by Jeanette Settembre, Moneyish
OKCupid wants people to get real about finding love. So why are so many women leaving in droves? NYC relationship expert Susan Winter says it’s all about safety.
The dating website announced it will no longer allow playful and wacky usernames like “AFunnySassyGirl,” “Superlonelyman” or “DoritoprincessXo” to be used on its site, instead requiring subscribers to use real names.
“Ahead of the new year, we’re removing OKCupid usernames. It’s starting with a test group and will soon be rolled out to everyone on OKCupid, so all users will need to update their profiles with what they want their dates to call them,” a recent blog post from the site read.
OkCupid justifies the new rules simply with: “it’s time to keep up with the times,” adding: “We want you, BigDaddyFlash916, to go by who you are and not be hidden beneath another layer of mystique. Even if that mystique is crucial to you and your dating life, unicorn__jizz.” OKC also suggested that those who use their own name are able to connect better with someone than those who have a funky made-up username. The dating site did not immediately return a request for comment from Moneyish.
Some users critiqued the new policy as a violation of privacy, making it easier for anyone to target them off the dating platform.
“The change is pretty upsetting to me, even though it currently only requires your first name. If you type just my first name and the city I live in into Google, you can find out pretty much everything about me. Anyone on OKCupid can track me down from my profile alone,” says Ontario, Canada-based user Erinn Atwater, 29, who has been active on the dating site for several years. “I’ve had problems with stalkers finding me on the internet before, so I’m considering deactivating my OKCupid account for safety reasons.”
Others users have already unsubscribed from the website entirely.
“I deleted my account when they made that change,” says former OKC user Kat Stark, 44. “It’s a terrible idea and makes it less safe for people, especially those who are already more vulnerable, like queer and trans people and people who aren’t ‘out’ about being on dating sites, for whatever reason and women.”
When the Vancouver native was active on the site, she used a made-up moniker.
“I would not tell people my full real name until we’d been connecting for long enough that they felt safe. I didn’t ever encounter scammers or catfishers. If the messages seemed weird, I simply didn’t respond to them. I know immediately when I get a message from ‘Love2fuk’ that I’m likely not going to want to read his message,” she said.
Some also feared that profiles with real names attached to revealing answers to extremely personal questions could also be seen by colleagues or employers.
After some backlash, OKCupid clarified its policy in the blog post, saying users do not have to use their legal name and could use the name, nickname or initials they wanted to be known by on the site.
“We’ve also heard from many members of our community that they want to maintain the privacy they enjoy with usernames — with this change, we won’t be collecting full names; instead, we encourage our users to go by the name they’d like their dates to call them on OKCupid,” the site announced.
Before getting rid of usernames entirely, the site posted some of its most bizarre usernames like “Burger_Giraffe,” “Hobbit-peet-feet” and “Beefy88Cakes” along with top stats from its usernames. Apparently there’s a big pet-friendly following, with 888,124 people using the words “cat” or “cats” in their names and 138,246 people using the word “dog.” Other names like “sexy” appeared in 221,229 usernames; “lover” came up in 157,553, and the word “horney” showed up in 16,411.
OKCupid, which started up in 2004, has an estimated 1 million active users today and is the third-most popular dating app on the market, according to data research website Statista.com. It seems to be aiming to stay relevant amid a new authenticity-driven dating app world where “hookup” apps like Tinder, the No. 1 most-used dating app in the US, link up with a user’s Facebook page, revealing the first name and an option to use the same photos. When joining The League app, a user’s real first name and the initial of their last name shows up on profiles, which must link professional social network LinkedIn so viewers can see a person’s job and where they went to school. Older sites, like Coffee Meets Bagel, which launched in 2012, require users to sign up with a Facebook account, but keeps a person’s first name private until two people are connected. And veteran dating site Match.com, which started in 1995, gives users the option to log in with Facebook when signing up for a profile, but people can still use vague usernames.
Dating experts believe that having users reveal and verify who they are is a good thing for people trying to find a life partner online.
“The No. 1 problem with online dating is you can be anyone. The natural assumption is they’re trying to vet whether these are real people or not,” says New York City relationship coach Susan Winter. “Anything that gives people a real name with a real profile that’s accurate is going to assist the dater with not getting burned or scammed. Verifying identity gives the user a sense that they’re indeed speaking with the user they are seeing online.”
Winter doesn’t think OKCupid’s new policy is effective because it eliminates usernames without actually requiring people to say who they are or link their social media profiles, so you could just be meeting a million generic “Steves.”
“There should be a verification process to eliminate catfishing. It would be a positive move to protect daters from scams and having their heart broken from inaccurate information,” she says.