Pho­tos do mat­ter

We might claim we’re not just af­ter some­one who looks hot in their pic­ture, but we’re all as shal­low as each other.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - LIVING - By DAISY BUCHANAN

WHAT do you think are the most pop­u­lar words a per­son could put on their online dat­ing pro­file?

“Long walks”, “Glass of wine”, “Cud­dles on the sofa”?

Oh, you am­a­teur. Ac­cord­ing to data from Wired.com, which ag­gre­gated in­for­ma­tion found on OK Cupid pro­files, you’re most likely to score a date if you men­tion surf­ing, yoga, the ocean or Ra­dio­head.

With the ex­cep­tion of Thom Yorke and co, the lo­ca­tions and ac­tiv­i­ties sound more like a list of shots from an ad­ver­tise­ment for a fab­u­lous hol­i­day than a col­lec­tion of things that an ac­tual hu­man be­ing might reg­u­larly par­tic­i­pate in.

But then, any­one who has at­tempted online dat­ing for more than a week will know that a po­ten­tial paramour’s per­son­al­ity will bear less re­sem­blance to their pro­file than an online su­per­mar­ket de­liv­ery has to the or­der you orig­i­nally placed.

We might claim we’re not just af­ter some­one who looks hot in their pic­ture, and we’re des­per­ate to meet some­one who shares our love of French New Wave cin­ema. How­ever, we’re all shal­low – it’s just that some of us are quite up­front about it and some at­tempt to give our short­com­ings an in­tel­lec­tual spin. Lov­ing the ocean might im­ply depth, but it’s of­ten used as a short­hand for your as­pi­ra­tions.

Many of the most pop­u­lar words and phrases seem to sug­gest a way of life that peo­ple dream of liv­ing, rather than an ac­tu­al­ity. When users de­scribe them­selves, they’re de­scrib­ing the per­son they hope to be­come – while aim­ing to at­tract a part­ner who can help them be­come the imag­ined, up­graded ver­sion of them­selves. The sin­gle peo­ple who re­ally do love surf­ing are prob­a­bly kiss­ing each other in the wa­ter right now, or at least flirt­ing with each other in a bar while they brush the sand from their wet­suits.

The bru­tal truth is that online daters care much more about the con­tents of their own pro­file than they do about the in­for­ma­tion given by the peo­ple they’re hop­ing to date.

The writ­ten pro­file be­comes the ul­ti­mate selfie, a space for us to com­mit acts of ver­bal van­ity. We painstak­ingly craft the de­scrip­tions that help us to fall in love with our own re­flec­tions, think­ing aw­ful, nar­cis­sis­tic things like: “If you can’t han­dle me at my Liz Phair-lov­ing worst, then you can’t han­dle me at my Joanna New­some-lov­ing best.”

To In­ter­net-date is to risk re­jec­tion, so we write per­fect pro­files to shore up our con­fi­dence. We might not be sure that we’re the hottest peo­ple on the web­site, but we can con­vince our­selves that we are the most in­ter­est­ing.

But the fact re­mains that a pic­ture paints a thou­sand words and, as long as you look good in your pho­to­graph, you can fill the “about you” sec­tion with an ex­tended es­say about your pas­sion for the works of cin­e­matic au­teur Michael Bay, and still get plenty of mes­sages.

This might be why im­age­based dat­ing apps like Grindr and Tin­der are so pop­u­lar, with the lat­ter in­creas­ing its user base by 25% a week at the last count. It’s bru­tal but hon­est – if you don’t like the look of some­one on screen, you’re prob­a­bly not go­ing to fancy them in real life, re­gard­less of how many match­ing lim­ited edi­tion Bon Iver LPs you both pro­fess to own.

Photographs are the most hon­est part of any­one’s pro­file. They don’t just give us the op­por­tu­nity to check out the faces and bod­ies of our prospec­tive matches – we can spy on their sur­round­ings too. If some­one claims to have trav­elled the world, we can check for ev­i­dence, and be sus­pi­cious when the pho­tos they have posted all ap­pear to have been taken in a car park in Read­ing. A pic­ture of a per­son smil­ing cheer­fully on a day out is al­ways go­ing to win out over a per­fectly posed pro­fes­sional shot in which the sub­ject looks smug.

We’re not just check­ing for signs of beauty, but for signs of friend­li­ness and ap­proach­a­bil­ity. In that way, the In­ter­net hasn’t changed the way we look for love. We’re still us­ing the same cri­te­ria we used when we re­lied on meet­ing peo­ple in the pub. At least the in­ter­net gives us a chance to check that the per­son we’re eye­ing up is sin­gle and in­ter­ested be­fore we make fools of our­selves in real life. Be­ing sin­gle is tough, and the in­ter­net pro­vides a buf­fer zone that al­lows us to be slightly bet­ter pro­tected and in­formed than we might be if we re­lied on the old-fash­ioned chan­nels.

Pro­grammes like MTV’s Cat­fish have made us suit­ably sus­pi­cious of our online crushes and their In­ter­net pro­files. We know that any­one can make them­selves sound too good to be true, or too com­pat­i­ble with you to be be­liev­able. If more sites trun­cated or ditched the writ­ten pro­file and were en­tirely im­age based, we might be more mo­ti­vated to get to meet, and fall for fel­low sin­gles in real life. If you’re des­per­ate for a de­scrip­tion of the beauty of the ocean, you can al­ways book a hol­i­day on a travel site in­stead. – Guardian News & Me­dia

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