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On internet dating profile shame

I’m an online dating evangelist – I think meeting people on the internet and then going for drinks with them (in a safe public place, etc) is one of the best ways to meet likeminded and potentially shaggable people.

As an evangelist, however, there’s a conversation I’ve ended up having a few times that makes me incredibly uncomfortable. It goes something like this:

“Remember you told me to go on OKCupid?”
“Yeah. How’s it going?”
“Well, I’ve had a couple of quite good dates. But I’ve also been sent some hilarious and awful messages. And oh God this one person had a profile so bad it was hysterical. I’ll send you a link…”

Please don’t show me the money

I don’t want to see your links. I don’t want to see the people you think are so funny that it’s worth going to the trouble of finding their profile again, copying the link and then emailing it to me. I’m human, of course, and so naturally I find the flaws, foibles and fuck-ups of other humans inherently funny. There’s nothing I like more than hearing how unrelentingly shit other people can be, because it makes me feel like less of a blundering oaf.

Tell me about it, by all means. If you’ve spotted a dating profile where someone’s used a UKIP quote in the ‘things I like’ section, then that’s well worth a pub-time anecdote. But I don’t want your links.

There’s something so deeply personal about an online dating profile that even the idea of other people seeing mine (I’ve wiped it now, so don’t go looking) makes me shiver with cold dread. Like showing your CV to a work colleague who has known you for years – someone who knows that most of what you’ve written is – at best – rose tinted and – at worst – bordering on fantasy.

Mistakes, misogyny and mockery

I don’t like it when people lie on internet dating profiles. When they send messages that are presumptuous or rude. I don’t like it when they make sexist statements or offer arrogant critiques of people’s profile photos. There are many things that I not only don’t like, but that will have me wishing slapstick comeuppance on anyone who comes across as vaguely right wing.

But I don’t want you to show it to me. There are two reasons for this:

1. I have probably seen it, or something like it, already. No, really. I’ve done a lot of internet dating, so if you send me someone’s profile picture along with an amused email about how he’s odd because he included a photo of his dick, the best reaction you’re going to get from me is ‘so?’ I’ve seen quite a few dicks – attached to profiles, emails, and (if I’m really lucky) actual men. I’ve also seen messages where people just say ‘how r u sexy’, or write clumsy erotica, or offer to be your slave forever. Unless it’s a spectacularly unusual message or picture, my reaction is likely to disappoint you. If you want someone to be shocked by it, you’re better off sending it to your mum.

2. I’m uncomfortable laughing directly at people. Sure, if a friend trips on the way to the bar and accidentally spills a beer over someone I didn’t like much, I might have a bit of a snigger. But there’s a world of difference between the odd giggle at someone’s flaws and an anonymous shredding of someone who has laid themselves bare for you in the hope that you’ll approve. The shredding is fine, but when you’re shredding someone and I have to look into their eyes – even if they’re separated by a net connection and the knowledge that they’ll never hear what I have to say about them – there’s a feeling of discomfort that just isn’t enjoyable. If you asked me to kick a kitten I wouldn’t feel comfortable doing it just because you assured me it was dead and wouldn’t feel a thing. It’s still not a fun thing to do.

I’m not saying people on dating sites are all amazing and wonderful, nor even that in mocking them you’re a horrible person. What I am saying is that if you want me to join you in appraising and critiquing, I don’t need to see who they are.

Knowing me, knowing you

This brings me on to my final point – and it’s a very important one. Be wary of being too judgmental about people when you’re telling someone else about them. Recently a friend of mine (a new member of OKCupid, on my wholehearted and overenthusiastic recommendation) sent me a profile of a guy she thought she liked, and told me that he’d ruined things by having ‘massive sex issues.’ Meaning to incite a good old giggle and a session of bitching, she invited me to offer judgment about his ‘freakish’ foibles.

Unfortunately for her, his ‘freakish’ foibles sounded pretty hot to me. Moreover, based on a slightly blurry picture and his style of profile writing, I had a sneaking suspicion that I’d already sampled them.

She didn’t reply to his message.


  • YES, Yes, yes !! Totally agree. We haven’t tried OKcupid (though coincidentally a “friend” recommended it to us recently), but have had similar messages to your own. And you have verbalised our own feelings to a t.
    Oh, and loved your final paragraph . . . now that DID make me giggle.
    Xxx – K

  • Agreed. I’ve tried a few sites and asked the girls what most of the guys are like on the sites, and most girls say most guys are weirdos. Those that haven’t tried it have an image that it’s for losers- it really isn’t. Yeah, there will be some, but isn’t there some in bars etc? If I’m not interested in someone- whether online or not- I don’t spend a second more thinking about them.

    (Having said that, I WAS on plentyoffish, which is regarded to be a bit of a nutter’s dating site I gather.)

  • Darcy says:

    I kind of partly agree with this. It does seem mean to me to shame people for their sexual tastes, or their goofy about me paragraphs.

    But it reminds me of sites that collect screenshots of profiles and post them along with a picture, generally sexist/racist assholes, (example: Nice Guys of OKC), and I AM okay with them. Some people have argued that it’s bullying, but I think it’s good because people should know that their words on the internet do mean things. If you write a profile full of sexist blather, it’s your own fault if your photo ends up on a Tumblr about sexist blatherers. When you speak, your words don’t go into some void. They have consequences, and affect the people that read or hear them.

    I am against shaming people for being weird/strange/kinky/fat and what have you. I just think that if someone is an asshole on their OKC profile, they deserve any ire directed their way, even if that includes their profiles being shared around the web.

  • Where we’re going, we don’t need names says:

    When I signed up to OKC, the top match it offered me right off the bat was my ex-wife.


  • The ‘Bye Felipe’ page is about the only ‘shaming’ page I read, it is people quite deserving of being shamed for being agressive idiots rather than just being a wee bit socially awkward.

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