The Superficial Truth about Profile Pictures

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Nobody wants to admit to having a superficial side, but the honest truth is that when it comes to online dating, a profile picture truly does speak a thousand words. We’re all judging books by their covers here because, honestly, how else do we know which book to read further?

Now I know I have read studies proving that members with any profile picture get a higher rate of response than those without, but I’m sure you’re not looking for science here. However, I think it’s extremely important to reinforce the fact that people want to know who they are talking to – don’t you? It’s not about needing to be the most attractive or portraying yourself in a false light, but you want to paint a picture of the people you are talking to, just the same as they want to be able to do for you.

Most online dating sites today have general “dos” or “don’ts” guidelines for picture uploads, but those don’t scratch the surface as to what real readers react to. The clear-cut rules are always about the same: no nudity, include a headshot, use a recent picture, etc. Here are some things I’ve noticed along the way that delve into the decision process just a little deeper.

People Are Not Oblivious

Don’t try to hide a flaw you don’t like about yourself, because people will notice! If your images are all from the same one angle, or you never give the hint that you may actually have teeth somewhere under your closed-mouth grin, people may more on to the next person, who they could have a better sense about. Be confident about who you are and how you look. When you go on that first date in-person, no special effects will be there to change you, so never lie up front – it will just be wasting time for you both.

Active is Attractive…But so is Seeing Your Face

While I love seeing that men love the great outdoors, there are all-too-many pictures of snowboarders with goggles or motorcyclists with helmets. One or two of these images on your profiles is highly recommended (from my point of view.) The problem happens when you are too busy showing off your hobbies to realize that is all great topic for conversation later; for now I want to see your face! If I can’t decipher what you look like enough to recognize you when I show up for the awkward first in-person meeting, I may just pass up your profile.

The same goes for having too many people surrounding you in pictures, or showing images in which you look extremely different from one to the next (long hair and a mustache vs clean-cut.) I want to know who the man I am speaking to today is… so at least label them clearly and let me know which man I would be going out with on Friday!

Be Careful About the Level of “Fun” You Are Presenting

I love having fun as much as the next person – I have no problem going to bars, going out dancing, or cracking jokes at my own expense sometimes. However, just as you have to be careful about jokes or sarcasm being misinterpreted through text, photos can create the same disillusionment of a person you haven’t met yet. If your picture shows you pounding back shots or sweating on a dance floor, just acknowledge that these are the still-shots I have in my head as the first impression I make of you– I don’t have the pleasure of seeing that you were truly the life of the party that night– but I do know what you look like sweaty, drunk, and red-faced. Halloween pictures almost always walk this same very-fine line.


Ultimately, my advice is, “When in doubt, use another picture.” Make them simple and straightforward. Again, it’s unfortunate, but by nature we are superficial beings and at the end of the day if I only get around to reading one of my newest messages, it will be one with a user’s picture who I can immediately recognize, with a genuine smile on his face and no surrounding distractions.



About the Author:

Rebecca is a late 20-something, still in the "dating as a young professional" phase of life. She enjoys soccer, travel and fitness and is currently accepting boyfriend applications, should your [brand name dating site] attempts be unsuccessful.

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