October 5th, 2009

Ah, OkCupid, one more reason why I love you. Wait, um, I mean, I am an objective journalist who covers online dating! Yes…

Back in June OKC launched OkTrends, a blog that analyzes data from user profiles and presents to you, the lucky, lucky reader, relevant statistical breakdowns — like how New England is repulsed by rape fantasies, whereas apparently Wyoming thinks they’re A-OK. As the bloggers point out, each question the site poses to would-be daters, their way of judging personality and potential matches, gets answered around 300,000 times. Granted, the people who use the site don’t represent an objective cross section, but that’s still an impressive way to poll people on rape fantasies… or just about anything.

As someone who’s fascinated by the fine art of online dating (i.e. how we social beings awkwardly move our flirtations into digital media), I’m loving the posts on things like optimizing your message response rate. They’ve got millions of messages at their disposal to mine for data. Remember, the ones you thought were private? Now they’re teaching us valuable lessons, like that the ideal first message for men to send to women — in terms of optimizing time spent and likelihood of getting a response — is 200 characters. Seem short? Women only need type 50 characters. Careful, ladies, or you might go overboard and include a whole sentence.

Best OkTrends post yet: “Exactly What to Say in a First Message.” Bad grammar and “stupid slang,” like “ur” for “you’re,” bring down the chance that you’ll receive a response to nearly 5%. Feel free to say things like “awesome” and “fascinating,” but dear God, please don’t call your fellow users “cutie,” “hot,” “beautiful,” or worst of all “sexy.” Trying to figure out how to start your message? “How’s it going” gives you a 30% increased response rate over plain old “hi.” Don’t mention outside email or chat right away. Talk specifics in what you like (successful example: “zombie”).

Oh, and if you’re a man, be horribly self-effacing. Say you’re sorry, you just have to apologize, you’re pretty awkward, you’re probably messing up this message already, but you’re kinda a cool guy, and maybe possibly you could go for drinks sometime, if you’re not to busy self-flagellating while crying yourself to sleep in the bathtub.

Not to brag (/strikes pose as if on the online dating runway) but these are all tips I already use in my OKC messaging. They’ll definitely be helpful for the next time I try and explain to a newb why nobody is responding to his condescending three-word emails. Plus, it’s nice to hear confirmed by the general population just how annoying it is to receive messages that start, as so many I get do, something along the lines of “Hi cutie ur pretty. u on aim?” Nothing could be classier than the one that suggested I come “rock his Casbah” though. No official stats yet on the effectiveness of that phrase.

Far from being a series of press releases disguised as a blog — I’m looking at you, pretty much every other such site out there — OkTrends is an awesome resource, and I’m thrilled to see OKC using their data for good (i.e. interesting research) vs evil (good, old-fashioned info selling, though they could well be doing that too, though Yagan denied it in one of my interviews with him). What else will they come up with? They’re taking suggestions, so do send them anything you’d like to see. Between us we’ll figure out this crazy thing called internet love. Or we’ll just learn how to sweet talk online strangers.

Tags: language, online dating

9 Responses to “Online dating: never say sexy”

  1. FilipinaBride Says:

    This is, by far, the most specific and helpful article I’ve found online about tips on dating online. I never knew that statistics prove the ineffectiveness of being self-effacing or using horrible grammar! Haha.
    I totally enjoyed your article. Thanks for sharing this! :)

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