The Aspie Guide to Online Dating Sites, Part One
As with everything I write, I have to offer the caveat that this guide comes from my experience as a straight, cisgender male. If you have a different perspective, it might not be useful.
So you have Asperger’s and you’re single and you want a relationship. Striking out in search of companionship is always a messy endeavour, and having a social disability makes it that much more complicated.
One option is trying to meet someone on a dating site. A few years ago, after exhausting all other options, that’s what I did. It worked out pretty well for me. While I didn’t find my soulmate, I met someone who was friends with my soulmate and was willing to arrange an introduction.
So if you’re curious about using a dating site, I’d say it’s worth a shot.
Here’s some advice on how to put together a decent profile on three different dating sites: OKCupid, Plenty of Fish, and Spectrum Dating. All three are free, and the first two are the most popular free online dating sites. Spectrum Dating is not as well known. It’s a dating site specifically for people on the autism spectrum, and is also free.
This was originally supposed to be one concise blog entry, but every goddamn time I write about Asperger’s and dating it turns into the song that never ends.
So this first entry is specifically about OKCupid. I’ll follow this with an entry about Plenty of Fish, an entry about Spectrum Dating, followed by an entry about general information you should have when dating online.
This is the website I joined when I was single. I was drawn to it because I found it aesthetically pleasing, easy to use, and it has a complicated mathematical algorhythm to determine compatibility. Like most Aspies, I fucking love math, and the idea that the potential for romance can be calculated and predicted is appealing to me.
When I joined OKCupid, there was a way to browse people’s profiles without signing up. That was great for me, because I was able to get an idea of what the website was like, and what the expectations were, and what sort of people were out there.
Unfortunately, the website has been redesigned, and in order to see anything you have to sign up. I know that probably makes it seem a little more daunting- knowing what to expect is important- but it’s still worth it for the chance to find your person.
I had no idea whether the site had changed significantly in the past two years, so I made a temporary false account because I love you and want you to be happy.
The first thing that happens when you sign up is you get asked for some very basic information: age, location, e-mail address, password.
After that, you can either set up your profile immediately, or look around awhile. I’d recommend looking around in order to get the lay of the land.
Here’s what you should be looking for:
-What kind of people are using this site? Do they look like people you’d be interested in hanging out with?
-What kind of information are people sharing? Consider tone, quantity and content.
-How do people present themselves? Remember that every profile is carefully constructed- some more carefully than others- in order to project a certain persona.
Once you have the answers to these questions, you’ll understand what you’re dealing with, and have some idea of what the social norms are.
You can use this information to construct your own profile.
While you were looking at other people’s profiles I’m sure there were some that really stuck out. Maybe these people were attractive, or funny, or interesting. Why did you react in the way you did? What made these people seem attractive, funny, or interesting?
Again, you can use this information to construct your own profile.
Now, profiles on OKCupid have a few different components. I’m going to describe them all so you know exactly what to expect before signing up.
Firstly, there are a series of prompts to disclose personal information. You can answer however many you want in however much detail you want. These are the prompts:
-What I’m doing with my life
-Favourite books, movies, shows, music, and food
-The six things I could never live without
-I spend a lot of time thinking about
-On a typical Friday night I am
-You should message me if
When answering these prompts you’re basically assembling the trailer version of your personality. Don’t go into too much detail; give enough information to leave them wanting more. I’d recommend two or three sentences, tops. Keep the tone light and breezy. I know light and breezy can be difficult for us. That’s why you need to pay close attention to other people’s profiles to see how they do it.
You should answer each of these questions on a word processor so you can take some time and play around with them a bit. I’d recommend asking a Maintainer for advice, though I didn’t do that, and I understand why you might be reluctant. This is personal, potentially embarrassing stuff. But considering how much I worried about my answers, in retrospect I wish I’d asked someone for their input.
Under no circumstances should you disclose anything remotely sexual in the prompts. I’ll talk more about that later.
The next component of an OKCupid profile is answering a series of questions about yourself, your interests and values. In addition to picking an answer, you also pick how you want your ideal match to answer, and how important the issue is to you. This is the math part: the site has a complex algorhythm which will match you with people who seem compatible.
The questions are endless, and you can answer as many as you like. The more questions you answer, the more information OKCupid has to match you with people. Keep in mind you can skip any of the questions you want. You can also explain your answer, though I know that Aspies have a tendency to overexplain themselves, and so I would dissuade you from exercising this option.
Here’s a sample of some of the questions that come up:
-Regardless of future plans, what’s more interesting to you right now?
-Is astrological sign at all important in a match?
-How willing are you to meet someone from OKCupid in person?
a) Totally willing!
b) Hesitant, but I’d certainly consider it.
c) I’m not interested in meeting in person.
I would recommend against answering any question that seems excessively personal. In order to figure out what “excessively personal” means to you, ask yourself whether you’d be comfortable having your answer publicly available for an indefinite period of time. While that isn’t literally what we’re dealing with (you can delete your profile at any point), total strangers will have access to the information you provide for as long as it’s on the website, and they will be assessing you on that basis. So maybe don’t answer that question about how often you masturbate.
Another component of your profile is a sidebar called My Details. It’s a drop-down list of information about you. You don’t have to answer anything, but the more information you provide, the better. People who look at your profile will usually quickly scan your My Details section before reading anything else.
Here’s what it asks:
-Relationship type (monogamous or non-monogamous)
-Religion (as well as its importance to you)
Personally, I answered all these questions except zodiac sign (because astrology is ridiculous) and education (I dropped out from university, and a lack of higher education is a dealbreaker for some people).
Above the My Details sidebar is another box called I’m Looking For. They ask about
-Relationship type (friends, long-term dating, short-term dating, casual sex)
If you’re a woman and you indicate an interest in casual sex, you will be inundated with creepy, perverted messages. This is obviously horrifying. I don’t want to dissuade you from getting your rocks off; I just feel this is information you should have. I’ll get into more details about this later.
The final component to your OKCupid profile is your photos. Selecting photos is a skill set which is required no matter what dating site you use, so I’ll be discussing that later. I will say though that having a photo of yourself on OKCupid is a requirement. Your profile won’t be shown to other users unless you’ve posted at least one picture.
So let’s say your profile has been set up, you’ve posted a snazzy picture of yourself, and you’ve answered enough questions to allow OKCupid to match you with people.
Well, you can click the Browse Matches button near the top of your screen and start browsing people’s profiles.
You can use a drop-down menu to pick how these profiles are sorted. Your options are:
-Special blend (I guess that means they’re sorted randomly)
-Enemy % (these are the people who are least compatible to you)
Each of these options have their own merits. When I was single, I tended to sort my matches using Match % because that meant I saw the most compatible people first. But you can move between options whenever you want, so it isn’t a big deal.
There are a few things to know when reading people’s profiles.
First of all, people are sent a notification whenever you open their profile. They will see that you saw them and they’ll see who you are. They might also see when you visited their profile, though I’m not sure about that. I believe people are only notified the first time you see their profile, though I could be wrong.
This feature is something to be aware of if you run into a co-worker, friend, ex-partner, or friend’s partner on OKCupid. If they see that you visited their profile, they might think you’re considering them as a romantic or sexual option, and that could have negative ramifications on other aspects of your life.
Here’s a good example of that. When I was on OKCupid, my friend Foster was having an on-and-off-again relationship with a woman named Emma. One day Emma turned up in my matches (we were 95% compatible, which was weird, because while she’s a cool person, she’s not my type).
Without thinking, I clicked on Emma’s profile. Then I realized she’d be able to see that, and that she’d recognize it was me (I had a picture of myself in my profile).
You’re not supposed to scope out your friends’ partners. It’s simply not done. So to ensure it wouldn’t come back to bite me in the ass later, I mentioned it to Foster the next day, framing it as a funny story. His face darkened.
“Did her profile say she was online at the time?” he asked.
“No, but it said she’d been online yesterday,” I said.
Foster was silent for a minute.
“She told me she’d stopped using dating sites,” he said. “We’re supposed to be exclusive.”
Secondly- as I’ve just mentioned- people can see when you last accessed your account. That usually won’t have any negative repurcussions, but if you start seeing someone- especially if you start dating someone exclusively- you have to be careful about checking your profile again, even if your activity is innocuous.
Another thing you should know is that typically on OKCupid, men initiate contact with women. While I had a couple of women respond to my messages, I never had a woman message me first. I assume that’s just part of the culture.
So if you’re a straight man, don’t wait around and wait to get messaged, because it probably won’t happen. You need to be proactive.