Let me just start by saying that I owe most of what's good in my life to OKCupid. I wouldn't have heard about my job at Bustle if my friend hadn't been dating someone he met on the site. I wouldn't have met my partner of the last two years if I hadn't impulsively created a profile one night and marked that my diet was "mostly vegetarian" (as it was at the time), making me come up in Jesse's filter, which only included people who at least saw some issue with eating animals. I also wouldn't have been able to explore consensual non-monogamy nearly as easily without OKCupid, which is why, when I logged on to do a search for other likeminded people in my new city of Los Angeles, I noted an important change since I'd last taken a hard look: it seemed you could no longer easily search for vegetarian and vegan matches on OKCupid.
The change confused me — on my A-list account, you could still search by height, ethnicity, education, pets, frequency of drug use, how dominant or kinky someone was, their level of attractiveness, and even body type. But the option to easily check a box to search for other vegetarians and vegans on OKCupid had vanished. What gives? I contacted OKCupid to find out.
"We were redoing filters and there simply wasn't enough space to search by dietary preference, but we wanted to offer it somewhere on the product, which is why it lives in A-List," OKCupid's press rep Bernadette Libonate tells Bustle.
But I have A-List, and the option is nowhere to be easily found within the many filter categories.
If I clicked the "more" button, where I remembered the option to search by dietary preference used to live, this is all that popped up:
So I tried to search "vegan" under interests, but even that wasn't an optional tag on its own.
And if I did search one on those tags, it yielded zero results — since it meant someone in my vicinity would have had to list and tag one of those vegan interests on their profile — something even many of the most dedicated vegans wouldn't think to do. The change upset me, and I knew it would upset my friends Diana and Adam too, who found each other on the site three years ago because they were both searching for other likeminded vegans.
"For me, being vegan reflects some of my deepest values, and I wanted to find someone who shared those values," Adam tells Bustle. "I was wary of online dating for a number of reasons, but one of the biggest was that I didn’t think I could easily do that — I figured finding another vegan on these dating apps would be like searching for a needle in a haystack. I expressed this concern to a friend of mine who had found her long-time partner on OKCupid, and she told me that OKCupid actually let you search for people based on their dietary preferences. That’s the moment I was convinced to give OKCupid a try."
His girlfriend Diana agrees that the ability to filter by diet — which in this case is not just about food, but one's fundamental ethical beliefs — was key. "Being vegan is a core part of my identity and I was specifically looking for potential partners who were also vegan," Diana says. "I’ve heard that OKCupid no longer lets people search by dietary preference. I’d be bummed about this if I were still looking for someone on the site."
That it was so difficult for me to figure this out that I needed to contact OKCupid directly is, to me, extremely unfortunate.
I'm certainly bummed, and considering OKCupid tells me that 10 percent of its users identify as vegetarian or vegan, I know I'm not the only one. Though the change happened quietly back in 2015 (I guess I was slow to catch on), Libonate says there have been only a small number of complaints from users. "It's hard to please everyone. Again, the option is still available to [A-list users who can] search by question," she says.
It took me awhile to figure out what she meant, but here's the way around it so that you can find other likeminded people on the site: Go to the questions tab, and type in "vegan" or "vegetarian:"
Then, select the question, and your preferred answer, and click "apply" to filter matches by other vegan and vegetarian users.
That it was so difficult for me to figure this out that I needed to contact OKCupid directly is, to me, extremely unfortunate. "We accommodate our users ever-changing taste, and at this moment we leave room for categories that we noticed were of a higher importance to our users like religion, an individual's availability, drug use, etc," Libonate explains.
But to the 10 percent of us who identify as vegan or vegetarian on the site, this is a key part of what makes someone a good match. If I can easily search how drug-friendly someone is, I should be easily able to search whether they eat animals (and trust me, both are important to me). Why not put it back under the "More" tab, where people can select whether they'd like to see people who have dogs and cats, kids, or a PhD? Could it really take up that much space? And perhaps there isn't infinite space on the app, but then why not even at least have the option be easier to select on OKCupid.com on a computer?
Libonate also tells me that whether someone marks "vegetarian" or "vegan" on their profile (which you can still do) doesn't affect the match algorithm — which seems to me a flaw in OKCupid's otherwise very effective algorithm design. If the app is not helping you match with other likeminded vegans and vegetarians, and searching for them has become this labyrinth (and something you have to pay to subscribe to A-list for), to me, that really is a problem.
To many of us, knowing whether someone also doesn't eat animals is crucial to whether or not we can allow them into our hearts and pants. This is our core ethical belief, and one at the top of the list of what we look for in a partner — it isn't just a diet fad; to us, it is about not participating in the murder and exploitation of animals. As Diana puts it, "Veganism goes much deeper than what we choose to leave off our plates. It deeply colors the way we look at the world." For me, it is much more akin to filtering by religion than by favorite restaurants.
Being able to search for other vegans and vegetarians is how Diana and Adam found each other, and it's part of how my partner found me. I hate to think of all the people like us who are missing out on their match, simply because of a redesign. If you think so too, perhaps we veggies should contact OKCupid and ask them to reconsider the change. I know they are ultimately on the side of love — so I have faith they'd be open to our feedback.