OkCupid is aggravating some of its users, and not because BlueDevil87 or MetsFan4Life hasn't responded to their winks. While OkCupid is a free dating site users can pay, starting at $4.95 a month, to filter out people who are unattractive or overweight.
For those who pay for a premium membership, or an "A-List" membership as it's referred to on the site, OkCupid lets you search based on body type, selecting whether they want someone "fit" or want to block someone who's "used up" or had "a little extra."
In addition, OkCupid allows — and encourages — all members to rank each other in attractiveness on a scale of one to five stars. If you're not a premium member, you never see that ranking, and you can't see others', either. Premium members, though, can search people based on how many stars they receive from other people.
Aside from confirming that 21st century dating is as superficial and intellectually lazy as you feared, is there something inherently wrong about charging more for these filters? Or for that matter, is it bad for OkCupid's business?
OkCupid co-founder Sam Yagan defends the filter, saying, "If you were at a bar deciding who you wanted to talk to, physical appearance is something you would take into account."
That's true, but OkCupid also recognizes that if they let all users be as shallow as their A-Listers, the site would fail.
A spokesman told Mashable they can't make the filter available to everyone because "things will disproportionately be driven to certain people otherwise," namely "only very attractive people would get attention." And as most of the people on OkCupid are pretty average-looking, this would screw over a lot of users.
Even more disturbing, when asked if an OkCupid user who is thin or average would be charged differently to filter than a person who is overweight, the OkCupid spokesman said "it's possible."
Not to get on a soapbox (and full disclosure: I have happily used and benefited from OkCupid), but charging more for people based solely on their physical appearance is skirting into flat-out discrimination. And yes, clearly, we all discriminate against people we find unattractive in the world of dating, and we have our own mental filters for the physical attributes we desire.
However, institutionalizing this discrimination and making it into a tool only accessible to certain people, based on OkCupid's own vague algorithms of attractiveness, is certainly fishy and pretty unethical.
But, shockingly, fishiness and ethics don't hold much water in the world of online dating. In an email, Yagan said that while OkCupid does not disclose the number of A-List members, "that number is through the roof in the last 48 hours: People want to search by body type!"