Want to Have 'Hell Yes' First Dates? OkCupid is the Perfect Wingman

06/21/2017 10:04 am ET Updated Jun 21, 2017

You’re single.

You’re swiping through your dating app of choice…or convenience. Probably convenience. You match with someone seemingly interesting and start exchanging messages. At some point, one of you realizes you’re not bored out of your mind and haven’t found any messages from the other person particularly creepy, so you go in for the big ask. You’re ready to take this connection offline and cross your fingers it carries over in person.

A first date is set and phone numbers are swapped. You continue to text pre-first date and, thankfully, neither of you stops responding for no good reason (did somebody say there’s a ghost?).

You finally meet up in person. It’s fine, but there’s no spark, so you don’t make any real effort to dive deep into conversation or flirtiness of any kind. You finish up the date, say goodbye, and hope they don’t lean in for a kiss, because you really don’t want to have to dodge that or endure physical intimacy that’s missing the intimacy part. You go home, sleep on the disappoint (even if you know neither of you are directly to blame), and you do it all again and again. That is, until you feel a spark. The spark is rare, but damn, it’s good. And it reminds you why you continue to date and put yourself out there.

Does this sound familiar?

This is basically what dating has become. And maybe this is what it’s been forever, to an extent. We haven’t always had dating apps, but there have always been bad dates. Awkward conversations. Connections lacked. False or forced physical intimacy. Avoidance of vulnerability.

The fact of the matter is, there will likely always be bad dates. Some people just don’t click, and that’s that. Luckily, that’s the bad news.

The good news is, you don’t have to be one of the people having bad dates. You can create more exciting dates right from the start— hell yes first dates.

The world’s most popular free online dating site, OkCupid, recently joined forces with acclaimed documentary team The Skin Deep, because they wholeheartedly want you to have hell yes first dates. Having newly adopted a “substance over selfies” motto, OkCupid seeks to promote the importance of creating authentic human connections in the digital, selfie-filled age. They believe their platform—which is built around asking and answering in-depth questions—fosters quality connections, and they wanted to put it to the test. The idea was, if their platform proved to be effective, anyone can apply it to their own dating life and feel more comfortable asking deeper questions on a first date.

To test the “substance over selfies” platform OkCupid enlisted the help of The Skin Deep, the Emmy Award-winning team behind {The AND}, to create a docuseries that challenges and explores the various ways people interact with one another on a first date. The relevantly titled series, {The AND} #FirstDate, allows viewers to peek into couples’ first-time encounters and witness everything from their shy introductions and hesitancy to answer difficult questions to their charming compliments and schoolyard crush-style blushing and giggles. “We’re trying to figure out if [OkCupid’s] questions can really facilitate a deeper, introspective look into relationships” said Hans Lueders, a producer at The Skin Deep.

Behind the Process

For over a decade, more than 40 million people have relied on OkCupid’s high-tech algorithm to find more interesting dates, and the community is constantly growing. In preparation for filming the #FirstDate series, select OkCupid members between 21 and 38 went through a casting process, in which a mix of staff members from OkCupid and The Skin Deep helped said members choose the (hopefully) “special someone” they wanted to meet in studio to go through this experience with.

Finding a Match

In the intro video, “Ready for {THE AND} #FirstDate?,” we see the selected OkCupid participants describe what they’re looking for before being given an iPad to choose their first date companions. While the descriptions vary from person to person, there’s an overarching theme of meaningfulness and growth— the desire for a partner who’s a friend, a lover, and a supportive challenger. Senior Marketing Manager at OkCupid, Bernadette Libonate, told me that it was fascinating to see each participant change their mind on who to pick based on their connections percentage with prospects, which is based off the answers both parties give to questions asked on the site. In the beginning, the participants were drawn to people based on physical attraction, but as they read through profiles and checked connection percentages, their opinions drastically shifted. I don’t know about you, but I’d say this is the first sign of proof that their platform fosters quality connections. In Libonate’s words, “people are drawn to multifaceted personalities over photos.” Although physical attraction plays a role in any healthy relationship, personality and character will always outweigh that.

<em>#FirstDate participants David and Michelle wearing blindfolds right before they see each other in person for the first ti
#FirstDate participants David and Michelle wearing blindfolds right before they see each other in person for the first time.

The Couples & The Questions

Eight #FirstDate videos have been released on YouTube— two short intro videos and six longer videos featuring specific pairs’ questions and answers. Examples of what can be found on the question cards are:

If you had to seduce me, how would you do it and why?

What are you scared of in a relationship?

What would your last partner warn me about you?

What would our second date be like?

Choose five words to describe what you think having sex with me would be like.

As a viewer, it’s impossible to not notice all the blushing, nervous giggles, and the fact that some people are clearly more attracted to their dates than others. At times, it’s hard to tell if you’re witnessing flirtation or something that can only be described as polite discomfort.

In an age where people hide behind screens to avoid awkward situations and simple face-to-face interactions, it’s hugely refreshing to see people not have the option to hide. I can guarantee that the questions being asked in these videos are rarely asked on first dates. In fact, they’re probably not asked in long-term relationships nearly as much as they should be. This is why people get blindsided by infidelity and the wrongful actions of partners, and why they feel lost in relationships instead of happy and fulfilled. Giving people the room and the permission to tackle such thought-provoking questions in a safe space makes room for challenging but incredibly beneficial conversations and learning opportunities. Although most people go into first dates trying to appear as put-together as possible, this experiment proves that’s counterproductive. You just need to own who you are and be willing to share that. If there’s awkward tension, own that, too. Call it out, and move forward. You’ll be better for it.

The Takeaway

It’s safe to say that OkCupid can pat itself on the back. Not only does this #FirstDate series prove that OkCupid’s platform works, but it also proves you can find deep connections if you simply open yourself up to them. Not everyone who participated in this series felt a romantic connection to their date, but they were able to share the space provided by The Skin Deep on an intimate level with someone new. That’s the beauty of human connection. OkCupid and The Skin Deep are empowering viewers of the series, just like they empowered the participants in it, to take the inherent first date nervousness that exists and turn it into a spark— romantic or otherwise (but preferably romantic, of course). #FirstDate gave people a literal space to own and share their stories and vulnerability. When you watch the videos, you’re bearing witness to real people having honest, playful conversations and sharing their fears, past mistakes, and hopes for their future relationships. It’s beautiful, to put it simply. And it’s something you can do if you give yourself permission to— no camera crew needed.

*If you’re ready to deepen your connections with the people around you, you can purchase {THE AND} Card Game or mobile app here.*

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