When it comes to online dating, deciding how to present yourself may be more of a science than an art. One strike — such as a mirror shot or airbrushed selfie — and you’re out.
So we asked some online dating experts for help on making the best first impression. Follow these tips, and you might get more right swipes.
The ab shot has an expiration date.
“The premium of the six pack decreases over time,” OkCupid’s chief product officer Jimena Almendares says, citing research done by the dating site’s data scientists. So if you’re an 18-year-old male with great pecs, don’t be shy about adding a shirtless photo to the mix: You’ll be twice as likely to be contacted than an 18-year-old who isn’t showing off his abs. But that positive effect declines as you age, so a shirtless 40-year-old isn’t going to fly in most cases, no matter how ripped he is. And remember: The combination of ab shot plus mirror selfie never wins.
Skip the “Where’s Waldo?” photos.
There are other ways to show you have a social life than including a photo of you with all your friends, especially if you look less attractive in comparison.
According to a study by the dating app Zoosk, having someone else in your photo decreases your chances of being contacted by 42 percent. If you must show yourself in a social setting, do it with a photo where your companions are cropped out. As online dating coach Erika Ettin puts it: “The more information you give, the more people assume. They will assume that the person you’re with is a current boyfriend or ex.”
Leave Fido out of the frame.
Everybody loves animals, right? Not quite. The same Zoosk study found that furry buddies are even worse than human ones: Including a pet pic in your profile lowers your contact rate by 53 percent. Non-traditional animals might be even worse, as the folks of Tinder Guys with Tigers reveal. You might think that you’re pretty special for having hung out with this wild feline, but if the blog is any indication, tiger guys are a dime a dozen. Which brings us to our next point …
Be interesting, but not too interesting.
“The best photos are really ones where you are living your life,” says Laurie Davis, founder of the online dating consultancy eFlirt Expert. Whether that’s skiing, cooking or public speaking, having at least one activity-driven photo is a must. If that activity is going to Machu Picchu or seeing the Eiffel Tower, however, you might want to think again. Much like the tigers, some travel destinations are so common among millennials that they’ve lost their glamour, making you only just as interesting as the next guy or gal.
“Those are the cliche pictures because they’re so overdone,” said a 34-year-old Washingtonian who has been online dating for eight years. But it’s a tough line to walk, because, she added, a London telephone booth photo could prompt a match to say: “Oh, I’ve been there too!”
What’s the difference? Well, think about how aesthetically similar those Machu Picchu pictures are: Everyone who’s been has the same photo from the adventure. While a shot that says London but doesn’t say “I’m exactly like everyone else” allows you to be well-traveled but not pretentious about it.
Be beautiful, but not too beautiful.
According to OkCupid, if users disagree about whether a woman is attractive — that is, if there are people who find her both beautiful and ugly at equal rates — it works in her favor. A woman who gets mixed attractiveness reviews on OkCupid receives more messages than a woman who is generally considered to be attractive. Almendares says this is because “highly polarizing women” may be regarded as “diamonds in the rough.”
But since you can’t control whether your look is classic or controversial, there are other ways to apply the “beautiful, but not too beautiful” philosophy: Avoid selfies, because most people know they can distort a face to make it look more attractive than it truly is.
None of these are hard and fast rules, of course. Some daters would argue that you should just be yourself, even if that means putting your best duck-face forward. Just don’t say we never warned you.