OkCupid is Wrong About Men’s Dating Photos

OkCupid’s research on successful profile pictures shows that men are twice as likely to meet women in person when you post pictures of themselves “doing something interesting” instead of “drinking” (a standard stand-by photo).

This is no surprise to me. I don’t know who the first guy was to look at a woman and think, “Hmm, I bet she’d look great standing next to a mini-fridge in my studio apartment,” but that guy is my hero.

One or two photos of you with friends, looking happy and natural, are way better than a profile full of boring, posed selfies, with no friends or interests. OkCupid’s research also shows that women prefer men who look away from the camera — possibly because their aloofness makes them appear more powerful.

OkCupid is Wrong About Men’s Dating Photos

OkCupid is wrong. I’m not talking about their algorithm, which seems to match me with people who are looking for a relationship despite me clearly stating that I’m looking for casual sex. I’m not talking about the fact that their matching algorithm seems to think that I am a 65-year-old black guy. I’m talking about their recent study on men’s dating photos.

OkCupid looked at the data of various sexual orientations, and the pattern was apparent in all groups. They found a few key points:

OkCupid has been around long enough that it’s seen trends come and go and come back again (hello, ’90s fashion). In some ways it’s similar to what we’ve seen with other online dating services like Tinder or apps like Instagram — people post pictures of themselves doing things they enjoy. But OkCupid also found that men who looked away from the camera and didn’t smile had a better shot at getting a date. They were 40 percent more likely to receive a like if they weren’t smiling in their primary profile picture.

But is OkCupid really wrong about male dating photos? 

The OkCupid study on male dating photographs was shown to be unreliable. According to OkCupid, non-smiling profile images received a higher response rate. All of the top 100 male profiles on Tinder were smiling in the most recent compilation. The latest PhotoFeeler study found that whether guys smile or not makes no statistically significant effect.

OkCupid’s CEO Christian Rudder said at a press conference that his company does not believe that men should upload photos of themselves holding an iPad. In fact, he says, it’s just not as effective as a man holding an actual tablet device.

But why? Well, you can easily guess what he has to say — it’s because women are more attracted to men who have things they want, while men are more attracted to women who have things they want. So rather than portraying yourself as being needy and desperate, you should instead show off your possessions.

I’ll be honest, I don’t see it quite like this. Instead of looking at it from an object-centered angle (as OkCupid seems to), I see it as an all-encompassing example of how social norms are overtaking the minds!

In the age of OkCupid, dating apps, and other hook-up apps, it’s important for men to be attractive. But it’s equally important for women to be attractive. In 2009, OkCupid featured a distinct subset of male daters who elected to use the service with only one photo and no profile content. We know that society and dating customs have altered dramatically in this time period in 2017. Online dating used to be frowned upon; perhaps portraying an attitude of “I’m too good for this” with a non-smiling, away-from-the-camera shot appealed to women more at the time.

Here are some facts about men’s and women’s dating photos:

Men should upload pictures of themselves that make them look good: 

They should take care of their bodies and wear flattering clothing. They should smile in pictures. They should be clean-shaven. Good pictures make a man look more attractive; bad pictures make him look like a creep.

Women should upload any picture that makes them look good: 

In general, they should avoid showing too much skin or wearing provocative clothing. They should smile. They should wear makeup if they wear makeup. Good pictures make a woman seem more attractive; bad pictures make her seem like she can’t control herself.

OkCupid’s data was insufficient to draw any conclusions.

The 7,140 photographs on OkCupid are only roughly 3,570 per gender, which is a good sample size if you’re looking for a condition that will be present in every shot. The number of males not smiling and looking away (particularly before OkCupid advocated it in early 2010) would be in the hundreds at most. Even now, only about 15% of photographs have no eye contact.

The bottom line

In 2017, OKCupid’s study on male dating photographs failed the repeatability test. According to my findings, there is no one-size-fits-all photo strategy for men. This is because different tactics may work better for different people or in different situations. Try it, test it if you want to know what works.

In my experience, it doesn’t matter what you upload as long as it’s clear what you’re uploading. If a woman asks for men’s pictures, don’t throw out your manly pride and send her something frilly or feminine. Just send her a picture of yourself — clean-shaven, wearing your best suit (or not), with a strong jawline and confident smile. It doesn’t matter whether she likes that, but you should like it.

Leave a Comment