Dating site OkCupid announced two changes this month:
A Dec. 11 blog post announcing the first change noted that “the entire dating landscape has shifted and opened up since OkCupid started back in 2004.”
Today, the most popular dating apps (Tinder, Hinge, Bumble and others) require that two people indicate mutual interest before anyone sends a “heyyy.”
Before Tinder debuted in 2012, online daters could send messages to anyone, which OkCupid calls “open messaging.” As OkCupid admits, open messaging can lead to a volume of initial messages that is “unmanageable, and at times unsettling,” for female users. Open messaging can also lead to women receiving more unwanted and harassing messages.
The second change appears to be more controversial. In Slate, Heather Schwedel writes that “requiring users to go by their real names seems like a way to open them up to moreharassment, since bad actors will have an easier time identifying people and contacting them off the platform if they wish to.”
Another concern is privacy, as some people choose OkCupid because they don’t want to be public about their sexual or gender orientation, or their relationship preferences. OkCupid has been a popular platform for people who are polyamorous or are in open relationships, for example. The anonymity can also feel safer for marginalized communities, such as trans individuals.
Amid the confusion, OkCupid tweeted out Friday that, in lieu of usernames like BigDaddyFlash916 or DaddyzPrincess29, nicknames or initials would be okay.
OkCupid is trying to stay relevant in an online dating landscape where verification is more valuable than anonymity. Online dating has long been moving away from anonymity and toward more transparency. Dating apps such as Tinder not only require users to build profiles around their real first names, they’re also linked to a Facebook or other social media profile, displaying any mutual friends two users might have. Selective apps such as the League require that a user have a Facebook and LinkedIn profile.