Pic Me! And Who Will Stop The Wane?

MidWeek (Hawaii) - - Front Page - Amy Alkon

I’m a newly di­vorced wo­man t ry­ing some on­line dat­ing sites. Be­cause I read your col­umn, I un­der­stand how men pri­or­i­tize beauty. I’m an at­trac­tive wo­man, but I of­ten pho­to­graph ter­ri­bly, and I’m think­ing of spend­ing some money and hav­ing a pro­fes­sional photographer shoot some pix in a stu­dio. Would this be a good in­vest­ment? I feel like I’d have a bet­ter shot if I had re­ally great photos.

Be­ing some­what vain, I fear the can­did cam­era. In fact, I not only fa­vor the posed photo, but tend to stick (rather ag­gres­sively) to a sin­gle pose — the one that doesn’t make peo­ple won­der whether I eat oats out of a burlap bag.

On on­line dat­ing sites espe­cially, ap­pear­ance drives whom we choose or lose. Not sur­pris­ingly, mar­ket­ing re­searcher Jonah Berger re­ports that “most on­line con­texts,” in­clud­ing dat­ing sites, “are dom­i­nated by posed photos,” as opposed to the can­did kind — to the point where the main leisure ac­tiv­ity in North Amer­ica ap­pears to be stand­ing in a bath­room mak­ing duck lips for the cam­era.

Berger notes that peo­ple tend to as­sume that oth­ers will find them more lik­able and worth get­ting to know if they present “a cu­rated, pol- ished ver­sion of the self.” Yet in his re­search, it was the can­did pix that made peo­ple more in­ter­ested in “be­ing friends with or go­ing on a date” with the per­son pic­tured. Those he sur­veyed also re­ported feel­ing “more con­nected” to those in the can­did photos and lik­ing these peo­ple more over­all.

“Can­did photos made photo tar­gets seem more gen­uine,” Berger ex­plains. They “seem to pro­vide a glimpse into what some­one is truly like, an un­var­nished per­spec­tive on how they look and be­have when oth­ers aren’t look­ing.” How­ever, there are times when can­dids are less ad­vis­able. For ex­am­ple, Berger found that em­ploy­ers on LinkedIn were more in­ter- ested in hir­ing some­one who used a posed photo. Sadly, it seems the can­did “Here I am at 1 in the morn­ing drink­ing my sixth glass of chardon­nay” does not scream, “Hire MEEEEE!”

But get­ting back to on­line dat­ing, let’s tem­per Berger’s find­ings with what we all know: The hot­ter you look, the more replies you’ll get on a dat­ing site. So, be­cause you’re some­body who of­ten pho­to­graphs “ter­ri­bly,” your best bet is get­ting photos taken that ap­pear to be can­did. You do this by hav­ing a photographer or friend shoot you “in ac­tion” — in other words, ap­pear­ing not to no­tice the big honk­ing lens or the iPhone right in your face. Plan to shoot a ton of photos and at least a few will catch you look­ing babe-ali­cious. This should help you bridge the pho­to­genic fair­ness gap — how there are those the can­did cam­era loves and those it loves to make look like ringers for Win­ston Churchill.

I’m hap­pily mar­ried. My wife is beau­ti­ful. She used to put a lot of ef­fort into her ap­pear­ance, but she now wears sweats and T-shirts ev­ery­where and she never wears makeup or does her hair. I felt re­ally bad about this on our re­cent date night, when she just put her hair in a pony­tail and wore a slouchy army jacket. I want her to keep mak­ing an ef- fort to put her­self to­gether for me. How can I offer her con­struc­tive crit­i­cism with­out mak­ing her mad?

You come up be­hind a ragged, di­sheveled per­son stand­ing on the cor­ner and put a dol­lar in the Star­bucks cup they’re hold­ing — and then you re­al­ize your er­ror: “Oops! Hi, honey!”

I sus­pect the term “const r uc­tive crit­i­cism” was coined by some­one who went through life with­out ever en­coun­ter­ing an­other hu­man be­ing. As I ex­plain in Good Man­ners for Nice Peo­ple Who Some­times Say F*ck, here in the real world, “crit­i­ciz­ing peo­ple doesn’t make them change; it makes them want to clob­ber you.” That’s be­cause tem is a lit­tle one-note — juic­ing us to re­spond to a ver­bal at­tack as if it were an at­tack by some dude run­ning at us with a bloody spear.

So, though it isn’t un­rea­son­able to want your wife to make an ef­fort on date night, you should fo­cus on what you do want to see rather than what you don’t. For ex­am­ple: “Honey, you’re so beau­ti­ful, and when it’s date night, it would make me so happy if you did your hair and wore a dress. And I’ll wear what­ever you want.” And to get her to make more of an ef­fort day to day: “I love you so much, and I want to be sure we keep the ro­mance alive.” Make clear that you aren’t ex­pect­ing her to do the dishes in an evening dress and a tiara. You’d just be thrilled if, from time to time, the thigh-highs could be waders.

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