We rely on community reviews for just about everything we do online — shop for books, pick movies, find apartments, browse job offers, join clubs and make travel plans. So why not utilize the advice of our online "friends" to aid in finding a new beau?
I've decided to try online dating again, and I'm trying out OkCupid. It's a free online dating site that launched in 2005 by the founders of Crazy Blind Date.
On OkCupid you are no longer alone as you browse through profiles. In fact, at first I was a little overwhelmed by how much was going on at once.
It's an accumulation of every feature offered on the most popular social networking sites: instant messaging, status updates, connection suggestions, internal e-mail and blog posts. But it is all geared toward dating.
There is one distinguishing feature of OkCupid that I find interesting. You can give someone an award, such as "Friends In Real Life," "Smarter Than The Average Bear" and "The Great Date," and you can add a comment to their profile.
Adam, 28, also known as LiquidHotMagma1, is also trying out OkC for the first time. He doesn't have any awards yet, but said his dating life skyrocketed since joining the site.
“I like the awards idea because it differentiates the active members from people who just [mess] around or are stalkers,” Adam told me via OkC e-mail.
Since Adam and I are casual users of online dating, I sought out someone who makes it their business to understand online dating sites.
E. Foley is a self-proclaimed geek who offers online dating help to other geeks on her GeeksDreamGirl.com site. Foley has tried OkC in addition to several other dating sites. She said at one time Match.com had a "Match My Friends" feature where you could leave testimonials on profiles.
“I'm not sure I've heard of anyone who chose a date based on how many 'Makes Me Laugh' awards they have,” said Foley. Although, Foley has ranted on her blog about OkCupid in the past, she does admit the awards are a "lighthearted, fun way to celebrate your friends' finer qualities."
I found one OkC member who has several awards yet echoes Foley's words.
“Tuffington,” 31, an OkC user in San Francisco, has five “Friends In Real Life” awards and a “Perfect Mix” award, but said the awards seem useless.
"No one has ever mentioned my awards,” Tuffington told me via OkC e-mail. “The only interaction I can see at all is the guys click on my profile from awards that I left for other girls.”
This is one drawback that I noted, too. When I see the award, if I click on the link to see who is giving the award, I know my profile will show up as a "visitor" on another girl’s profile.
David Mott is another self-proclaimed expert online dater who has tried multiple dating sites, and briefly tried out OkC. He writes about dating and single parenting on his dadshouseblog.com. Mott brought up another point.
“Can you really vouch for someone’s dating behavior?” Mott asked me via e-mail. “I can say my buddy is a good guy, but he might be a sleaze on the dating scene, and I wouldn’t know it,” Mott said.
Mott also pointed out that if most of your friends are married, they wouldn’t be a part of the dating site and able to give you an award.
But that is the point of using the awards feature and social networking on an online dating site. You are in a place where you need to utilize the advice of others in the same online network, just like you do on Amazon.com, Yelp, TripAdvisor, etc.
I think OkC is just reminding us that with a little help from our friends, the dating game can be fun.