a lot about the Order People vs. Chaos People section of Tom Bissell’s short story Death Defier. Very relevant to my interests (and yours, I’m guessing) is this quote: “Countries did indeed go insane. Sometimes they went insane and stayed insane.”

And how about this extremely concise analysis of capitalism: “Wow (as Marx himself was well aware), it’s good at creating prosperity! Wow, its toxic logic seeps into and destroys everything!” Nice one, James. Brevity will get you everywhere.

It’s all making me feel the same way about my fellow humans that HONY did: radically compassionate. I mean, all these men are on OKCupid to find a date, and they’re giving so much of themselves beyond what any date would want to know. They just want to be heard so much, it’s heartbreaking.

So, don’t sleep on OKCupid. Or on its old-school ways, keeping exposition alive in the dating-app world. (And music recs, and favorite quotes, if you like that kind of thing—and I think by now you know that I do.) For any world-weary woman in the #MeToo era who’s starting to feel like every man is one power play away from being a monster, here’s your safe space. Just listen, just lurk, or hit up every single person you could imagine making out with—it’s up to you. Do whatever you like. But, as always: Avoid trucker hats.

Want more dating-app advice? Good, because we recently held the first Well+Good roundtable on swiping right. Plus: here’s why sporty profile pics get the biggest response (yay, sneakers). 

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