The strange science of online dating

datingIf online dating hasn’t yielded many quality experiences, don’t jump off the grid just yet. According to the Pew Research Center, 59 percent of Americans now consider online dating a “good way to meet people.” And so, despite our reservations, the web can be a viable place to meet a potential match. But if that hasn’t been your reality, then let’s have some real talk. Perhaps, it’s not them…it’s you (or your profile anyway).

If you’ve been stuck in the online dating pool for a while, then it might be time to consider an overhaul of your dating profiles and social media pages. And if you’re the data-minded type, let’s start where there has been some recent research. According to new studies, there may actually be a science to online success — or, perhaps, lack thereof.

Choose your smile wisely

The profile picture is the first glimpse into a potential mate and studies show you don’t have to dig that deep for people to make an instant assessment.

According to a  study in the American Psychological Association Journal Emotion, women who smiled in their pictures were found far more attractive than women who didn’t. The opposite held true for men with more women finding smiling men less attractive.

In online dating, less isn’t always more

People like a little bit of mystery — but not the I only have a silhouette profile photo and might be a serial killer mystery. Instead, aim for more of the “this person looks attractive and interesting and I want to know more about them” mystery.

Profile photos are a statistical must in nearly every dating platform. Therefore, most dating websites recommend posting at least two to four photos for more favorable results.

But at the same time, practice some restraint. Studies say going heavy on the selfies and posting too frequently may suggest you’re narcissistic or depressed.  And specifically men who post a lot of selfies were rated lower, according to another survey.


Unstuck Tip Cards complete setPointers for all seasons
Bust through obstacles on your way to greatness with Unstuck Tip Cards — four reusable decks that help you fight procrastination, stop negative thinking, boost productivity, and get more creative.
Learn more>



A picture says a thousand words

Your written profile may say you have a passion for pizza, bike rides, and wanderlust. But if all your pictures showcase you with eyes at half-mast hovering over a Solo cup, then you’re likely communicating another interest. Not that there’s anything wrong with that; it shows you like to party. But you should place extra emphasis on posting your true hobbies, not just the ones that happened to get photographed the most.

According to a study by eHarmony, more online daters seek out a common interest (64 percent) over those just seeking physical attractions (49 percent). So whether sports or knitting, showcase your personality and interests and be sure you’re showcasing them in photos.

Break the norms

Speaking of sports and knitting, two different studies say shared interests often improve your chances of making an online connection, especially when they cross traditional gender norms. Hinge, a relationship app, conducted a survey in which they found women were 166 percent more likely to draw a favorable response from posting a sports-related photo. Men who posted a sports-related photo were 45 percent more likely to get a “like.”

Another study from Wired magazine showed online daters who showcased non-traditional gender interests (like men who liked to “craft”) ranked higher in popularity on dating apps.

Word choice matters

According to research, how you choose to describe yourself and your interests can also elicit a negative reaction from potential mates. One study suggests women who used the word “hate” and other negative terms in their self-descriptions were viewed more cautiously. However, men who used positive words like “love” and “nice” were seen as less trustworthy.

Also, a survey from the popular dating website found bad grammar and improper word usage was an overwhelming turn off for both men and women. The aforementioned Wired study also suggested that men who used the word “whom” received 31 percent more contacts from the opposite sex.

Of course, the whole process of courting has been a tricky social dance that has plagued men and women for centuries. While the introduction of online dating has only added more rules and barriers to the game, it’s also made dating easier to research and (perhaps) understand. So if your foray into the online dating world can only be described as cloudy at best, then take these studies as your silver lining, and get out there.


Nina Reeder is a journalist and media manager, who has contributed to outlets such as Ebony,, Marriott Hotels, and more. She’s a self-proclaimed foodie, but also has passions for health/wellness (which doesn’t always work out well). You can follow her on Instagram here.


More Unstuck Advice

Why I said ‘yes’ to everything for a week After being laid off from my second start-up and ending a three-year relationship in the first few months of 2016, I knew I had to seriously shake thi...
How I broke my phone addiction Do any of these three, very sad scenarios sound familiar? 1. It was a perfect day outside and I planned to go for a walk. 2. I needed baby s...
I want to stop checking social media, but I can’t It’s 11 p.m., and I can’t stop scrolling through Facebook on my iPhone. My bedroom is dark. I know better than this. I should be reading, or medita...