If you’re a regular reader, you know that I’m a big fan of the free dating service OKCupid. Part of my trumpeting OKCupid was because I liked the features, but if I’m honest another reason I gave OKCupid a lot of free advertising is because I wasn’t a fan of the free dating site most people were using: Plenty of Fish (POF).
Why I Disliked POF
My distaste for POF is pretty easy to sum up: I felt it drove a lot of new online daters away from online dating. I felt that it gave people a bad impression of what online dating is.
Specifically, I felt that the service didn’t do anything to discourage men from bombarding women with sexual messages (or just plain rudeness). I spoke about this in some detail in my article a few years ago titled the cost of free dating services.
Basically the way I see things is there are a small percentage of men out there that drive women away from the free dating services. When they do this, the “good” men using the free dating services are frustrated as they have fewer women to contact. It’s also harder for those men to get a woman’s attention: what are the odds that your email will get noticed by a woman with 100 spam emails in her inbox? So the way I’ve seen things is that a small percentage of men are making things worse for everyone truly interested in using the free dating service.
I was personally frustrated by POF as someone who gives online dating advice because I saw this situation over and over again: I would encourage someone to try online dating. They would tell me they already did try online dating at POF. I would then ask them if they tried any other services and they would say, “No, after trying POF I could tell online dating wasn’t for me”. This drove me crazy because there were a lot of people who thought that Plenty of Fish accurately represented all that online dating had to offer (it didn’t).
Why I May Like POF More Going Forward
I was very encouraged to hear about some changes that are being made to Plenty of Fish. Below is part of the email that has been sent about the changes from the owner of the site:
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.
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.
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!
I think these changes are great news and long over-due.
Will These Changes Work?
I’m very hopeful for the changes being made. A few years ago I wrote an article on how I thought free online dating service could fix things which you can see here. Basically, my ideas came down to the free service still requiring a credit card be on file and if you abused people you paid.
All things considered, I do think that the changes being implemented at POF will work better than my suggestions. After all, a free dating service that asks for a credit card doesn’t feel much like a free service. Plus, managing what is really abuse and who gets charged would have been a nightmare.
So how well will the changes to POF work? Here are my thoughts:
Sexual Emails Deleted
I’m not sure if the change is saying that the sexual email will be deleted or if the entire account will be deleted. If it’s the account, it’s going to be very effective (but I do worry about false-positives).
If it’s that sexual emails will be deleted, I think it will really come down to how well it is implemented. Although just knowing that this feature exists should drive these men to other areas of the internet (or perhaps it could drive them to actually take a valid approach to dating online and if that’s the case I recommend they read my guide!)
Age Range Limits
Of the three changes, I’m afraid this one will have the smallest impact. Actually, I think it will create a new problem: 50 year old men claiming to be 35. That might sound odd but I really do believe that there is a group of men that will convince themselves that the following is a good approach:
- Create a profile that lists them as 15+ years younger than they actually are.
- Connect with some younger women assuming those younger women will fall for them.
- Once the young woman is madly in love with him, he’ll reveal his true age and then they’ll meet and live happily ever after.
Don’t get me wrong. I do like that the feature is making it more difficult for a 22 year old woman to be frustrated by 50 year old men. That’s good. I just think a lot of those 50 year old men will shrug their shoulders and say, “Fine, I’ll take a new approach”. If you browse around some of the forums regarding this change, you’ll see a lot of older men feel entitled to be contacting 20-year-olds and aren’t afraid to let people know how upset this change makes them.
Removing Intimate Encounters
I think part of the problem with POF was the fact that you had a group of people using the service specifically looking for sex. The service actually catered to them in some ways. I imagine there were times where men looking for sex were frustrated by the limited options on Intimate Encounters and took that frustration out on any women they could contact. I mean, it’s pretty easy to just start firing off the emails considering they were already logged into the service.
I’m very happy to see the service move away from offering this area.
So will I become a fan of Plenty of Fish? It’s definitely a possibility. There’s always some things I dislike about each dating service, but if POF continues to make changes like this and concentrate on how to help people find great relationships, I think most of my distaste for the service will disappear.