OkCupid's Big Myths, Part I

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The folks from OkCupid are back again to blow our minds - and the lids off some of the common, as they call it, "Myths of Profile Pictures". While, of course, it's best to view any set of data with a critical eye and place it in the proper context (uhoh, I'm channeling my Statistics professor), let's see what we can take away from this study. One thing I'd like you to bear in mind, before we begin: OkCupid is just one dating site, and might have a different ratio of people looking for "hookups" or relationships. Also, success is measured in messages - no clue if those messages were worthwhile, or simply leering. You might get attention, but there's no guarantee it's the kind of attention you want. Now, the "Myths of Profile Pictures":

Myth 1 - It's better to smile This "myth" is somewhat misleading. In general, you can't really go wrong with smiling; what is supposedly shocking is that women also get positive responses by "flirting" directly into the camera, and men get positive responses by brooding at something off-camera. Now, is this really all that surprising? That men respond to a bit of pouty eye contact and women like that tall, dark and mysterious persona?

  • What we can take away: Smiling is a still a safe bet. If you really think your best pictures fall into one of the other two categories, you can gamble and see how it pans out. Also remember that smiling sends a host of other messages, like honesty, openness, kindness, that are harder to convey in other types of photos.

Myth 2 - You shouldn't take a picture with your phone or webcam The study found that self-shot photos are marginally more successful, possibly due to the "intimate" feel these pictures have. I say this makes sense; "casual" or "natural" is almost always better than stilted and posed. And today, webcams and phones are much better than they were even five years ago.

A related find in this "myth" is that the "Myspace" shot (taken from above) is incredibly successful for women (even when you remove shots that include cleavage). While this is more surprising, it hints at how we've been changed by social media. OkCupid has a pretty large late-teen, early-twenties demographic, thanks to their quizzes, and these are kids who came of age with Myspace and digital cameras. Undoubtedly their perception of what they find attractive has been shaped by the prevalence of social media. Perhaps in days past, pinups and magazines shaped the most "alluring" poses; now, it's the Internet.

  • What we can take away: Go for natural rather than posed pictures, and if you have to do the Myspace thing, you'll be just as successful without featuring the cleavage.

Join me next time to dissect the last two myths, Guys should keep their shirts on and Make sure your face is showing (see Story) .

For more about this dating site, read our review of OKCupid.com.