The Simple Secret to Successful Online Dating: Make Sure Your Profile Pic Looks Hot
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What do you think are the most popular words a person could put on their online dating profile? "Long walks", "Glass of wine", "Cuddles on the sofa"? Oh, you amateur. According to data from Wired.com, which aggregated information found on OK Cupid profiles, you're most likely to score a date if you mention surfing, yoga, the ocean or Radiohead.
With the exception of Thom Yorke and co, the locations and activities sound more like a list of shots from an advertisement for a fabulous holiday than a collection of things that an actual human being might regularly participate in. But then, anyone who has attempted online dating for more than a week will know that a potential paramour's personality will bear less resemblance to their profile than an online supermarket delivery has to the order you originally placed.
We might claim we're not just after someone who looks hot in their picture, and we're desperate to meet someone who shares our love of French New Wave cinema. However, we're all shallow – it's just that some of us are quite upfront about it and some attempt to give our shortcomings an intellectual spin. Loving the ocean might imply depth, but it's often used as a shorthand for your aspirations.
Many of the most popular words and phrases seem to suggest a way of life that people dream of living, rather than an actuality. When users describe themselves, they're describing the person they hope to become – while aiming to attract a partner who can help them become the imagined, upgraded version of themselves. The single people who really do love surfing are probably kissing each other in the water right now, or at least flirting with each other in a bar while they brush the sand from their wetsuits.
The brutal truth is that online daters care much more about the contents of their own profile than they do about the information given by the people they're hoping to date. The written profile becomes the ultimate selfie, a space for us to commit acts of verbal vanity. We painstakingly craft the descriptions that help us to fall in love with our own reflections, thinking awful, narcissistic things like: "If you can't handle me at my Liz Phair-loving worst, then you can't handle me at my Joanna Newsome-loving best." To internet-date is to risk rejection, so we write perfect profiles to shore up our confidence. We might not be sure that we're the hottest people on the website, but we can convince ourselves that we are the most interesting.
But the fact remains that a picture paints a thousand words and, as long as you look good in your photograph, you can fill the "about you" section with an extended essay about your passion for the works of cinematic auteur Michael Bay, and still get plenty of messages.
This might be why image-based dating apps like Grindr and Tinder are so popular, with the latter increasing its user base by 25% a week at the last count. It's brutal but honest – if you don't like the look of someone on screen, you're probably not going to fancy them in real life, regardless of how many matching limited edition Bon Iver LPs you both profess to own.
Photographs are the most honest part of anyone's profile. They don't just give us the opportunity to check out the faces and bodies of our prospective matches – we can spy on their surroundings too. If someone claims to have travelled the world, we can check for evidence, and be suspicious when the photos they have posted all appear to have been taken in a car park in Reading. A picture of a person smiling cheerfully on a day out is always going to win out over a perfectly posed professional shot in which the subject looks smug.