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May 20, 2013

Plenty of Fish Uses Age Discrimination to Avoid "Hook-Ups"

I've been trying out the online dating scene again and joined Plenty of Fish (POF.com). On May 20, I received a message from the creator, "markus" (Markus Frind) telling me about some of POF's newest policies. The short version is that the site is trying to make a shift towards focusing on finding relationships by making it harder for users to look for "hookups". Of course, Markus and the POF team have decided that the best way to do this is to jump right into age discrimination!

This was the message from Markus:
When I created POF, I wanted it to be all about finding relationships with the right person. For the first 7 years this worked really well, I got the site to 10 million users without any employees people and POF was generating a ton of relationships. Around 3 years ago, everyone started using the website via mobile phones. Today about 70% of POF use is via a mobile phone and unfortunately about 2% of men started to use POF as more of a hookup site mostly due the the casual nature of cell phone use.
In sticking with my vision that POF is all about Relationships, I'm going to make a bunch of changes to ensure it stays a relationship-focused site.
Markus wants to blame mobile phone use for why people are using POF for casual hookups instead of relationships (not sure where he got that 2% of men statistic, doesn't seem like a high enough percentage to worry about). But let's take a look at POF for a moment and examine the real reason people are probably
using the site for casual hookups:

1. They're people. I've been on a variety of dating sites over the years and there will always be a percentage of users who just are looking to hook up. They may be open about this in their profiles or they might pretend to be looking for more, but there will always be people like that. Just like there will always be people that you meet anywhere (at the bar, at the gym, at the grocery store, wherever) that will just be looking for sex. It's a fact of life. POF can change their settings all they want, but there will still always be that 2% (or whatever the real numbers are).

2. POF's own settings are conducive to casual hookups. POF asks you for both your "Intent" and what you are "looking for" (which are sort of the same thing, but okay). Under "I am looking for:" you can choose "I am serious and want to find someone to marry"; "I am putting in serious effort to find someone"; "I want a relationship"; "I want to date but nothing serious" and "I'm looking for Casual dating/No Commitment". Under "Intent" you can choose "Hang Out", "Long-term", "Dating", "Friends" and "Intimate Encounter".

If Markus's original vision of POF was to be relationship-focused, why did he give people the option to select things like "No Commitment" or "Hang Out" or "Intimate Encounter" in the first place?

Getting rid of "Intimate Encounter" is #3 of the three changes Markus has announced he will be making in order to try to steer the site back towards Relationships. I don't have a problem with that - there are already plenty of sites devoted to finding "intimate encounters" so if he wants POF to be all about relationships that's fine. But the other two changes are really hard to grasp:
1. Any first contact between users that contains sexual references will not be sent. Anyone who tries to get around this rule will be deleted without warning. This rule has actually been in effect since last month and it's made the site so much better.

2. You can only contact people +/- 14 years of your age. There is no reason for a 50 year old man to contact a 18 year old women. The majority of messages sent outside those age ranges are all about hookups. Anyone who tries to get around this rule will get deleted.
3. Intimate Encounters will go away in the next few months. There are 3.3 Million people who use the site every day, of those there are only 6,041 single women looking for Intimate Encounters. Of those 6,041 women, the ones with hot pictures are mostly men pretending to be women. Intimate Encounters on POF can be summed up as a bunch of horny men talking to a bunch of horny men pretending to be women.

#1 is somewhat concerning... I guess I can understand why they might want to discourage people from sending sexually suggestive messages for the first message. I certainly prefer not to receive those from guys I'm not interested in (which is most of the guys on POF). But I'm not really sure I understand how they're going to enforce that. Are they reading our messages (totally uncool) or are they just going to flag any messages with certain buzzwords they deem inappropriate? I would love to see that list.

But my real issue is with #2 and I think we should all have an issue with this. Read it again:
2. You can only contact people +/- 14 years of your age. There is no reason for a 50 year old man to contact a 18 year old women. The majority of messages sent outside those age ranges are all about hookups. Anyone who tries to get around this rule will get deleted. [emphasis mine]
Isn't that age discrimination (or at the very least, forcing us to be discriminatory?) Fourteen years is really not that much of an age difference. One of my exes is fifteen years older than me and our relationship wasn't "all about hookups".

I'm in my mid-30s and I have a kid. I come across a lot of guys my age who are freaked out about dating a woman with a kid. You know who tends to be less freaked out about that? Older men. They're more likely to be parents themselves or they're at the point in their lives where they're okay with the idea of being a part of someone else's child's life instead of pushing to have their own. Obviously that's a huge generalization, and I'm sure there are many many exceptions, but Markus is making a pretty broad generalization too. I'm sure there are plenty of younger guys who would love to raise someone else's kid and I'm sure there are even more older guys who are gross, sleazy jerks, but I'm just speaking from my own personal experience. So how exactly can he claim that the majority of messages sent outside that age range is all about hookups?

One of the perks of POF that I do like is that you can set very specific restrictions on who can or can't contact you. For example, you can filter people based on gender, age, location, and other details. Check out what my profile settings currently look like:


Aside from the obvious fact that the reason I'm still single is probably because I'm super picky, you'll notice that you can get very specific on the age range you're willing to date. So if you don't want older people contacting you, you can stop them from contacting you without having to control what everyone else on POF is doing.

Also there's Markus's logic that there is "no reason" for a 50 year old man to contact an 18 year old woman. That's a 32 year age difference, not 14! And okay, while I'm sure that there are plenty of exceptions, I will go out on a limb and say that maybe there's something a little odd about a person who literally just became an adult and can't even drink yet dating someone who could be their parent, but if it works for them, who are we to judge? But it's quite a stretch to compare an 18-to-50 difference to say, 36-to-50. If I'm 18 (or any age) and don't want 50-year-olds contacting me, I can set my settings to prevent that... or here's a crazy idea, I can just not reply to them! And if someone persists, you can easily block them. There's really no reason to get so strict about the rules.

It just feels like POF is trying to take more and more control away from their users and if they really want to do that, fine, but this crosses the line into age discrimination and I'm not okay with that.

Markus's final words:
In short the vast majority of people will not be impacted. This is because the vast majority of people are not going around spamming women saying "let's have sex tonight". I can't change POF alone, I need your help to get the word out there that POF is all about relationships!
If he wants to steer POF to be "all about relationships" that's fine, because there are plenty of websites that are geared towards those who are looking for casual hookups. But I don't agree that preventing people from dating outside of the age range that Markus deems appropriate is necessarily the best way to prevent guys from spamming women saying "let's have sex tonight".

If you disagree with POF's new policy and feel that it amounts to age discrimination (or is just a stupid, unnecessary idea) let them know.  
Plentyoffish Media Inc.
701 Fifth Avenue, Suite 5400,
Seattle, Washington 98104
Fax: (604) 648-9521

Media Inquiries:

We know haven't been blogging much lately (have been so busy with awesome ccon planning) so it's a little funny that the only two things we've written lately have been about online dating... but oh well...


May 13, 2013

Online Dating Surrogate

I was looking at Craigslist the other day at the 'writing/editing' jobs section (hey, even the evil sluts need a little side work from time to time) and came across a really disturbing job offer for an Online Dating Surrogate...

Successful entrepreneur needs discerning woman to handle online dating communications for him for roughly an hour per day

1. Review profiles of women on 3 or 4 dating sites
2. Per criteria you will be provided, mark as "Favorite" all potential women to contact
3. You'll let me know when to review Favorites periodically and I'll delete those I'm not interested in
4. You'll write to and exchange messages with the remaining Favorites and try to set dates
Up until Step 3, I actually was almost okay with this. He's a busy guy, so he doesn't have time to weed through multiple profiles just looking for someone who might interest him. 
But Step 4 freaks me out. He wants someone to pose as him and exchange messages with women in order to set up dates? That's so creepy. And then I started to feel uncomfortable about the online dating attempts I've made... It made me wonder if the reason that really cool guy I was messaging with turned out to be a dud in person was because I was actually being written to by a surrogate. Or if the reason that guy who clicked "I want to meet you" on my profile never replied to my follow-up message was because it was his surrogate who picked me instead. The whole situation is really disturbing and it's concerning that someone would go into a potential relationship, automatically starting off with dishonesty.
Ideal candidate for this job is similar to dating candidates sought: Pretty, thin, educated female in her 20s or 30s (with great taste and strong writing ability)

If This Part-Time Job is For You:
Email to craig0519nyc@hotmail.com your picture, resume and lengthy enough response to assess your writing ability. Indicate why this job will be easy and fun for you and describe why you believe that you have great taste and a discerning eye.
 So now it gets weirder. Why do I have to look look a certain way in order to help this guy lie to women online and include a photo? Does he think that my being pretty and thin will somehow make me more able to attract other pretty and thin women?

This whole situation freaks me out. At the very least - this guy is either lazy or too busy to date anyone (if he's too busy to exchange messages with them). And he is definitely dishonest. But sadly, that's the best case scenario. There are darker, scarier alternatives... He's not interested in talking to these women online to see if they have anything in common or any chemistry, he wants someone else to do that and try to set up an in-person meeting. Is that because he doesn't care about whether or not he's at all compatible with these women because he's just a dumbass... or because he has some ulterior motive to meeting her? Maybe he's trying to manipulate them in order to get laid, or maybe he's a predator and is luring these women to dates for some sinister motive. I know I might be overreacting, but in this day and age, it's certainly possible and anyone who took on this "job" would potentially be an accessory to whatever creepiness he has in mind.

The whole thing is just sad and pathetic however you want to swing it. And it makes me want to reevaluate online dating altogether. And the final kicker? This job pays $100/week for "roughly seven hours a week", meaning that you'll only make about $14/hour for the privilege of deceiving and manipulating unsuspecting women.

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