Monday, November 22, 2010

Lookin' for love in all the wrong places...

I was watching Nightline the other day, they were doing a story on a newish online dating site called ok cupid. It's a free site, and they use statistical analysis to figure out how to set people up with each other. Apparently they are wildly successful; second only to in total number of users.

Part of the story talked about how online dating is much more popular than it was in the past; that it has lost a lot of the uncool and weird stigma that it once had.

Another part of the story talked about how since okcupid does such involved statistical analysis, they can find out a lot of interesting facts about their users and what makes some users more successful than others.

For example, they said that guys who start their messages with "howdy" are more successful than guys who start off with "hey." Take note, single men doing online dating.

Another less fun factoid is that black people who use the site get fewer messages than other racial groups, even though they send the same amount of messages out. As they were talking about this fact, they showed a screen capture of what I guess was their website saying Men don't write black women back. So, black women are perceived as being the least desirable group of people on the site. The co-founder of the site described this info as "not the awesomest thing to find."

This jibes fairly well with my experience with online dating. Ten years ago (back when dating online was uncool and weird,) I tried my hand at it on I definitely got some emails, but I didn't realize how piddly my action was until I talked to my white friend (we'll call her Polly.) Polly told me how her inbox was flooded with messages from men, and she didn't even have a picture posted! I spent a lot of time on my profile, and you can be sure that my pictures were like most online dating pictures--what I looked like on the best of good days ;)

Alas, the difference in our traffic was probably like, 10 to 1. I also went out of my way to say that I was open to dating people from a variety of backgrounds; that shared values and beliefs were more important to me than ethnic background, religion, etc. At least now I know that I shouldn't have taken it personally; that it was the immutable characteristic of my race that was the most likely to blame for my poor, poor showing.

Something that I think is interesting about this is that if you look at the actual profiles, I would venture that most of them say that the people are open to dating people of all races--because this is something public that other people can see. But when it comes down to actually writing a message to a black person or responding to one that a black person has sent, it's apparently much easier to say, "Um, I'm going to go over here now..." Because it's something the user is doing in the privacy of his or her own home. And said user can rationalize this choice however he or she chooses to.

So that leads me to some questions that I want to ask you to ponder and perhaps share your answers with the group (anonymously, if you so choose)...

Have you ever gone out on a date with/been in a relationship with a person of a different race? Why or why not?

What do you think about a person not being open to dating someone of a different race? What about not being open to certain physical characteristics (hair color, weight, height, etc.?)

What do you think are the reasons for black people getting such low amounts of play on okcupid?

Do you have any funny online dating stories to share?

I want to hear it all--leave me a comment.


  1. My husband is the first person of Asian descent I've ever dated. First boyfriend was Mormon. Second boyfriend was Jewish. Third boyfriend was Colombian. In between there were stints with two Southern white boys and one Mexican dude.

    So, yeah, I'm open. :)

    No online stories here, though. I'm old!

  2. First of all this actually surprised me. It makes me sad to think this may be true for my daughter. She's only two now so we are a long way off from worrying about dating, but we want her to know that finding someone to spend the rest of your life with should have nothing to do with skin color.
    We do not think it's okay to choose partners, spouses, friends, or in our case, children, based on race.
    I knew this statistic was true in the adoption realm (i.e. white children are the most expensive and are the longest wait...) so I guess I shouldn't be surprised. Yet I am a little.

    And no online dating either. Met my husband at college and we lived happily ever after. ;)


  3. Anonymous12:20 PM

    I've dated an Indian guy and a couple Asian guys, but never a black guy. Not a policy, it just never came up. I think I'm pretty terrible at flirting, so basically if a guy never asked me out, that was the end of that!

    I am a blond white woman, though, and I definitely wasn't flooded with messages when doing online dating (about 6 years ago when it was just starting to gain acceptance.)

    Then I ended up marrying someone who looks so much like me he could be my brother, which is weird in and of itself.

  4. I think society makes it very hard to venture or explore interracial dating. I personally went from a very mixed community to a more segregated high school and I feel like I lost the confidence to take the steps to dating outside my 'race'. Example is in middle school I had crushes on girls outside my race but after I moved from Florida to Delaware these kind of ideas or feelings seemed more taboo just because of the school atmosphere. I mean kids just copy what they see in society as a whole. At the point in my life that I met Pam I didn't feel that I would ever date outside my 'race'. So happy I did though :P

  5. I tried online dating and got zero....NONE, nothing at all. Not one single freaking letter of interest and I posted one of my high school senior portraits and I looked pretty good in that portrait.

  6. Anonymous4:49 PM

    I have never been on a date with a person of a different race because I was never given the opportunity. I thought about it when I was younger (I'm almost 60 now) and remember thinking I really didn't have any problems with the idea. Of course, that long ago, mixed race dating was seriously frowned upon. I can honestly say other phyical appearances (weight, height) would have turned me off before the color of a person's skin. Does that make me superficial? Probabaly.

    When I was in high school, I had a good friend who was black. I think my parents were concerned that we would start dating and I remember asking my mother about how she would feel if I did. I could tell she was a bit uncomfortable with the idea, but, surprisingly, did say she would be OK with it (and I think she would have been accepting).

    No online dating for me. Met hubby 30 years ago and are still together.

    As for why people of color have less play on dating sites, I have no idea. It would be interesting to see the statistics of play if no race was ever mentioned. Could it be the tone, tact, verbiage, etc. of the information presented?

  7. Wow! This topic is a mine field for me. Just reading your post stirs up all kinds of fears. I have never dated across race lines. It has never come close to being a possibility. I have never used a dating service. That too has never come close to being a possibility. Either way too risky. I think I have dated fewer than 20 people in my whole life -- and I'm 68. In high school and college I dated fewer than 5 women before I got married, and then 15 years later when I came out, I dated fewer than 5 men before I settled down with my partner of the last 25 years. I suppose on-line and cross race dating are both generationally new. How many interracial marriages were there 30 - 40 years ago? What is it about me and my generation? Conservative, careful, compliant, racist, sexually confused, Catholic guilty, repressed, etc.

  8. Sabria2:40 PM

    I grew up in a segregated city: Cleveland. There were two white students in my junior year, one from each gender. By senior year, both had moved to differing suburbs. My first exposure to white people was in the summer of 1968, just before my 12th birthday. Several members of my 6th grade class volunteered to bus to the west side to attend summer courses in Typing and Speed Reading. It was pilot program to determine whether Major Work kids would excel in some of the courses being offered at a high school on the other side of town. Bad idea. Who goes to summer school? "Bad" kids. By day 10, we'd been victimized so much by older teens, the program was abandoned! I was afraid of white people for awhile after that. By the time I joined the Air Force, the only men who asked me out were Black. Now, at 54, I couldn't imagine crossing the color line. "I have White friends, though." Am I traumatized? Hmmm.
    I don't care who other people date. It's their life, their choice.
    I am prejudiced against stinky people... and mean ones, too.
    Tried online dating. No takers. I believe I am too honest. The few men who wrote can't put a proper sentence together and it bugs me. So, I guess I'm prejudiced against illiterate men as well. Online dating didn't work for me. Seems no good men are searching online... or perhaps it's my age...

  9. Jeff S. Collins5:04 AM

    I'm white and I met a nice black girl on And you know what i say? It doesn't matter what skin colour you have, it's just about your personality and feelings.