Online dating is not an effortless endeavor: you are confronted with many, minuscule choices as you try to convey just how awesome you are. And while those micro-decisions seem unimportant, they add up and do matter, because you’re only as good as the profile you craft.
So how do you create the kind of online identity that will land you a first date? Researchers from Queen Mary University of London wondered the same thing, so they analyzed previous research on attraction. They combed through nearly 4,000 studies, settling on analyzing 86, with literature ranging from psychology, sociology, and computer, behavioral and precognitive sciences, to figure out the most effective approaches to digital dating. They published their findings this week in the journal Evidence Based Medicine.
Before we get to the findings, some caveats: these are generalities. Maybe they don’t describe what you find desirable. And maybe these tips will land you more first dates, but it’s unclear whether these are the kinds of first dates you want.
DO: BE THOUGHTFUL ABOUT YOUR USERNAME
People gloss over this one too often, and maybe it’s because we’re in a time when people tend to use their real names, or variations thereof, in many of their online interactions. But it wasn’t always that way. Remember back to when picking your AIM username was a serious task? It was your identity, your marker, and you’d better be happy with picking “DMX123” because you could be stuck with it for years.
When picking a username, opt for incorporating more desirable traits rather than ones with negative connotations, the researchers wrote. Stay away from words like “little” or “bugg” in them, as they “are often associated with inferiority,” the study noted.
“Playful screen names (eg, Fun2bwith) are universally attractive. Men are more attracted to screen names that indicate physical attractiveness (eg, Blondie, Cutie), whereas women are more attracted to screen names that indicate intelligence (eg, Cultured),” the authors write.
And then there’s the alphabet. Aim high, friends. According to the study, measures of success, such as educational attainment and income, are correlated with names that start with letters higher up in the alphabet. Free suggestion: “Aaaaaaamazingly_attractive.”
Some sites sort alphabetically, so your best bet is to start your username with letters in the first half, A through M. (So, the username “LEANING_IN_AND_LOVIN_IT” should still be okay, right?)
Another tip, per professor and study author Khalid Khan: “People are also attracted to those similar to themselves. So before setting up your profile, look at the profiles of people you find attractive and choose a name with a likeness,” he said in a release.
DON’T: ONLY POST SELFIES
Okay, this one is pretty intuitive, but look good in your primary photo. Here’s how, per the researchers: crack a genuine smile (the kind that crinkles up your eyes a bit); tilt your head slightly; and, for women, wear red because that “enhances men’s attraction leading to significantly more contacts.”
But don’t only post selfies, because, what else are you doing with your life besides taking pictures of your face? Do you have any friends? Do people like you?
Including group photos makes you look more desirable, the study notes. Women find a man more attractive when other women are smiling at him. Pick group photos in which you’re in the center of the shot, the study notes, because it “creates a sense of importance.”
“This can be further enhanced in group photos where you are shown touching another person (confining this to the upper arm to be socially acceptable),” the authors write. “This is because a toucher is perceived to be of higher status than the one touched.”
Status, cool, got it.
DON’T: ONLY TALK ABOUT WHO YOU ARE
Ah, yes, the written word. The researchers note that people are either ignored or pursued based on a quick look-over of a profile, so while a good photo matters, a good written description can really push the interest into action.
Don’t just blab about how great you (surely) are; go with a 70:30 ratio of stuff about you to what you’re seeking. For example, from the study: “genuine, attractive, outgoing, professional female, good sense of humor, into keeping fit, socializing, music and travel, seeks like-minded, good-natured guy to share quality times.” Feel free to copy and paste that, if it fits the bill.
Also, the study notes that men prefer women who are fit through activities such as yoga and going to the gym, and women prefer bravery and risk-taking to kindness and altruism.
People also look to cues like spelling and grammatical errors (it’s “they’re” not “there,” pal). Humor can give you the edge, but as they say in journalism, show, don’t tell. Simply stating, “I am hilarious” is not as good as, you know, just being funny with your description.
DO: BE AUTHENTIC
This is a tip that works in on- and off-line dating. The authors write that a first date is more likely with a realistic profile. Lying when you are online could mean awkward moments later on when you have to fess up to the truth. So save yourself the trouble and just be real.
“Dishonesty in profiling is damaging to the online dating goal,” the authors write. “The profile should have a balance between comprehensive honesty and positive self-presentation because its validity will be put to test in future face-to-face interactions.”