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Dating apps are the most popular way to find romance in America. However, many people believe they cause more issues than they resolve. Some experts have opined that apps can exacerbate feelings of loneliness and rejection, for example.
Also, a contingent of people have not tried them and are suspicious about how they work. Join us as Michael Kaye from OkCupid shares some tips for success and what is going on right now in the online dating world. Our host, Gabe Howard (who met his wife on OkCupid), shares his own experiences as well.
Michael Kaye is the Head of Global Communications at OkCupid, one of the world’s largest dating apps, where he leads public relations programming, influencer marketing, and social media.
Michael has been a leading voice in dating and relationships and has been featured in ABC News, Business Insider, Bustle, CBS, CNN, Cosmopolitan, Elite Daily, Good Morning America, The New York Times, and The Washington Post.
Our host, Gabe Howard, is an award-winning writer and speaker who lives with bipolar disorder. He is the author of the popular book, “Mental Illness is an Asshole and other Observations,” available from Amazon; signed copies are also available directly from the author.
Gabe makes his home in the suburbs of Columbus, Ohio. He lives with his supportive wife, Kendall, and a Miniature Schnauzer dog that he never wanted, but now can’t imagine life without.
To book Gabe for your next event or learn more about him, please visit gabehoward.com.
Producer’s Note: Please be mindful that this transcript has been computer generated and therefore may contain inaccuracies and grammar errors. Thank you.
Announcer: You’re listening to Inside Mental Health: A Psych Central Podcast where experts share experiences and the latest thinking on mental health and psychology. Here’s your host, Gabe Howard.
Gabe Howard: Welcome to the show, everyone. I’m your host, Gabe Howard and calling in today we have Michael Kaye. Michael is the director of brand and communications for the popular dating app and website OkCupid. Michael has been a leading voice in dating and relationships for years, having been featured on ABC news, CBS, CNN, and Good Morning America, among others. Michael, welcome to the podcast.
Michael Kaye: Thank you so much for having me, Gabe. It’s an honor to be here for multiple reasons, including the fact that I’m an actual listener.
Gabe Howard: Oh, I love it when the actual listeners are guests on the show. Thank you so much for letting me know that. And to that end, of course, for also being here now, I am contractually obligated, Michael. Not by Healthline, meteor by Psych central, but by marriage to mention my wife every time the topic of dating apps come up because we met online and actually we met on OkCupid and we have been married now for over 12 years. So, we want to let you and the rest of the folks at OkCupid know that my wife and I were very happy customers.
Michael Kaye: Absolutely. And I love to hear those stories. And after we finished recording, I’m going to have to grab your address so that we can send a little gift from the OkCupid team to you and your wife.
Gabe Howard: Oh, thank you so much. My wife will love that. Now, in my mind, the listener of this podcast right now is not someone who hates dating apps because, well, they’ve already made up their mind. And it’s not people who are using dating apps because they’ve already made up their mind. It’s the voyeur. It’s the person who’s been in a relationship for 25 years. Dating apps weren’t a thing. It’s the person
Michael Kaye: Mhm.
Gabe Howard: Who met in the I’m going to go with traditional way. So, they’re curious. They’re like, we’ve heard all about dating apps. Maybe their kids are using them, maybe their friends are using them, but they themselves have never used them. And one of the biggest misconceptions that I hear from people who have never used a dating app is, and I quote, it’s a lie. They make it sound like it’s really easy, that you just get on and you upload your profile and the computer matches you with your soul mate, but then you go on all these bad dates and you get ripped off and you get your heart broken. It’s a lie. That came from all of the people who admittedly never, ever used the dating app. But is it a fair criticism? Where did that stereotype come from that it’s supposed to be magic?
Michael Kaye: You know, I think it came from rom coms, which are probably my favorite type of movies. That’s just my jam. But I think we grew up. At least I grew up with all these stories in the media and movies, especially that, you know, there’s that meet cute, and you go on one date and you fall in love. And ironically, that’s clearly what happened with me. But it really isn’t the norm. It’s a lot of work. You have to put a lot of work into it. And even spoiler alert for anyone who’s single, once you’re in that relationship, the work does not end. It’s constant work. So, I think we need to separate what we see in the movies from the reality, because that’s just really not the norm for most people, there’s going to be a lot of work that goes into this.
Gabe Howard: Michael, I want to say that many experts feel that dating apps can be a negative thing, that while some people can find connections and or love, that many people just have their feelings of loneliness and isolation exacerbated. And then there’s this constant pressure and rejection that makes people feel more hopeless than ever about being involved in a romantic relationship. Now, obviously you are not an unbiased observer, and well, for that matter, neither am I. But what do you think about those claims?
Michael Kaye: You know, I think one criticism we hear all the time is really grounded in the fact that dating is hard. You know, we all complain about so many different parts of our lives. I know I complain about work almost weekly, but guess what? I really do love my job and I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. But we hear people complaining all the time about dating apps, and I actually don’t think that’s ever going to end. We’re always, as humans, going to complain about dating because it is challenging. It’s a lot of work, and I’m not going to come on here and say that it’s going to be the easiest process. But the fact is, we’re getting to a place where most couples, most married people are going to be coming from a dating app. That’s just the most popular way to meet people right now.
Gabe Howard: But specifically, Michael, in your opinion, does online dating increase feelings of isolation and loneliness?
Michael Kaye: You know, I think with any area of our presence online, I think there are ways that they contribute to our feeling of loneliness. You know, when I think about my experience on dating apps, you know, if I didn’t get a message back that made me feel a little bit more lonely and, you know, that was hard to deal with. Or if I’m on Instagram and I’m seeing a bunch of people at a party or an event that I’m not at while I’m sitting at home, you know, that helps to contribute to this idea of loneliness. But for me personally, I like to choose to focus on the flip side of that. I have made, you know, I met my partner online, so I have dating apps to thank for that. But I have also built such meaningful connections and such a community of people online through social media, that there’s always going to be the pros and cons to these platforms. But for me personally, dating apps, social media apps have contributed to such beautiful moments and relationships and connections for me, as opposed to any feeling of loneliness.
Gabe Howard: Given that, why do you think, Michael, that so many people believe that social media makes them feel lonely, or is at least contributing to their increased loneliness?
Michael Kaye: I think we’re hearing about it more. I think these emotions and feelings have been around for a while, but one thing that came out of the pandemic that I’ve actually found really beautiful is that people are being more vulnerable than they ever have. They’re opening up their lives and their emotions more than we were previously. I think when we looked at social media, it people were always painting this beautiful picture of their lives, the vacations they went on, the fabulous dinners that they were at. And while all those moments are still happening now, we’re also starting to show our bad days, our really challenging moments. And I actually think that’s a really great thing. You know, I mentioned that we’re very data driven and OkCupid, and one thing that we’ve seen is being vulnerable is one of the more attractive traits to singles these days. On our app, more than 9 in 10 daters are saying that they’re sensitive and they’re sharing this more than they ever have before. So, I think it’s just a trend. We were hearing about things more than we have been previously.
Gabe Howard: Forgetting about my wife for a moment. Michael, I have to say that the online dating experience was absolutely brutal for me. Lots of ghosting, lots of not-so-great dates, and a woman even told me after I kissed her good night after we had spent 6 to 7 hours together at that point that she was married. And I bring this up because I’m guessing that people right now are way more interested in hearing the Gabe went on a date with a married woman story than they are in the. Gabe met his wife and adopted a dog story. So, I think that maybe the negative is just, well, frankly, more interesting than the positive. I mean, sincerely, everybody who’s been at a dinner party, it’s like, do you want to hear how we met? No, not really. I mean, we all say yes because of course we’re polite people, but is this part of it that just the negative stories, the tragic stories, the ghosting stories, they just have more legs because, well, frankly, they just they’re just a little more interesting than the. Yeah, everything went perfectly.
Michael Kaye: Absolutely. They’re more clickbait-y knowing it’s our human nature we want to hear. Or many of us at least want to hear that, you know, that scandal that that like that gossip. So, it’s definitely a more I mean, even, even me listening. I’m like, ooh, that’s interesting. I want to hear more. Um, and I’m also not going to say that there’s not bad behavior on dating apps. There is just like there’s bad behavior in the real world. You know, there’s going to be bad actors at a bar that you go to or a restaurant or a gathering place where you’re meeting new people. Um, that’s just the reality of it. And, and you definitely have to kiss a few frogs before, before you find that that prince.
Gabe Howard: Let’s talk about the stigma of online dating. People who met their spouses like us online we’re like, we love online dating. It’s amazing. However, the people who met their spouses in the traditional way and I make an air quotes because what is tradition? But the, you know, they met in a bar. They met in a restaurant. They were they met at church, they were introduced by friends. There’s this real idea that, well, the people who met, quote, naturally unquote are better than the people who needed computer assistance. What are your thoughts on that phenomenon?
Michael Kaye: I. That’s something I don’t subscribe to. But I also think we have to remember that everyone’s going to have some level of misunderstanding to what’s unfamiliar to them. My parents met on a blind date. I’m adopted by my grandparents, so they’re a little bit older. They met on a blind date. They’ve been married for over 60 years. I know that when dating apps first started to grow in popularity, my parents first thought was, you’re not meeting someone online, are you? And I’ll admit, the first time I ever heard about a dating app was at the last few weeks that I was in college, and one of my friends was meeting up with a girl that they met on Tinder, and I thought, this is so weird. Are you sure it’s okay to go meet up with a stranger that you met online? Like it was so foreign to me. I was nervous for them. I was like, this doesn’t seem right. And now it’s funny because it’s been almost ten years since I’ve graduated college, and there’s a huge shift in stigma around how we’re meeting people. And now we’re slowly starting to see and hear a stigma about meeting in person. I’ll have girlfriends go to bars and be like, oh my God, that guy was so weird. And I’m like, what? What happened? Like, what did he say? And she’s like, well, he just talked to me. And it’s so funny to see that shift in what I consider a kind of a small period of time. I mean, it’s so almost a decade, but there’s definitely we’re seeing the stigma around online dating shed more and more year over year. And honestly, we’re getting to a place where we’re around the corner from a generation of babies being born mostly to people who met online.
Gabe Howard: Wow. That is that is a really good point. And you’re right. And of course, now I’m, I’m really feeling my age when, when my wife and I got married and remember we met online. It was different and unusual. People asked us questions about the process. And now nobody bats an eye. No, no, nobody cares. So, times have changed. And as always, they’ve changed really rapidly. And obviously this is just the way that dating works now. But what advice do you have for people who are struggling with online dating and online apps? Because I hear a lot of people complain that they are trying to meet someone and they’re on multiple dating apps, and it’s just not happening for them. They aren’t getting any matches; they aren’t making a connection. They aren’t going out on any dates. Literally nothing is happening for them now. I don’t want to fall down a rabbit hole here, but I’m really hard pressed to believe that there is somebody out there that literally no one wants. So, I have to ask, what are they doing wrong?
Michael Kaye: Yeah, that’s a great question. I would say like let’s unpack and dive into what you’re doing on your dating apps. And before anyone gets mad at me, I am not saying that you are the problem, but a lot of the work starts with your profile. So, I’m going to give a few quick tips that I’ve actually seen help my friends and daters that I’m talking to. You know, small tweaks that you can make to your profile to make sure you’re attracting the right kind of people
Gabe Howard: And we’re back with Michael Kay, the director of brand and communications for the popular dating app and website OkCupid.
Michael Kaye: First. I see this all the time. You have to be positive with everything that you’re writing on your profile. The biggest turnoff is seeing someone say, swipe left or not interested in this, and our data shows those people are actually less successful on our app. So instead of focusing on your deal breakers, which I think are really important to know, you should be highlighting your deal maker. So, what makes you swipe right on someone? Why do you want someone to swipe right on you? That’s what you should be shining a light on. So instead, it’s a simple tweak in how you’re positioning yourself. Instead of saying, if you don’t read books, swipe left. Talk about why you love book lovers and what books you’re currently reading, and I’m building off of that make list. When you’re filling out your profile, list things that are important to you.
Michael Kaye: So, list books that are on your coffee table or your nightstand. List the songs people are going to find on your Spotify playlist, or the vacations you still want to go on. That’s going to give someone something that they can respond to. Everything that you put on your profile, from your photos to the prompts you fill out to your summary section or your About Me section. It should serve a purpose. And that purpose is it’s showing people what’s important to you, what you’re interested in, and it’s helping them with their opening message. So, if you’re someone who has five different selfies as your profile photos, that doesn’t really tell me anything about you. Upload photos of you at the Taylor Swift concert or the Beyonce concert, or when you finish your half marathon. Or on a vacation. That tells me right away those three photos tell me what type of music you’re interested in, and I can ask you what your favorite album is. It tells me that you are active, and I can ask you if you want to go on a walking date or a hike, or maybe for a run. And it also tells me that you love traveling, and I can ask you, what’s next on your list? Where haven’t you been that you’re dying to go to?
Gabe Howard: It’s fascinating to me because that advice really comes down to don’t be negative and be yourself, right?
Michael Kaye: Mm.
Gabe Howard: Be. Be happy, be positive, be and be yourself. So, I love to hear the translation from quote unquote real life into online life, and I completely agree with it. But I want to give push back on one thing. Isn’t it really just the pictures? Right? I mean, just isn’t everybody just looking for somebody who’s pretty, right. If you’re not sexually attracted to them, it doesn’t really matter what they write or what they’re doing. You’re, you’re you’re you’re swiping left. I don’t know how it works on the OkCupid app. I haven’t been on there in 12 years, but it seems like the online dating apps are just to see the picture before you end up in the conversation. What do you think of that criticism?
Michael Kaye: There absolutely has to be an attraction. You have to be attracted to the person that you’re going on a date with or you’re in a relationship with. But attraction will only get you so far. You need to have commonalities. You know, for me personally, if, I mean, I’m not on a dating app right now because I met someone on a dating app, but if I was on a dating app and I see I come across a profile and the guy is really good looking, great, but I want to read his profile and I want to know about him. If he’s someone who’s like, hey, climate change is just not real. It’s a bunch of it’s a hoax. Red flag to me. If he is not, if he’s not championing diversity and equality for all, red flag to me. If he hates going to the movies, that’s one of my favorite things to do. Another red flag for me. So there there’s so much more to the photos. I’m never going to say that photos are not important. It’s a huge part because it’s, you know, attraction is so incredibly important, but attraction goes well beyond physical attraction.
Gabe Howard: I’ve always thought that that was a fascinating criticism because, like, you’re going to walk up to somebody in in a meeting place, a traditional gathering place, a restaurant, a bar, et cetera. If you’re not attracted to them. But for some reason, when that happens online. Oh, well, that’s just proof the world is going to hell. Michael, I want to segue into scamming. One of the things that people talk about with online dating is that the scams are very, very real. And I know that sites like yours have protective factors in there to protect people, but we still hear about them constantly. There’s just some sort of factor of loneliness, desperation, and of course, sexuality that that just becomes this potent mix that leaves people very, very vulnerable. Can you address some of the common scams out there and how people can avoid them?
Michael Kaye: Yes, absolutely. We understand that meeting new people online is super exciting. You get those butterflies and there’s a rush. But we encourage every user on OkCupid to always be cautious when interacting with someone they don’t know. We have a lot of safety resources that we send to our users tips like never send money or share financial information. Protect your personal information. Stay on the platform when you can. Be wary of long distance and overseas relationships. Report all suspicious and offensive behavior. We make it really easy for you to report bad behavior on OkCupid. That could be a message someone sent you, a photo that you find offensive, even an entire profile. And we work with a lot of nonprofit organizations to help make sure our app is as safe as possible. So, we work with organizations like the Human Rights Campaign, the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, NO MORE, the me too. Movement, Thorn, National Sexual Violence Resource Center. So, there’s a lot of organizations that are looking at our apps, like OkCupid and helping us create a really safe platform for people. And then we also use the opportunity to share helpful advice throughout the year. So, for example, this past winter, we sent our users safety tips to keep in mind year-round things like encouraging daters to consider their own transportation for first dates and meeting at a place that is safe and public, and a handful of other tips. So, we take safety and security really, really seriously. And we’re always pushing our safety tips and resources to our users.
Gabe Howard: Everyone’s had a bad date. I really do believe that the majority of people in loving relationships who have been married for 25 years, they have that bad date story. And I know people are really worried about bad dates and, well, frankly, they’re just sort of part of the process if you really think about it. But for, for some reason, maybe it’s the stigma of online dating, maybe it’s the misconception of online dating, or maybe it’s just that people feel that online dating is supposed to protect you from this. Whenever you have a bad online date, people are much more likely to blame the method of which they met. If you met somebody you know in the quote unquote traditional way and the date didn’t work out, you don’t say, oh, well, I’m not going to meet anybody traditionally anymore. I’m only going to do online. But if somebody has a bad online date, they completely swear off online dating. So, my specific question for you though is if somebody does have a bad online date, what’s the best way to get back up on the horse?
Michael Kaye: To keep going. And I would encourage you that if you’ve had a bad day, just remember it might be a bad day today, but it’s going to be a funny story tomorrow. We’re all going to have those bad moments. And you know, as someone who’s not dating, I feel like I can relate to this when it comes to let’s, let’s say, work. And one thing I always remind myself when I’m having a bad day at work is it is a bad day. It is not a bad week. It is not a bad month. It is not a bad life. And that’s just like a mantra that I play over and over in my head whenever I have a bad day, and I would encourage people to do the same for a bad, a bad date. You know, if you had a bad date, that’s okay. You don’t have to see that person again. Hopefully you got a free coffee or a free drink or a free dinner out of it, but you just keep going.
Gabe Howard: Let’s flip the script, though. What if you had a bad date and you paid for the coffee? How do you get over that one?
Michael Kaye: Often you find a date and have that person pay for it. Next. That was a question I was not prepared for.
Gabe Howard: [Laughter] Michael, thank you so much for your honesty. And thank you so much for illuminating really what online dating is like. And honestly, it’s not so different from well, traditional date. And again, I’m making air quotes every time I say traditional dating. The real reality is is everyone’s unlucky in love until they’re not. And as soon as you’re in love, all of those unlucky and love stories, they become the things that you sit around and tell at parties and that you tell your children and that everyone laughs about. It’s just it’s, it’s very difficult to go through those moments, but they are in fact part of the growing process. They’re just they’re they’re just they’re the things that spice up life. They just they just don’t feel like it in the moment. Really, based on everything that you’ve said, and even all the people that I talk to, online dating is just a mechanism to meet people. And once you meet them, everything becomes, well, I’m making air quotes again, traditional. After that, it’s just another meeting place.
Michael Kaye: Absolutely. And, you know, I think you should take your profile very seriously, but have fun with dating. It’s definitely a serious thing to find if that’s what you’re looking for, to find your forever person, but reminder that it’s supposed to be fun and try to have a good time with it. And if you have a date, chalk it up to a funny story with your friends and keep going. Don’t let yourself get discouraged. I think we have to remind ourselves of this in all areas of life. When we’re applying for jobs, or we’re applying to colleges, or making new friends, or meeting new people, just have as much fun with it. We only are here for one time in this lifetime, so have a good time.
Gabe Howard: Michael, thank you so much. Where can folks find OkCupid online?
Gabe Howard: And I assume that OkCupid.com is your website.
Gabe Howard: Michael, thank you so much for being here.
Michael Kaye: Thank you so much for having me again. It’s been such an honor to be a listener and now be on the other side. So, this is a really fun one.
Gabe Howard: Oh, Michael, thank you so much for listening. It’s always great to talk to a fan. And in that vein, I want to thank all of today’s listeners as well. A great big thank you to all of you. My name is Gabe Howard, and I’m an award-winning public speaker, and I could be available for your next event. I also wrote the book “Mental Illness Is an Asshole and Other Observations,” which you can get on Amazon. However, if you go to my website, you can get a signed copy with free show swag and you can also learn more about me there. Just head over to gabehoward.com. Wherever you downloaded this episode, please follow or subscribe to the show. It is absolutely free and you don’t want to miss a thing. And hey, can you do me a favor? Recommend the show, share it in a social media, share it in an email. Share it in a text message. I’ll tell your mom. Tell the support group. Tell everyone. Sharing the show is how we grow. I will see everybody next Thursday on Inside Mental Health.
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