There has been a lot of advice over the years on how to create the perfect online dating profile, but the general assumption is: put your best foot forward, right?
Not so much, according to researchers from the University of Iowa, who conducted a study of their own by creating eight fake online dating profiles – four men and four women – on popular dating website OkCupid to see how online daters would respond. As it turns out, people prefer authentic over perfect.
Researchers created a portion of the profiles from one perspective they called “Selective Self-Presentation,” which is a profile that highlights only what’s “good” about a person and downplays the rest. The other profiles they called “Warranting,” which is a profile that contains information easily traced to a real person.
Once the profiles were created, they were shown to 317 adults who said they were using or had used an online dating service. While the researchers expected participants to be interested in the candidates who provided more detailed information, they also assumed that they would go for the profiles of the more successful, attractive and “perfect” candidates. But instead they found that participants gravitated to those profiles that felt more authentic – that is, the ones that didn’t present as very polished. In fact, participants didn’t trust profiles that played up a person’s strengths or successes.
“We found people want to contact a person who appears to be accurate in what they are saying about themselves online,” said Andy High, one of the researchers. “It’s tough when it comes to dating profiles because we want someone who seems like an amazing person, but we also hopefully will have a relationship with this individual, so we want them to exist.”
One of the biggest complaints among online daters is that people post old or inaccurate photos or otherwise fabricate information about themselves, such as fudging or lying about actual height, age or occupation. So it makes sense that if someone appears too “perfect” – that is, attractive, funny, smart, successful, etc. – people viewing the profile are going to be more skeptical, because they have been burned by other online daters in the past.
Participants in the study also preferred details rather than generalities about potential matches. In other words, daters responded more favorably to the profiles that stated the name of the place where a potential match worked in addition to his occupation. “Instead of just saying, ‘I write a blog,’ name the blog and encourage people to check it out,” High told Iowa Now. “If you can name something or provide people with a link to get there, then do it.”
Researchers advise balance when creating an online profile – you want to share all that is wonderful about yourself, but try to include some things that aren’t necessarily negative, but more humble or realistic about yourself.
With all the fake profiles and the sheer number of online daters competing for attention, this study advocates being true to yourself, even if you don’t come across as “perfect.”