About the Experiment

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Week 2: In Which Things Don't Go As Planned

I wish I could tell you that when you decide to write publicly about your dating life, that it always goes smoothly.  I also wish that I could tell you that when your dating experiment is not going as planned, that it's easy to not take it personally.  But that is not the case.

Week 2 did not go as planned, in ways that were scientifically interesting but at times personally disheartening.  My friend Tracy was the Matchmaker for Week 2, and made a few little changes to the profile (I've encouraged the Matchmakers to change whatever they like each week).

She changed:

  • the profile picture 
  • added her input to the "I'm really good at" section (if other people are helping me find dates I'll let them help me brag too!)
  • she changed the methodology a bit by sending messages to guys (which my mom had not), saying that she was looking for matches for her friend and she thought that guy would be a good match and to check out the profile.  

And then, there was no response.

To be honest, before we started the experiment I had been worried about a lack of willing participants.  But we'd gotten a fair number of messages from guys the first week, so I wasn't worried about it for Week 2.  

My mom was an OkCupid novice, so I decided to keep it simple and not ask her to send messages to guys.  I figured since Tracy was sending initial messages to guys Week 2, we should get a great response.
However, one guy sent a message back saying that he had just started seeing someone.  Another guy sent a message back that said he didn't want to go out with someone just because their friend or mom thought they should and he didn't want to be blogged about, even anonymously (well, now he is anyway, sorry not sorry dude).

And then, deafening silence. 
I was a bit taken aback.  And embarrassed.  Very little had changed about the profile from Week 1 to Week 2, but the response was drastically different.

This week I learned that one profile picture can make a big difference.

Tracy had asked me about whether she should use that profile photo or not before she changed it.  I didn't think it was a flattering photo of me, but I often don't like photos of myself (same as most people) and since I'd handed the controls over to Tracy I told her to use whatever photo she wanted.

About halfway through the week, when I was particularly down about the lack of response, I mentioned it to a friend and she asked to see the current profile photo and the photo used in Week 1.  I showed her both photos and she pointed out that in the Week 2 photo (which was not getting a positive response) I had a rather forced smile, and in the Week 1 photo (which got a good response) I had a genuine smile which was inviting.  In one photo I looked uncomfortable, and in the other I looked fun.  Which would you want to date?  It was so helpful to change the dialogue from "a good/bad photo of me" to "a genuine or not genuine smile."  I felt a bit better.

I asked Tracy if we could change the profile picture and told her we could add a few days to her week, since the week was almost over and we had no potential matches.  Tracy changed the profile picture to the photo used Week 1, and I answered a bunch of match questions hopefully to attract some new visitors.

After several questions, I saw that a new message had arrived.  I was excited that changing our strategies had yielded results.  I read the message (which I usually don't do, I let the Matchmaker read the messages).  It was a response to a message that Tracy had sent, and the guy said he appreciated Tracy reaching out but "she's not my physical type.  She doesn't read these messages, does she?"  oof.  So much for our efforts paying off.  I wanted to write some snarky message back to that guy like, "Don't worry you're not her type either," but I didn't.  I logged off.  And sulked.

It may sound silly, but I felt like no one wanted to date me.  Even though nothing about me as a person had changed between Week 1 and Week 2, only the OkCupid profile had changed (and the response).  I know that I am not my OkCupid profile, and I was surprised how the lack of response Week 2 really got me down.  But it's a good reminder that A) as a creative person, sometimes it's easy to collapse my sense of self with my creative endeavors (such as this experiment); B) many of us look for validation in identities we create, including online identities (profiles on OkCupid, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc.).  Consciously we all know that you are not your Facebook profile, it is just a selected representation of your interests, hobbies, friends, photos, etc., but that doesn't stop us from making a lot of assumptions about others (and ourselves) based on those profiles.  I remember during a rather rough time earlier this year a friend texting me that it seemed like I was having so much fun based on Facebook and Instagram posts, whereas my daily reality included a lot of crying and not much fun.
Our identities are not just limited to the internet: to quote Tyler Durden, "You are not your job. You're not how much money you have in the bank. You're not the car you drive."  (I do think you're a beautiful, unique snowflake though, just like everyone else.)  I'm challenging myself, and inviting anyone reading this, to take a critical look at the way we sometimes confuse personas (digital or otherwise) with real selves, for ourselves and others.  And/or watch Fight Club again.

One of my goals with this experiment has been to explore the "marketing" of dating, how the information you present and the way you present it attracts different types of people.  We gathered valuable data this week, even if it was uncomfortable to me at times.  OkCupid has also done research about effective profile photos but in both weeks' photos I was looking into the camera and smiling, however one was a genuine smile and the other was not.  So it gives me helpful information going forward with the experiment and online dating in general.

After a few days with the new profile picture, more messages did come in.  I'm happy to report that Tracy did pick two Matches who she says seem "artsy and open minded."  I've sent them messages on OkCupid and I'll keep you posted about date-planning!

I also have to tell you how grateful I am for my family and friends who do love me no matter what the OkCupid response is, what job I have, what my skin or hair are looking like, or anything else.  And I appreciate the ways that people show support, reading the blog or coming to standup comedy shows, or just listening to me when I'm freaking out and giving me feedback.  I would not be able to do what I do without that love and support!

There's a new Matchmaker for Week #3, but this post is already quite long so I'll write all about starting Week 3 in the next post!

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