OkCupid is doing away with usernames. But why is it making fun of its users in the process?

OkCupid Is Doing Away With Usernames. But Why Is It Making Fun of Its Users in the Process?

OkCupid Is Doing Away With Usernames. But Why Is It Making Fun of Its Users in the Process?

Future Tense
The Citizen's Guide to the Future
Dec. 22 2017 1:52 PM

OkCupid Is Doing Away With Usernames. But Why Is It Making Fun of Its Users in the Process?

877316882
Get ready to come from behind those balloons.

Thinkstock/gpointstudio

In its latest attempt to rejoin the rest of us in the Tinder era, dating site OkCupid is getting rid of usernames. That’s not shocking at a time when online anonymity isn’t just an occasional annoyance but a legitimate threat to democracy, but it is curious in one way: In its blog post announcing the change, OkCupid seemed to go out of its way to mock its own users. It’s lame, according to the site, to masquerade as DaddyzPrincess29, kinkyweedzz, or laidback__stu, even in an online forum that once required anonymity. “We want you, BigDaddyFlash916, to go by who you are, and not be hidden beneath another layer of mystique,” the post says. “Even if that mystique is crucial to you and your dating life, unicorn__jizz.” First AIM shuttered, and now this?

Making fun of the people who keep your lights on is never a good look. OkCupid asked its users to come up with names, and so they did—and even the kind of awkward ones helped cement the site’s vibe. Do only people with clever screennames deserve dating success? And who’s in charge of deciding what’s clever? The blog post includes a graphic of “usernames we will miss” and “usernames we will not miss,” but there’s not much to distinguish those that meet OKC’s approval from those that don’t: BeautyMssingBeast is on the nice list, but suuperlonelyman is on the naughty one, which seems fairly arbitrary. I get that having any numbers in your username reads as kind of early-2000s (sorry, bag_o_Stewart101) and therefore a little less savvy and with-it, but otherwise, why the judgment? Usernames were a staple of the internet until fairly recently, and OkCupid benefitted enormously from the way its users embraced them: Among its peers, OkCupid felt like the dating-site equivalent of a chat room (for better or for worse!). Some users might have liked the anonymity. They might have even appreciated the big clue it provided when people gave themselves names like “unicorn__jizz”—for some, that’s an extremely useful red flag.

Advertisement

In the post, OkCupid doesn’t specify the thinking behind the decision beyond that “it’s time to keep up with the times” and the names are “a pain to come up with and a pain to remember.” (You know what else is a pain? Keeping straight all the guys named “Dave” on any dating platform. Sorry, Daves.) Earlier this month, OkCupid changed the way its messaging works, so that now users only receive messages from people they have indicated interest in. The reason for that shift was to combat harassment, but the company didn’t indicate that similar thinking is at work in its choice to ditch usernames. In fact, requiring users to go by their real names seems like a way to open them up to more harassment, since bad actors will have an easier time identifying people and contacting them off the platform if they wish to. The blog post doesn’t spell out whether users will be expected to use their full names or if, as on Tinder, something like first name and last initial will suffice, nor does it explain if there will a process for verifying that real names are being used.

If this is a move for safety or trustworthiness or even something else, OkCupid should say so. Otherwise, I’m on the side of DaddyzPrincess29 and unicorn__jizz.

Future Tense is a partnership of SlateNew America, and Arizona State University.