Media erupt as "OkCupid Adds a Feature for the Polyamorous"
OkCupid has started offering something a lot of polyfolks have long agitated for. Or rather, they've made an attempt at it. And it's drawing a lot of media attention.
OkCupid has been the default dating site of the poly world for years now, but it's still awkward to use well for this purpose. (Tips for how; scroll down to "OkCupid.") Will the new option really help?
First, here's the article that broke the story — at The Atlantic, a major mainstream news and analysis magazine:
OkCupid Adds a Feature for the Polyamorous
Seeing an increased interest in non-monogamous arrangements, the company will allow couples to link their profiles and search for additional mates.
By Olga Khazan
Online dating behemoth OkCupid is adding a feature tailor-made for polyamorous people. The new setting, which became available for some beta users in December, allows users who are listed as “seeing someone,” “married,” or “in an open relationship” on the platform to link their profiles and search for other people to join their relationship. It will be rolled out to all users on Friday.
A screenshot of the new feature obtained by The Atlantic [above] shows a stock photo of a sample user listed as “in an open relationship” with another, whose profile is linked below his.
The move comes in response to a rapid uptick in the number of OkCupid users interested in non-monogamous relationships. According to the company’s data, 24 percent of its users are “seriously interested” in group sex. Forty-two percent would consider dating someone already involved in an open or polyamorous relationship. Both numbers represent increases of 8 percentage points from five years ago. The number of people who say they are solely committed to monogamy, meanwhile, has fallen to a minority of all users, 44 percent, down from 56 percent in 2010.
“It seems that now people are more open to polyamory as a concept,” said Jimena Almendares, OkCupid’s chief product officer....
OkCupid added the “open relationship” setting in 2014.... The polyamorous profile-linking setting is not yet coming to Tinder or Match.com, the other sites owned by OkCupid parent company Match Group, according to Almendares....
Though specialized dating sites for polyamorous people exist, this appears to be the first instance of a mainstream online dating platform allowing two users to search for sexual partners together, as a unit. Polyamorous people have long used dating apps and sites by either spelling out their arrangement in their profile bios or by creating their profile as a couple.
However, Almendares says, that created confusion for people looking to join polyamorous arrangements....
The whole article (Jan 8, 2016).
Says Franklin Veaux,
Nice idea, badly implemented. OK Cupid now allows you to specify the name of a partner and link your OKC account if you say you’re in an open relationship…but only one. You can only have one ‘real’ relationship, you see.
[They seem to] think of polyamory as something couples do, rather than something people do. They’re far from the only ones who see it that way.
So don't forget the Chrome plugin. Other readers remind us that there's already a more useful OkCupid hack for polyfolks (and other non-mainstream people): the OkCupid for the Non-Mainstream User extension.
Updates next day:
● Now there's an article on CNN: Polyamorous community welcomes new OkCupid feature for open relationships (Jan. 8). It quotes Pepper Mint:
"It's good news but it's not just OkCupid being generous," [Mint] added. "It's well-known in the poly community that if you want to date online you go to OkCupid. What we're really seeing is [the effect of] non-monogamous purchasing power."
OkCupid readily admits that the feature comes in response to growing interest among users in relationships with more than one person at a time, be it flings, casual hookups or committed relationships.
From 2010 to 2015, the site saw an increase from in positive responses related to multiple partners, OkCupid chief product officer Jimena Almendares said, including "Would you consider dating someone who is already involved in an open or polyamorous relationship?" and "Would you consider being part of a committed polyamorous relationship?"
"Now, couples can identify themselves, and users searching for a non-monogamous relationship can find them more easily," Almendares said. "Also, users searching for monogamous relationships only will not see profiles of users in non-monogamous relationships."
After the CNN article went up, the reporter, Emanuella Grinberg (who's covered poly well for CNN before) added this new material to the story from Pepper about the problem of OkCupid's couple-assumption:
There's still room for improvement, Mint said. He would like to see "polyamorous" become a relationship status option. In the spirit of honesty and transparency that polyamory is predicated upon, being able to add more multiple partners to a profile would be another positive step forward, especially since many poly people don't seek out new mates as a couple.
"OkCupid has been making incremental changes and they're good but there's still farther to go," he said.
Elsewhere a commenter notes,
What makes it extra puzzling to me is that OkCupid already has a useful feature for this: If you use double square brackets, you can link to any other OKC profile in your description. Which allows you to explain your current situation in plain English and link in profiles where appropriate.
For instance, just type "My other partners are [[UserName]] and [[Username]]." (With their permission, of course.)
● On NBC News: OKCupid Hearts Polyamorous Relationships With New Feature (Jan. 8).
● Cosmopolitan: OkCupid Is Launching a Feature for Polyamorous Couples [sic] (Jan. 8).
● Engadget: OKCupid offers options for polyamorous couples (Jan. 9):
One of OkCupid's biggest advantages versus other matchmaking sites is the seemingly endless amount of dating data its users provide voluntarily in an effort to find a compatible mate. The flip-side of that is OkCupid can use that information to tailor its site to emerging trends -- like offering the option for polyamorous folks to link their profiles to make finding like-minded people easier....
This wasn't a random change, rather it was spurned by the massive amounts of information OKCupid has available to it. Forty-two percent of its users are willing to consider dating a someone in an open or polyamorous relationship, while 24 percent are interested in group sex. The Atlantic says that those numbers each jumped by eight percent in the past five years and that, in the same time period, people identifying exclusively as monogamous has dropped 12 percent. This is simply the site reacting to what its users are looking for.
Update Jan. 12: More media are running with this story, but they're mostly copying from the items above. Here's an exception by Zachary Zane at Pride.com, who considers the meaning of this bit of public recognition and its limitations: OkCupid Going “Polyamorous”: What This Means for the Poly Community (Jan. 11):
...Additionally, but on a related note, the linkage of a couple doesn’t in any way create or facilitate connections to further create a polyamorous community. And polyamory doesn’t typically exist in isolation, with one couple being polyamorous; it typically exists in the larger context of a group of like-minded individuals. A community. This linkage doesn’t facilitate that community—again, just men and women looking for threesomes.
Despite my reservations about OkCupid’s couple's linkage feature, (which should accurately be called “unicorn hunt” feature), I would argue the benefits far outweigh the cons. It’s necessary for non-monogamous relationships to become more visible, in order for society to accept those types of relationships as valid. Nevertheless, OkCupid needs to proceed with caution at the fear of misrepresenting and further demonizing the poly community, as solely looking for sexual flings—perhaps by better clarifying and separating the differences between non-monogamous and polyamorous.