Why OkCupid’s Trump Filter is Bad for Romance
To celebrate Valentine’s Day this year, the online dating website OkCupid introduced new features designed to help users “connect on a deeper level.” The changes include a new category of questions for users to answer, which in turn gives potential matches a better understanding of their personalities and — most crucially — their political beliefs.
OkCupid users can voice their opinions — and investigate the opinions of others — on a host of “topical” issues tied to current events. The new question will allow users to find out where a potential match stands on buzzworthy dating trends such as “ghosting,” but will mostly provide a broader platform for users to advertise their familiarity with politics, the correctness of their opinions, and their passion for good things.
President Donald Trump, as you can probably guess, will feature prominently among what the website describes as “things you want to know a person’s stance on before you meet them” — also, climate change and student loan debt.
I have previously written about why politicized dating apps are bad, but mostly because of the broader cultural trends they represent. These new OkCupid features seem designed to further inject politics into the process of finding a mate. The problem is that, evidently, that’s precisely what an increasing number of young people want.
In many ways, this is understandable. The Wall Street Journal described the new OkCupid questions as something that “might keep you from getting into an awkward political conversation on date night.” Fair enough. The online dating experience is awkward enough, and there’s no shortage of reasons why a date can go poorly, even if two people seem like a match on paper. What’s the harm in trying to eliminate one of them?
Of course, another way of achieving this goal would be to simply not get into political discussion on first dates. In the Trump era, this is easier said than done. An even simpler solution would be to downgrade the importance we place on political views when it comes to finding a partner. (Or anything else, while we’re at it.)
A survey of OkCupid users published last year found that roughly half of the site’s users, the majority of whom are liberal, would not date someone whose political views differed from their own. Again, that’s understandable, but it’s also a worrying sign in the context of broader trends.
On a societal level, we are increasingly unable to argue — and to disagree — about politics in a non-hysterical fashion. Having the “wrong” opinion is often seen as a hideous moral defect. In some cases, simply having no opinion on the latest outrage is just as bad. Fits are thrown, boycotts are launched, and friendships are terminated with the click of a mouse.
That same survey of OkCupid users also found that one quarter of respondents who were “looking for love” on the site said having similar political views was a more important factor that having physical chemistry with a potential match. This is deranged, and if nothing changes, this is our future.
Consider that, in 1960, a survey found that 5 percent of Americans would be “displeased” if their child married someone who belonged to a different political party. A similar poll conducted in 2010 found that 40 percent expressed displeasure at the thought of their children intermarrying politically.
These trends, the increasing polarization of our nation’s politics, and the increasing politicization of our everyday lives, predate Donald Trump. They certainly aren’t going to abate on his watch, and Hillary Clinton wouldn’t have been able to do anything about it either. We are all complicit. We are all Hitler, depending on whom you ask.
The rise of social media, and the increasing tabloidization of the internet, has transformed the national discourse into a giant comments section, a cesspool of anonymous trolls and constant outrage where the worst of human tendencies are nurtured and amplified.
We hunker down in our respective tribes, or hashtags (#Deplorables, #NastyWomen, etc.), and never miss a chance to proclaim affiliation with the “right” side, even if that just means checking a box on an online dating website, retweeting a snarky meme, or declaring “no Trump supporters” in an ad for roommates, which is enough to get you an interview on network television these days.
Where does it end? Nowhere good, probably, until enough people realize that being logged on, perpetually outraged, and agreeing with everyone you interact with is no way to go through life.
Originally published at acculturated.com on February 21, 2017.