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Online dating made simple.
Online dating made simple.
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How To Maximize Your Online Dating Success, Based On Science

Picture of Nadia Elysse
US Editorial Team Lead
Updated: 22 September 2016
Who doesn’t have a friend who’s rendezvoused with a potential romantic partner after swiping right from a smartphone? Or we all know that one couple — the lovebirds who say they were set up “through mutual friends” when everyone knows they met online. They hide their initial point of contact for fear of judgment, but the reality is online dating isn’t the taboo it once was. In fact, about 15 percent of American adults say they’ve tried it and a majority of people who haven’t tried see online dating as a great way to meet new people.
Appearing too perfect on your dating profile can keep you from getting dates.
Appearing too perfect on your dating profile can keep you from getting dates.

But with millions of online daters across the country, how do you make your profile stand out from the rest? Researchers at the University of Iowa say that what you choose to disclose in your “about me” section can make all the difference. Study authors Crystal D. Wotipka and Andrew C. High had 316 study participants look at online dating profiles to rate whether they’d date the people described. The profiles that were more vulnerable and did not engage in “selective self-presentation” were looked at more favorably than those that edited out key identifying traits about themselves in an effort to seem “cool.”

“Perhaps there is a threshold for [selective self-presentation], such that users generally appreciate flattering information but are less attracted to others who display an exclusively positive persona,” the authors wrote. “Doing so might be coded as bragging, which is associated with negative social consequences and reduced liking.”

What people do on dating apps is no different from what many do on other forms of social media. A 2015 study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychology linked Facebook use to depressive symptoms. Regular Facebook use combined with frequent self comparisons to friends’ posts had a negative impact on users’ psychological health. That’s because people rarely post their extremely low moments on social media, even if they have them. It’s what has come to be known as the social media “highlight reel:” we only post positive life events on social media for fear of being judged on the not-so-positive parts of our lives.

Social media only shows people's "highlight reels."
Social media only shows people’s “highlight reels.”

“It doesn’t mean Facebook causes depression, but that depressed feelings and lots of time on Facebook and comparing oneself to others tend to go hand in hand,” said study author and doctoral candidate Mai-Ly Steers.

Applied to online dating, those same feelings of inadequacy rear their ugly heads when we’re confronted with a profile that seems too perfect. Comparison is inevitably a part of the online dating process. You want to see if you and the person whose profile you’re perusing are a “match.” Maybe their attempts to show themselves in a positive light are perceived as a bit too impeccable. Or perhaps the profile seems too calculated, leading the person to appear untrustworthy.

The bottomline is this: when it comes to online dating, it’s honesty — not seeming super cool — that will win you the most dates.