When you first sign up for OkCupid, at this point more notorious as a hookup service than a “dating” website, the company touts its open format: “Anyone can reply to a message from anyone else. There are no barriers to getting to know someone here.” They also claim they are “getting a reputation for having smarter and more attractive users.” But a telling premium feature puts the lie to both these claims.
For as little as $9.95 a month, you see, OkCupid becomes more than just an open-air meat market—elite, paying, “A-list” customers can also filter their matches by body type and profile rating, thus avoiding the unpleasantness of having to scroll past ugly or overweight people. Don’t want to flirt with anyone “curvy” or “full-figured”? Check a box and they all disappear.
Aside from the option to customize a stream of nonstop hotties, A-listers will also notice that they are free to stalk in style with the “Browse profiles invisibly” and “Message read receipts” features. Now your potential sex partners will never know how many times a day you visit their page, and you’ll be able to see how frequently your lousy come-ons are outright ignored!
Still, the OkCupid users with money to burn are restricted by factors outside their control: a five-star profile may have good answers to compatibility questions rather than runway-model-quality photos, and everyone is free to choose between describing their appearance as “fit” or “a little extra”—nobody’s forced to be honest here.
With the site now divided into two strata, the masses and the picky aristocracy that would rather not have to look at them, will future humans likewise be split into a race of endlessly wealthy beautiful people and repellent bottom-feeders who just want someone to go to the movies with? For a species that has supposedly moved beyond the influence of Darwinian natural selection, we seem awfully inclined to have the Internet facilitate it for us.