The notion that a series of questions can lead to love is appealing, as the recent popularity of the New York Times' "36 Questions" experiment showed. OkCupid's matching questions, the ingredients powering the dating site's mythical algorithm, touch on some fundamental topics that seem useful for connecting you to a like-minded mate. Answering the questions, you feel as though a strange but benevolent force is guiding you.
At first, anyway.
There are practical, insightful questions — then there are thousands of weirdly specific, bizarre, typo-laden questions (many of them user-generated) that form the weird, dark underbelly of the OkCupid experience.
Answering a few of OkCupid's questions might be an efficient way of finding someone worth dating. But if you're looking for a spiraling trip down a self-doubting rabbit hole so deep that you'll completely forget you were looking for a mate in the first place, well, OkCupid has got you covered.
Here's what it's like to answer 36 questions that will make you seriously doubt OkCupid's algorithmic magic — and the fate of humanity, while you're at it.
This is setting a pretty low bar for possible mates, but I guess we have to start somewhere.
I like this. Going straight for the big stuff, aka the narcissists. I want to weed out potential power-hungry dictators from the dating pool right away.
Come on, there are lots of young, impressionable minds on OkCupid. These questions should come with a public service announcement or something. Anyway, call me picky, but I'm gonna go ahead and eliminate drunk drivers from my potential matches, too. (But really, who's answering "true" to this?)
Ever since OkTrends revealed that "whether someone likes the taste of beer is the single best predictor of if he or she has sex on the first date," I've felt weirdly judged by this question. Also, is this really something I should be using to weed guys out?
I don't know why this would ever matter, but sure, let's knock all the non-take-out-eaters out of the running. I don't trust them. Eating processed garbage and chicken parts of uncertain provenance is what makes us human. Right?
But that feels so earnest. Am I contradicting myself? How would my ideal mate answer this question? Is this a trick? Would he think it was a trick?
I have pretty strong feelings about "your." But I'm also a feminist. If I go with grammar, am I betraying feminists everywhere? But what if a feminist is the one saying it? A feminist with some homonym trouble? I'm getting off-track. Better go with both, I think?
Seriously? While I do sometimes judge an OkCupid user's whole existence based on his misuse of "your," it should be noted that I'm less harsh when it comes to words that have been out of common usage for centuries.
The first three all annoy me in different ways but that last one kind of turns me on. Ugh, I'm really never going to find someone.
I wish I could say "always." But there are times, like when I'm having dinner with my parents and my dad starts in on the "Why don't I have grandchildren yet?" business, that I instinctively channel all my energy into indignant, wine-flushed self-defense. I cannot account for what I do or do not manage to say at those moments.
In my high school environmental studies class, when studying the detrimental impact a pipeline through Alaska would have on wildlife, one girl asked: "If the animals are in the way of the pipeline, why don't we just, like, kill all the animals?" This question makes me think of her. I wonder what she's doing now. I bet she'd kill all the mosquitoes — er, "mosqutoes." I wouldn't. I care about ecosystems and the butterfly effect and everything like that. I'm not a monster.
I wasn't particularly picked on, but neither was kill-all-the-animals girl. I may have attended an exceptionally accepting school. At least more accepting than OkCupid's algorithm. Is this question meant to help nerds find each other? Or weed them out?
An ex of mine thought it was funny to pass gas in bed and then trap me under the covers, effectively hot-boxing me with noxious air. It was difficult to find anything humorous from that perspective. It's possible to be too comfortable, as it turns out. But this OkCupid thing is for finding my forever-love, and forever is a long time to, uh, hold back. I think?
It's actually a funny story, involving some old friends and an ongoing joke we share — well, probably not that funny to anybody else. Or relevant. How many of these questions deal with bodily functions and toilets? When do we get to the ones about how deserving I am of a man with beautiful arms and at least mediocre listening skills?
Once, OkC recommended me as a match to my brother. Not the website's fault, really, and my brother reasoned that it was bound to happen because we both answered "yes" to this question and rated believing in dinosaurs as "very Important" — even though I've never been sure what "believe" means in this context. Believe like I believe in climate change? Or believe in a hopeful way, like in unicorns and men who text back in a timely fashion?
Well, goodness, this one's pretty revealing. If we'd just started dating, it would be the spilled wine. If things got more serious, the cheating. But if we were serious for a long time, say a decade or so, and we finally felt ready to open our relationship, like we'd been saying we would some day because we're both so chill and our love is so strong and we are so devoted to both each other and the gospel of Dan Savage — never mind. Let's go with the cheating.
Would either option help to prevent the eventual red-wine-on-naked-stranger fiasco? How would this change my life? The idea of this dial distresses me. Behind these hypotheticals lurks a dark world.
Now that I think about it, maybe? I mean, I'm well aware that the city I live in, like many now-thriving places in the world where we all live and love and swipe in blissful ignorance, could some day be under a lot of water. But this isn't about the melting polar ice caps, is it? Now I'm just sad. Not fascinated, just sad. And worried. Thanks, OkC.
I've always wanted to be a squirrel (they've got fabulous tails) or a penguin (for the belly-sliding). But in light of all the thought I just gave to the approaching global catastrophe, maybe I should pick an animal that lives in the water? Are people who choose "an animal that lives on land" actually stupid? Should I only date swimmers? Or only those prepared for the apocalypse? Are those apocalyptic dreams I've been having lately trying to tell me something?
Well now I don't like what you're suggesting here, OkCupid.
These days my faith in astrology is about on par with my faith in the OkCupid algorithm, which is to say I can only really get behind it when it's comforting, affirming and telling me I deserve to be with someone really hot.
What exactly do you think you're doing with those three questions marks? Am I being trolled? Who answers this question "yes"???
I know you're gathering data from these answers, OkCupid, and I'm starting to suspect that this whole thing is a ruse to get all the most able-bodied and forward-thinking users to form one vast and powerful team when the apocalypse arrives. If so, the jig is up, dating website robot-gods.
Probably not. Great, I'm never going to find "the one" and I'm not going to get picked for OkCupid's end-times survival team.
This is getting suspiciously specific. New plan: I ditch OkCupid and start a new online dating site, ApocalypSoulmate, where you find someone whose skill-set will complement yours when the end times are upon us. (Tagline: "Who do you REALLY want to end up with?")
None of the above, if we count the invention of ApocalypSoulmate, my best work yet. Though I guess the smallpox vaccine will be helpful when everything starts crashing down.
If I could predict the future, I could stop answering these questions because I'd already know how I'm gonna meet my true love or could know I should give up on finding love and instead focus on apocalypse preparations.
Is Dungeons and Dragons going to suddenly become relevant when the reckoning comes? Do you know something I don't, OkCupid? Life is not a game, is it? IS IT?!
At this point, I'm thinking this question is here to prove how prepared I am for the downfall of civilization. Judging by this question alone, I'm very prepared. So at least there's that?
I get the uneasy feeling that you might somehow have access to this information, OkCupid, and if so, please don't tell me.
I'm starting to predict that I will be sad forever.
Now I'm just being mocked.
Maybe I don't need love. Maybe I just need science. Maybe science will keep me warm at night.
Right now I'm mostly hurting from things that have happened to me since I started answering these.
I never thought so before. But now, kind of, yeah. At this point, I'm reconsidering a lot of the choices that led me here.
No! I mean, yes? Wait, no. Would saying yes make me sound more fun? More carefree? Is that what I want? I don't know anymore. Who am I? Who are you? My head hurts. My heart hurts. Love is impossible.
I'm trying Tinder.