OkCupid Ghostwriter

A massive deception is happening, corrupting an already murky dating pond.

I always heard that there were people out there who got paid to write online dating profiles for others.

As a writer, and as a single person, it’s a notion I have long been intrigued and disturbed by, even as I knew about it as a concept rather than as fact.

But this week The Bold Italic blew the lid off of the whole business. The piece “I Got Paid to be an OKCupid Ghostwriter” does exactly what the title suggests: outs a man who has been a “hired hand penning responses” on behalf of busy singles.

Daniel Hirsh, a gay man in San Francisco, explains exactly what it’s been like to be the man behind the profile for clients who include straight men and women of all shapes and sizes.

My assumption was that a ghostwriter like him was mainly hired to craft profiles, adding in witty quotes and responses about hobbies and career to pair alongside of approved photos. And then the gig stopped there.

Actually, though, Daniel talks about doing a whole lot more. For his clients, he becomes them, messaging possible suitors on their behalf. He also takes on all of the follow-up messaging in order to take care of all online back-and-forth until the lady or gent takes over in person on any dates arranged.

For this, he reaps $55 per week per client plus a $10 bonus each time he set up a date.

How does Daniel feel about taking this on?

The messaging part, he calls “oddly thrilling.” Looking back, however, it causes him pause. Does the fact that he and others do this show that we’re now a generation “for whom the mores of courtship, and, ultimately, love are completely and utterly out of whack?”

I worry too.

Daniel’s OkCupid job began when he read a call to action from a recent immigrant on TaskRabbit. The man wanted help with “the messaging part” of online dating so he could have fun with the actual date part.

This immigrant was a software engineer and looked at online dating as a numbers game. The more women— in the desired age range—he could message, the better his odds. So, he outsourced to allow for a great output of messages to females.

Daniel says he posed a moral dilemma to his first client as he accepted the assignment:

What if you meet the girl of your dreams and have to reveal
that it was not you who initially messaged her?

“The right girl will understand,” the software engineer responded
and waved off the concern as a mere inconvenience.

Reading this piece, however, I found myself practically shaking, getting more outraged with each word.

There’s a much bigger lie than that taking place. Every single online dater that Daniel and other ghostwriters message is being duped. Only the ones that hit it off and begin relationships with these clients may ever find out. Yet, a massive deception is happening, corrupting an already murky dating pond.

It’s hard not to be mad at that.

Yes, people are busy. But if they care about finding a mate shouldn’t they have to do their own dirty work?

Daniel talks about becoming more and more adept at responding in someone else’s voice and answering in a slightly vague way so as not to mess up and suggest that a client liked a band he despised or to use a funky slang term that would be out of her vocabulary.

So what this means is he’s good at this wacky, newly-created job. He has a dedication to the craft—if you call representing someone else and trickery a craft.

At least Daniel revealed what he’s been doing. The piece expresses regret and shows he has a conscience. And there is a sort-of happy ending. The software engineering client stopped outsourcing his OKCupid activity and began doing the messaging himself. As soon as he did, he found someone great.

More than a single individual ghostwriting online dating profiles, the future worry is that full-fledged companies are springing up to be Daniels for many more single software engineers.

To me, this signifies a need to take even greater heed if you’re online dating. Going online to find love opens up possibilities great and grim, and add the fact that someone else could be messaging you to the list of concerns.

–Dena

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