The OkCupid Honesty Project: An Exercise in Truth-Telling

by Piper Elias

Not too long ago, I created this OkCupid profile for a nude self portrait-themed art exhibition in New York City. The idea was to combine the negativity and honesty that’s generally reserved for anonymous forums and offline conversations with the transparent accountability of a personal profile. I wanted to see how men would respond to this absurd level of intimacy and openness straightaway, and see if my answers would attract any like-minded people.

I’m interested in the online personas we create, and how, for the most part, they only focus on our “best” selves, instead of our actual selves. On online dating sites, I found most profiles for straight men and women to be pretty generic — curated to project an ambiguous, likable persona that would appeal to the broadest range of potential partners. (For what it’s worth, I found LGBT profiles were a lot more interesting, honest, and entertaining, almost across the board).

While I didn’t join OkCupid to find a boyfriend, I am single, so I did begin to seriously consider how men were responding to my profile. I started thinking about how many people I was probably putting off by being so open. I found it really liberating to provide so much context around who I am as a person, but just like in offline interactions, I became conflicted over whether it’s best to lay everything out on the table or to allow negative personality traits and quirks to reveal themselves over time. More often, as I get older, I find myself doing the former. I guess it’s because I feel more pressed for time. My attention span for banal small talk is severely decreasing — as is my interest in people who are so different from me that we have to spend a significant amount of time bridging communication and personality gaps while we get to know each other.

I’ve yet to determine whether or not operating on this level of transparency is actually productive when it comes to dating and functioning in society, but I do know that it feels really good.

The responses:

“…wow. Just wow. I terribly relate with this existential dread but I am able to mask it somewhat. it probably means nothing but thank you for your open honesty. I would enjoy conversing with you some more when the time avails. I can see nothing but the absurdity in that last statement of mine.”

“Your self summary sounds like a detective novel, are you into creative writing ?”

“Hey. My name is A. You seem pretty interesting and deep. How are you today?”

“Hi Jessica, I just went across thru your profile and I think you look unhappy . I am P. and nice to meet you here. You can text to me whenever you like it if you want to talk to me anything you like. Please feel free to do so and I will be here waiting for you. Later.”

“you seem very well put together but your profile is actually very sad. I read it and wish there was something i could do for you to make you happy. I hope you find someone that can help you see that you shouldn’t be so worried about things and let things get under your skin. I am not white or anything but if you want to chat with someone sometime, just let me know. w e can always IM as friends.”

“unprotected ex with strangers isn’t always bad;) hi im M. how are you?”

“Sorry I’m writing you but I wanted to see if my profile appeals to you. I’m European, director/ artist, just being honest on here and can email you face pics if you’re interested in drinks and casual fun/ FWB?”

“Looks like we have something in common…we both don’t give a fuck about writing much here, do we….?”

“unprotected sex with strangers I heard is a bad idea”

“What a beautiful woman you are. I love your red dress. You are so lucky to have the choices that you do.*blush*”

“Hey, how are you? Great profile, in terms of writing at least lol, not so much the depression part. Anyways, I think you have great talent and you should probably do some collaboration with my sister. She too is very artistic and an aspiring writer. She sometimes performs at social clubs.”

“Unprotective sex is never good”

“hey, you’re okay. Hang in there, man.”

“youre fascinating, ive never read anything like that, so well defined and self aware, its very intimate, which i find very attractive, i also like how youre trying to live your life.”

“Hello, I’m M. I’m a fellow artist and all I can really say is that we’re very similar and I closely empathize with most of the issues you’re facing. I don’t know if that’s helpful for you or not but it has been for me, the very few times it’s happened.”

“What’s your experience with meditation been like? It’s engendered in me a deep sense of well-being, irrespective of circumstance, almost to the point of not needing to do anything else ever at all. But then at night and in the morning, my mind is weak, and I get these fantods telling me that I have so much to do and right away. So I’m not sure if I should move to a cave in the Ozarks or spend every waking minute trying to be a big great thing.”

“Hi, you seem fun. What’s the scoop Jerome ?”


“Piper Elias” is an artist living and working in Brooklyn.