not a beautiful or unique snowflake (nothings) wrote,
not a beautiful or unique snowflake
nothings



Most people who write OK Cupid questions write them backwards. Here is an example that is fairly unambiguously problematic:

Would you date someone who doesn't own a car?
o Yes
o No

How would your Ideal Match answer this question?
[] Yes
[] No

How important is their answer to you?
o Irrelevant
o A little important
o Somewhat important
o Very important
o Mandatory


How did I fill this question out? Well, I would date someone who doesn't own a car, so yes to the first one.

But do I care about whether they would date someone who doesn't own a car or not? Like, maybe if I were a tree-hugger, I'd want to gripe about somebody who did own a car, but that's not the question. Maybe I'm so crazily pro-cars that if somebody else would date someone who didn't own a car, then I don't like them.

So I marked it "irrelevant".

But given my car situation, it's not really irrelevant at all!

The problem with this question, and with most OK Cupid questions, is that it's simply backwards. If they're trying to collect information about you and your potential mate and whether your situations match-up, instead of phrasing the question to ask about what you prefer, they should instead ask about what you are. Then your answer to "how would your Ideal Match answer" expresses what you'd prefer, and you don't need to go through any insane second-guessing to specify what you'd prefer they'd prefer; instead you just describe what you are, without having to guess how important it is to them.

In other words, consider this question as a replacement:

Do you own a car?
o Yes
o No

How would your Ideal Match answer this question?
[] Yes
[] No

How important is their answer to you?
o Irrelevant
o A little important
o Somewhat important
o Very important
o Mandatory


Hey, guess what, instead of all that dithering about how important it is to me about how carless-prejudiced they are, I just have to mark down "no, I don't own a car", and it's up to them to decide how important that is, while I get to pick how much I care if they do or don't own a car, which I (and, I assume other people) probably have a better handle on.

It's also a more flexible question, effectively. The original is totally biased to "doesn't own a car" things; you can't really comment on does own a car things. If you don't care one way or the other, you'd say yes to the original question. If you'd only date someone who doesn't own a car, you'd say yes. If you'd only date someone who does own a car, you'd say no. It doesn't discriminate between the first two cases. But this is exactly what the use of the checkboxes in the second version does. You can express whether you prefer them owning a car, them not owning a car, or that you don't care either way. (The checkboxes actually have four cases total, but they handle the degenerate ones specially already.)




Now, you could argue that I am misunderstanding the questioner's intent here, and they were actually reaching for something subtler than "no, I don't own a car". But the reality is that there are tons of OK Cupid questions with this kind of one-level-too-deep error, and very few of the "do you own a car" form; probably because lots of the original questions made this mistake, and people followed along.

An interesting potential counterexample is a series of questions asking whether you would date a white person, a black person, and indian person, etc. Each one is a separate question, and each one allows you to specify a range of answers (roughly 'yes', 'maybe', 'no', but the maybe split in two I think). And in some sense, this is the wrong way to do it; there can just be one question, 'which of these are you', and then you can use the importance thing to specify which races you're ok with, and to what degree race even matters.

However, in this particular case, it does allow you to detect for "dating racism" and mark people down for it. So maybe it's excusable. But I still think it's stupid, and if you don't care if other people are "dating racists", you have to mark "Irrelevant" for all the races/colors you're not, and for the one you are, you have to check off all of the choices but "no" and mark the whole thing as important--but now you're guessing how important your own race is to other people, instead of just letting them do it.
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