Since the Ashley Madison hack, curiosity about the infidelity-based dating service has been on the rise. Even if you find the idea of cheating deplorable, you can’t help but wonder what it’s like on a website totally based on helping people cheat, right?
That’s why I decided to create an account and check it out. And I couldn’t believe how easy — and depressing — it was.
In case you didn’t follow the hack, it exposed the data of 32 million Ashley Madison users. This was a big deal because Ashley Madison prided itself on its discretion — it was assumed to be the perfect dating site for a discreet affair. After the hack, though, it seemed that wannabe cheaters would have better luck finding mates in real life, without leaving a digital trail.
Based on Ashley Madison’s marketing and my own preconceived notions of marital infidelity largely gleaned from Hollywood, I thought the experience might have at least a hint of glamour and danger. But instead, it felt desperate and the opposite of sexy.
Scroll through to see what it was like.
To start, all I had to do was go to AshleyMadison.com, select 'single female seeking males,' and then create my account. The site is free for women. Male users have to pay at least $49 per month for 100 'credits,' which enable them to use the site.
After that, I was already 'almost done,' according to this dialog box. As you can see from the background, men's profiles were already visible before I'd even picked a username.
Mostly, the questions had to do with my physical appearance. This one reminded me of MySpace, which had a similar feature back in its heyday in the 2000s.
Next, it was time for a photo. I could have uploaded a picture of myself using this totally convincing mask 'tool' to conceal my identity, but I was way too freaked out to do that. After locating the tiny 'Skip this Step' option in the bottom right, I passed.
Next, I beefed up my profile with a line about what I was looking for. After that, I waited for the 'winks' and emails to roll in.
Still waiting for someone to message me, I checked out some more options for customising my profile.
As it turned out, I didn't even need to fill out these sections. Before long, I had received my first message. And my screenname was a hit.
As the messages started rolling in, so did the emails. Not very discreet. Good thing I'm such a prodigious 'technologygal,' or else I would have been at wit's end trying to figure out how to get them off my phone's lock screen. How many middle-aged men's cheating efforts have been thwarted by this very issue?
While doing research in a coffee shop, I was struck by how blatant the Ashley Madison branding was. Anyone looking over my shoulder would have known exactly what I was doing -- again, not that discreet.
I received about 20 'winks' in five days or so plus about 7 to 10 messages. When people messaged me, I'd ask them if they wanted to tell me about their experience for a news story. Mostly, they politely declined. I figured maybe if I uploaded a photo, their trust in me would increase.
Armed with my finished product, I was ready to get some juicy info (and probably a few more requests for 'cam play,' which I'd also received by this point).
Now that I've posted a photo, I'm getting a few more messages. I'm mostly asking people if they're worried about their information getting out. They all say they aren't nervous.
I've also gained access to 55 guys' photos. None of them seem tempting. Instead, looking at them all one after another feels about as depressing as being the last woman standing at a bar past closing time -- but with fewer shirts and more bathroom mirror selfies. I can't imagine actually using this process to start a relationship.
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