Popular online dating site OkCupid announced on Thursday, 21 December that they’re getting rid of usernames and instead requiring people to list their real name on the site.
‘Ahead of the new year, we’re removing OkCupid usernames. It’s starting with a test group and will soon be rolled out to everyone on OkCupid, so all users will need to update their profiles with what they want their dates to call them,’ the company wrote in a blog post.
‘We know, this is tough to hear — especially for StayingPawwsitive, Dootdootledootd0 and Britney__Tears. It’s because, like the recent goodbye we said to AIM screen names, it’s time to keep up with the times. We want you, BigDaddyFlash916, to go by who you are, and not be hidden beneath another layer of mystique. Even if that mystique is crucial to you and your dating life, unicorn__jizz.’
‘We’ve also heard from many members of our community that they want to maintain the privacy they enjoy with usernames—with this change, we won’t be collecting full names; instead, we encourage our users to go by the name they’d like their dates to call them on OkCupid,’ they stated.
‘In order to qualify as a real name it has to be two letters minimum, no numbers or symbols or emojis. We also have a list of banned words that would not qualify. Also we are only asking people for first names only, not their last names, so this is an added level of protection,’ a representative for OkCupid told Motherboard.
‘We take privacy at OkCupid very seriously. We also are not collecting or encouraging full names – we want users to share how they like to be called which can be your first name or your nickname, or whatever you are comfortable with. We encourage users who do not feel comfortable to instead use a nickname or their initials,’ the representative continued.
Reactions to the change
Still, this new change has many users concerned – especially those who are already marginalized, such as trans women, people who aren’t ‘out’ yet, polyamorous people, and sex workers. They believe this ‘real name’ policy could put them in danger. This new policy has already led many users to delete their OkCupid accounts.
The @okcupid post is so aggressively and flippantly ignorant. Real Name policies are massively unsafe for marginalized people, and almost unnavigable for most trans people.
— Ana Mardoll (@AnaMardoll) December 22, 2017
just got a notification that OkCupid is switching to a “real names” policy, which means it’s time to delete my account.
for the record, any time you say “real names” when you mean “legal names,” you alienate and degrade your trans user base.
— trial error (@dreamaskew) December 22, 2017
— Kat Stark (@WetcoastKat) December 22, 2017
OkCupid is a good reminder that we need to abandon this stupid idea that compulsory, ambient disclosure of names = “authenticity”
I don’t walk into a bar with my name visible to every creepy dude who shoots me a glance — why should dating online be any different?
— Janus Cassandra Kopfstein (@zenalbatross) December 22, 2017
OkCupid is getting rid of usernames.
Your profile, with answers to hundreds of extremely personal questions, will now have your real name attached.
Everyone who even glances at your profile will be able to find you. Including your employer.
What could go wrong?
— Catherynne Valente (@catvalente) December 22, 2017
okcupid is requiring & displaying first names now. googling my first name plus my city gives my full identity 🙁 folks, keep this in mind before providing your real name.
— Erinn Atwater (@errorinn) December 22, 2017
This will lead to a mass exodus of women. Being a woman on @okcupid already makes you a target for entitled, misogynist men who don’t have good boundaries. Giving those people their targets’ real names??? No, thank you. For many people, a username is about safety, not expression.
— Miriam H Szatrowski (@MHSMiriam) December 22, 2017
And we’re done, @okcupid – you went from being a safe place for poly, queer, trans, and other marginalized groups to making a decision that has me deleting my account without a moment’s hesitation. Not disabling, deleting. Only I choose when to share my name. #NotASafeSpace pic.twitter.com/Ay5Gc5FrkV
— Cooper S. Beckett (@CooperSBeckett) December 22, 2017
Protecting yourself online
‘Being online can already feel fraught and dangerous for some people, and it’s even more true for anyone seeking a romantic partner. You’re not just letting someone into your heart, but into your social spaces, your support circles, your home. Part of the process of protecting yourself against potential stalkers or harassers starts with limiting the ways strangers can find you. Information like what school you attended, what you do for a living, or a photo, combined with a correct name, is often all it takes to hunt down a LinkedIn or Facebook page,’ writes Megan Farokhmanesh for The Verge.
‘The ability to conceal a real name under the cloak of a username isn’t just beneficial for someone trying to keep their identity under wraps. It’s also a stellar indicator of what kind of person is reaching out to you. Some users point out that their usernames contained specific jokes that helped their best matches connect with them. Even getting a message from a user with the word “horny” in their alias tells you what they’re looking for, with no interaction needed.’
‘In an ideal world, the trust and intimacy of allowing a stranger to know your sexual orientation, your religion, or your politics would be a welcome part of finding a potential partner. In reality, it requires more caution than that. OKCupid’s decision isn’t just ignoring what its users want; it’s mocking them while it takes that away. It’s dismantling their ability to stay safe, and it’s doing so with a sneer.’