The anniversary of my induction into the sordid world of online dating is fast approaching. One fateful day last summer, I bit the lonely bullet, swallowed the bile of romantic failure and signed up to OkCupid, probably the largest free dating platform out there. A year on, here I am – with roughly *indecipherable mumbling* dates under my belt, a mental library of adequate times/bad times/terrible times (running away from my ‘date’ in a blind panic through a council estate) and a wealth of reluctant knowledge about the internet matchmaking demographic.
The online dating community being a bunch of rugged, nefarious individuals (‘individual’ the operative word here), we’re all labouring under the illusion that our online dating profile content can’t be pigeon-holed. Spend a rainy day browsing profiles, and you’ll swashbuckle your way through the entire rapscallion demographic of the world’s singletons. This gives way not necessarily to stereotyping, but to a limited spectrum of profile characteristics which crop up again and again in varying combinations.
Men tend to fall into five distinct categories:
- Beefcakes: topless ‘selfie’, oiled up to the eyeballs, with abs that could grate Parmesan.
- Nerds/creatives: hipster glasses and a computer/guitar.
- Lads: beer and/or boobs featuring in all photos.
- City boys: pinstripe suit, cocktails.
- Hippies: sitting on a sun-drenched plain, clutching a bongo, wearing a tie-dye vest.
But undulating through these umbrella groups there are cross-category typographies. For instance: the overwhelming proportion of OkCupid-ites – both male and female – who choose to define the very essence of their being with a cat photo. Ask yourself, how many bodily locations can sustain a cat? Now have a look at OkCupid. And brace yourself. There are cat hats, cat scarves, cat parrots, cat shoes, cat bras, and disturbingly, even cat pants. I’ve seen cats in places that cats should never go… Poor kitty!
If you’re familiar with OkCupid’s ‘Quickmatch’ function, you’ll know that the poor sod whose profile you’re perusing gets a grand total of about five seconds to impress. A cursory glance at the photos and a skim of the ‘About Me’, with index finger poised over the ‘Skip’ button (or perhaps the ‘Rate’ stars, depending on how the photos fared). Five seconds. That’s all you get. With a window of opportunity this slender, it’s no wonder that we resort to live feline lingerie to grab attention.
Chicks and dudes of the virtual variety bubble merrily away in a gargantuan melting pot of caricatures. Cos that’s exactly what we’re doing. We’re creating grossly deformed caricature avatars of our real selves; beefing up the good, the bad and the ugly, presenting a choice selection from the smorgasbord of our identity, summing up our brilliant entirety in a few judicious lines (or dubious photos), reducing ourselves to mere pet preferences.
I hasten to add that I’m as guilty of this as any online dating fiend. Yes, there’s a photo of me and Gizmo; yes, I may be using him as a pillow. Okay, so I love cats, dammit! One day, come hell or high water, I will end up on a rocking chair surrounded by the little critters. And, of course, I will probably still be single.