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In our fast-paced and time-poor society, technology has come to our aid offering us a myriad of ways to get more done in less time. Developers have hacked solutions to even the most personal and intimate parts of our lives, dating and sex, promising to deliver a soulmate (or f-ckmate) in a few clicks of a button or swipe of a finger.

I will admit that I initially was a skeptic, but after several false starts with men whom I’d met organically, I eventually gave into the temptation of an algorithm relieving me of the burden of picking a match. In the past nine months I’ve trialled three of the most popular online dating platforms: OKCupid, Match.com and Tinder, each for a period of three months. Despite sitting under the same parent company (IAC’s Match Group) each platform maintains its own distinct flavor. Based on my experience with all three, this is my take on each service.

(Bear in mind that I’m a 29-year-old, heterosexual, Black female so my experience is viewed through this lens.)

OKCupid – Everybody and their mama

A traditional dating site with an added swipe-to-like functionality.

a) Cost: Free or pay to upgrade to ‘A-list’ membership starting at about $5/mo.

b) Good for: hook-ups/ casual dating/ serious relationships/ marriage

c) Ease of setup: Easy

Sign-up is by email address or Facebook account to expedite the process. While there are sections in the profile that prompt the user on what to write about (e.g. What I’m Doing With My Life, I’m Really Good At, The First Thing People Notice, Message Me If), there’s no requirement that all sections must be completed. OKCupid also has a plethora of Match Questions that the site encourages users to answer in order to better match community members. Filling in these questions can be time consuming but, again, it’s not mandatory. I really like that OKCupid gives the user flexibility in deciding how much or how little they invest into their profile, making the setup process fairly easy and adaptable to each user’s patience tolerance.

d) User experience

OKCupid’s profile design is clean and follows an easy-to-read, top-to-bottom layout (reminiscent of the old pre-Timeline Facebook). The site is intuitive and easy to navigate, and the same goes for the mobile app. I was impressed by the creativity of the Match Questions and quite enjoyed answering them and reading other member’s responses to the questions.

e) Community

OKCupid feels a bit like a party that everybody is invited to. The upside to this is that there is a lot of engagement and a wide selection of members to interact with. The downside is that the site does not seem to have a specific target audience so you end up with a mishmash of people with wildly different intentions- some are looking for one-night stands, others for marriage, others for a dominatrix…

Also, because there isn’t a price hurdle to participate, you get everything from the investment banker to the “self-employed” dude still living in his mom’s basement. Because of this, the experience becomes not unlike shopping in the sales rack section of a clothing store – you might find something good that fits, but you really really really have to search for it.

Overall score: 3/5

Tip – Don’t pay too much attention to the Match Score; I’ve had some unpleasant experiences with guys who presumably were a 90% match – pshhh 90% my a–!

Match.com – Yawn

Your typical traditional dating site.

a) Cost: Free to browse and send winks only. For full subscription membership, pricing varies depending on the purchased plan but the general price range is $20/mo. – $40/mo.

b) Good for: serious relationships/ marriage

c) Ease of setup: Not so easy.

Sign-up is by email address. In setting up a profile, there are mandatory fields that must be completed- some requiring a minimum number of characters (boo!). Your profile is also not immediately live once you’ve filled it out. It undergoes a quality check prior to going live and each time that you edit your profile in the free writing section or change your pictures, the changes have to go through review. If you aren’t feeling particularly inspired to write about yourself or generally lack patience, getting through the mandatory fields and waiting a day or so for your profile to be completely live can be annoying. The compulsory writing sections and waiting considerably dampened my initial excitement about signing up for the service.

d) User experience

Compared to OKCupid, the Match.com site looks and feels like a half-finished side-project. It’s uninspiring color-scheme and layout makes for an unpleasant site navigation experience. What I did appreciate though were the pointed questions focusing on the common relationship deal breakers: religion, kids, income etc… This makes skimming profiles a lot quicker and easier because you’re not inundated with so much information.

e) Community

I’d say that the majority of the people on the site are looking for some type of steady relationship (or at least this is what they say). The guys on the site seemed to be fairly decent because I never once received unsolicited salacious messages, whereas on OKCupid those types of messages were the norm.

Unfortunately, I found that there was low community engagement on Match.com; it wasn’t uncommon to come across profiles with members who’d been inactive for days or even weeks. Because of this, I never actually went on a single date during the three months that I was on the sitr. In the meantime, my bank account balance was $90 less.

Overall score: 2/5

Tip – try eHarmony.

 

Tinder – For the attractive and lazy

Tinder is like the Uber for booty calls – incredibly efficient. Just swipe right to like and left to pass.  

a) Cost: Free or pay to upgrade to ‘Tinder Plus’ starting at about $10/mo.

b) Best for: hook-ups/ casual dating

c) Ease of set-up: Super easy.

Tinder automatically pulls information (first name, age, interests, friends) directly from your Facebook account. Your first name and age will be displayed on your profile card along with the profile picture(s) you choose. Tinder uses information about your interests and friends to determine whether you have mutual interests or friends. People can only see what they have in common with you. You don’t  have to write anything additional in your profile if you don’t want to and there are no match questions to answer. Tinder gives you creative license to write whatever you like in your profile- no prompts, just whatever your heart desires. You can be up and running on Tinder in five minutes.

d) User experience

Once you stop hating yourself for signing up for Tinder, it actually can be a lot of fun and slightly addictive. The app is incredibly intuitive and well designed. Swiping through the cards feels more like you’re playing a game rather than searching for a date; when you do get a mutual match it feels rewarding in a sense. Tinder really has nailed it when it comes to delivering constant hits of instant gratification that keep you swiping. The results also speak for themselves: within 30 minutes of downloading the app onto my phone I had a slew of matches and a date lined up. What I absolutely loved about Tinder is that you have more control over who can communicate with you; you can only message with people you’ve “liked” and who’ve “liked” you back.

e) Community

If you ever had any doubts before, Tinder gives you assurance that there’s an ample supply of d-ck out there for the taking. Most guys I’ve spoken to on Tinder are on it for casual sex and most of them are frank about it, which I appreciate (beware the wolves in sheep’s clothing on OKCupid). I found the guys on Tinder hotter than the guys on Match.com or OKCupid, which I also appreciate! I’ve met some reasonably respectable, employed guys on Tinder – they are not all creeps contrary to popular belief.

Overall score: 4/5

Tip – You can “unmatch” people on the app to erase them forever if they turn out to be a douchebag.

Choose your dating platform wisely to get the most out of online dating. Good luck!

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