For a start. It’s a website. I don’t know if websites are places in the conventional sense of the word. Although they probably share enough functions that I’m picking at the semantics. I don’t think I’m just wasting time though, it’s useful to make the distinction, because you’ve got to think about what a website does, the architecture and structure of something like OKcupid impacts everything about what it is.
So, what is OKcupid. Ostensibly it’s a dating/hook up/social website. You put up a profile, answer a load of questions, and it points you in the direction of people like you, encouraging you to mail each other.
So really, it’s a process. If you take it out of its most obvious purposes (getting laid/getting married/meeting people) you see that basically it’s a process. It’s a game. You give stars and messages and prizes to people you like. You puzzle out the answers to questions to find you the people most like you (I find this bit particularly tricky. I can answer easily and honestly, but it’s hard to find questions I really care about the answer to, I’m too able to see the different sides of most arguments). You send out messages and wait for responses.
Its kind of hideous, but it gives the impression of something that works. So far the game has won me one kiss, one night of sex, and one friend, and lots of interesting conversations, and a few interesting days out. I don’t think that’s too bad, except that it’s built up on this metric of disappointment and shallow engagement.
I feel like the structure forces you to be judgmental and it makes you feel perpetually aware of the judgments others are making of you.
Add to that a dose of patriarchy, far too much gender normativity, and a general awareness that there’s lots of people being sleazy, scary and weird in the background and it’s an uncomfortable place to be.
But my profile is still there, and I’m still talking to people. And I still send people demented rambles in an attempt to meet nice people without being a creepy sleaze.
So is it happy?
I’m really not sure. I find it mostly demoralising. But that may just be because I’m sitting here with my obvious reasons for people to ignore and dislike me. It’s not as if I’m entitled to attention, so I can’t complain, but it still makes me feel bleak when I look at how even my deftly crafted, frank and hilarious (okay, maybe I’m optimistic) profile hasn’t garnered me the slightest bit of interest.
But it does, occasionally, build connections. And connections make happy. Right?
I enjoy people. I like new people. I like talking. I like connecting. Even a weirdo like me can occasionally find someone to talk to on a place like OKcupid. I’ve not found someone to have babies with yet, but then, real life isn’t working for that either.
So who knows.
I’m staying, either way.
Illustration by Emma