OkCupid and how we define ourselves, in numbers and nuance

Internet dating site OKCupid posted one of their super-informative blog posts the other day, and it’s about the statistical differences between gays and straights. It’s a great read, and the main takeout is that the sexual habits of gays and straights aren’t that different from each other (big surprise there). It’s the kind of thing you know already, unless you’ve heard otherwise from your deity of choice, and no amount of statistics will change your mind if that’s the case.

The sexual habits part of it isn’t the main issue there. (Although I have to say Kate Beaton’s Canadian Stereotype Comics did not prepare me for Canada being so bi-curious.) The curious part, I think, is in how people choose to describe themselves by the things they like.

Straight men, lords of creation: Band of Brothers, poker, cars, my boat. (Really? Of the millions of straight men on OKCupid, how many do you think own a boat?)

Straight women, prized demographic: my girlfriends, lip-gloss, Pretty Woman, Nicholas Sparks. (The only genre of music mentioned is country. Country!)

Gay men, the most stereotyped of all groups: The Devil Wears Prada, Britney Spears, Mean Girls, Kelly Clarkson, The Color Purple, Project Runway. (Really?)

Lesbians, who have marginally better taste than the rest: The L Word, Tegan and Sara, Ani DiFranco, Piercings, The Color Purple. (Really.)

None of these things stand out by themselves. But when you take Band of Brothers, poker, and cars together, you know it’s time to sing the brohemian rhapsody, and so on down the line.

The thing I find so valuable about OKCupid’s post is that the analysis is based entirely on a statistical rendering of what people have said about themselves. To my mind, this paints a far more vivid portrait of the actuality of life than a lot of other pop social science that appears in the news and on the internet.

I started thinking about how most of silly online quizzes basically lose all nuance, and really, when it comes to people and demographics, everything is nuance. We’re like Patrick MacGoohan in the Prisoner—we’re more than just a number.

Even though OKCupid does a better job than calculating an arbitrary percentage or telling you what your inner mustache is like or which member of the Jersey Shore you are, it’s not perfect. For example, as user JayClay pointed out on Reddit: The main thing to take away from this is that gay or straight, women are more likely to think the earth is bigger than the sun.

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