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Online Dating And People Connecting Services Are In Boom

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Cheyenne M. Davis reviews the most popular dating apps for singles and asks the question, are they fat-friendly? 

After my encounters with potential (or in this case, not so potential) partners on Tinder and OkCupid, I decided to take a V-Day sabbatical to sage my phone and cleanse my spirit. Despite the circumstances, ya girl is still on a journey of self-discovery and finding virtual, true love. I chose to, yet again, go back to the drawing board and revisit an app that I used previously based on popular demand. A platform that I colloquially referred to as “Plenty of Failures,” I chose to redownload Plenty of Fish because of several recommendations from both friends and readers. This was a hard decision to make, being that this was an app that has been on my “Ain’t It List” for the longest. However, I decided to give POF some grace and allow it back into my virtual space.

An app founded by Markus Frind in 2003, Plenty of Fish is a primarily Canadian and also USA-based dating service that marketed itself as the “first free dating site.” This did, however, indeed change in 2009 with the introduction of a paid subscription, followed by a series of alleged rebrands and redesigns that didn’t produce visible results. The app is now owned by Match Group, the large parent company that also owns the very dating apps that I’ve previously discussed.

Infrastructure

I initially signed up for POF around 2015, 2016, and to be honest, I wasn’t a fan of what I was seeing. The app not only felt like a MySpace matchmaking service sans the Blingee, but it also just had an overwhelming amount of features that made the process of using POF more of a chore than a fun experience. Overall, the app was both aesthetically unappealing and lacked user friendliness.

Since signing up for it again in 2021, I was met with a “new and improved” look prior to even downloading the app…or so I thought.

Despite this new logo giving The Rainbow Fish vibes, I was still somewhat happy to see that there was some level of evolution in the app’s forward-facing presentation. Upon opening POF, I was immediately met with a series of questions to verify my age and my relationship status, making a note that you have to be both 18+ (which is totally understandable) and single to join the app. Right off the bat, POF makes you aware that it’s a service to promote monogamous relationships, which may be a deterrent for folx who are poly or ethically non-monogamous.

Once I made it past the initial questions, I realized that this version of POF wasn’t so different from its mid-2010’s iteration. It’s still as overwhelming as I remember it to be, and it’s also added even more features that I will be tackling shortly.

Creating a Profile

Just like other dating apps and comparable to my first experience with POF in particular, making a profile on the second go-round took some time. I added my pictures, provided basic information such as my age, education level, and the type of relationship I’m looking for. It also asks you to list your interests, whether or not you own a vehicle, and your personality type. The part that stuck out to me the most during this process was the “Extended Profile” where you can specify your birth order (i.e. youngest of four children) and personal preferences of potential partners. In these preferences, you can select both the ages and body types of people you would like to contact you and make these dealbreakers, meaning you can keep certain people from being able to contact you if their body type or age has been excluded from your preferences.

Plenty of Fish

Source: Cheyenne M. Davis / Courtesy of Cheyenne Davis

Seeing this still being a factor on their app made me side-eye POF yet again because one of the reasons I was turned off from using the app back in 2015 was due to trying to message someone and receiving a pop-up about not being able to do so because of the body type that I selected for myself. In addition to this, their categories of body types are limited, thus only having a “few extra pounds” and “Big and Tall/BBW” to describe larger-bodied folx. Personally, y’all know that I have a bone to pick with apps that utilize body types because it only is used as a way to set fat folx and people who are deemed physically undesirable apart from other people. But I digress.

Paid vs Free Membership

Like other dating apps, POF has an upgraded membership and, of course, a free one as well. Some of the main features of the upgraded membership include increasing more slots to add photos to your profile, seeing Extended Profiles and preferences of other members, and receiving “message read” receipts to name a few. The caveat is that POF does not offer a month-to-month plan. The lowest plan is $12.90/mo for three months ($38.70), but they also offer a six-month and annual membership as well. In my humble opinion, the paid membership isn’t much different from the free one because you still have most of the features such as swiping and messaging at your fingertips for free 99.

As far as encounters on POF go, I am shocked to report that out of the innumerable messages that I have collected, I haven’t received any out-of-pocket or blatantly fatphobic messages. The only issue is that I am being contacted by men who don’t necessarily fit the bill for what I am looking for in an ideal partner, and the messages that I receive from said men were limited to different variations of “Hey” and “Hey beautiful” or peach emojis. It’s funny the first few times, but receiving 100+ messages that are almost identical makes me wonder if I’m talking to real people or bots.

In addition to this, I get a lot of random correspondence where men rant and rave about my beautiful smile. As y’all have mentioned time and time again, I am almost never smiling in my photos, and I find it quite interesting that these men are finding a nonexistent smile. When I ask them about it, they always laugh and then change the subject.

Plenty of Fish

Source: Cheyenne M. Davis / Courtesy of Cheyenne Davis

Side note: After a multitude of comments about my mystery grin and lack thereof, I decided to do a little experiment and add a picture of me smiling to see if it would still warrant the same responses. Interestingly enough, I received less comments about my smile with this image than without it.

Plenty of Fish

Source: Cheyenne M. Davis / Courtesy of Cheyenne Davis

My favorite part of my experience with POF was exploring their new features of POF Live and Versus. In the live section, users can livestream and talk to other people, and there are options within the live that allow you to stream one-on-one “dates” where you can answer a series of questions to create an engaging conversation. Users can also use coins to purchase “gifts” for the streamer. Going live is a hit or miss because there are times where I’ve had a great amount of engagement and others where it’s crickets. On the other hand, the Versus option allows you to connect with people to have timed conversations. I tried Versus once, and we had a tantalizing conversation about cryptocurrency and the stock market (*chills*). In short, I don’t really know the true difference between going live and doing Versus on the app, but I do like that it’s a fun way to engage with others and break up the monotony of swiping and sliding into people’s DMs.

The Verdict

In all honesty, I am going to give Plenty of Fish a fat friendliness rating of 2/5. I consider my experiences to not be as turbulent as those from the other apps I’ve tried, but I also haven’t really found what I was looking for, hence the neutral score. Similar to other dating apps, most of the men I encountered through Plenty of Fish most definitely weren’t a match for me. As someone who holds a master’s degree, is well-traveled and is independent, I am looking for someone with comparable experience and attributes. Seeing that I receive messages from those who are the exact opposite makes me question how I am coming off to others and how the site brands itself.

After signing off of POF, I have had a lot of lingering thoughts about fatness, dating, and the idea of preference. Although I seem to be the ideal type for many people on POF, I still can’t help but notice a common trend of having size as a preference and being able to be excluded because of it from all of these apps. Seeing this has made me double down on my expectations for partnership. Many may perceive this as elitist and contradictory being that I am against size discrimination. However, I feel that society has normalized conflating fatness with exclusion and deemed it permissible to count people out because they lack desirable characteristics. If we are to keep the same energy, fat folx, too, are valid in having preferences due to being forlorn in dating spaces. Society spends a hell of a lot of time making choices for larger-bodied people, whether it be their bodies or their treatment, yet we are crucified for even uttering the desire to want more or get what we deserve. In short, POF may not be the worst of the worst, but it’s still a far cry from what fat daters need.

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