Internet dating picture
In looking closely at the astonishingly wide variety of ways our users have chosen to represent themselves, we discovered much of the collective wisdom about profile pictures was wrong.
For interested readers, I explain our measurement process, and how we collected our data, at the end of the post.
We would never suggest to a Fitzgerald or a Dave Eggers to limit his profile to 100 words, and so why should guys with great bodies keep their best asset under wraps?
Men’s photos are most effective when they look away from the camera and lame got us all excited. In terms of getting new messages, the My Space shot is the single most effective photo type for women.
We at first thought this was just because, typically, you can kind of see down the girl’s shirt with the camera at that angle—indeed, that seems to be the point of shot in the first place—so we excluded all cleavage-showing shots from the pool and ran the numbers again.
No change: it’s still the best shot; better, in fact, than straight-up boob pics (more on those later). The male “Ab Shot” has the same reputation as the My Space Shot—it’s an Internet cliché that supposedly everyone thinks is only for bozos.
To wit: a journalist was visiting our office recently, and when we told her we were researching user photos, the first thing she said was “please tell me people hate it when guys show off their abs.” We hadn’t finished running the numbers yet, so we confidently reassured her that people did. Of course, there is some self-selection here: the guys showing off their abs are the ones with abs worth showing, and naturally the best bodies get lots of messages.
So we can’t recommend this photo tactic to every man.
But, contrary to everything you read about profile pictures, if you’re a guy with a nice body, it’s actually better to take off your shirt than to leave it on.
Notice that, however, that flirting from the camera is the single worst attitude a woman can take.
Certain social etiquettes apply even online: if you’re going to be making eyes at someone, it should be with the person looking at your picture.
Now, you’re always told to look happy and make eye contact in social situations, but at least for your online dating photo, that’s just not optimal advice.
For women, a smile isn’t strictly better: she actually gets the most messages by flirting directly into the camera, like the center and right-hand subjects above.