You’ve broken down, downloaded one of the handful of dating apps, and are ready to join the throngs of Americans currently swiping their way through the world in a quest for love.
Now, though, comes the hard part: Constructing a profile, the handful of photos and brief written bio that others will use to evaluate your potential as a mate.
What should you put in — or leave out — of your bio? How do you set yourself apart from a seemingly endless stream of other romantic hopefuls? And will that shirtless selfie you took at the gym really woo women the way you think it will?
As always, we’re here to help.
Choose the right photos
Nothing in your dating profile will be more important than your profile picture.
“The decision to [swipe] right or left transpires in a nanosecond,” says Meredith Golden, who runs the dating app coaching service Spoon Meet Spoon. That’s why selecting the right photos is vital. (For those who don’t know, swiping left means “not interested.” Swiping right means “interested.”)
The cardinal rule? Make it as easy as possible for those doing the swiping to get an unobstructed view of your face.
According to statistics provided by Bumble, donning a hat in your profile picture reduces your chance of being selected by 12 percent, while sporting sunglasses hurts your chances by 15 percent. Those facing forward in their profile picture, meanwhile, are 20 percent more likely to be swiped in the right direction.
As for what kinds of photos to use, Melissa Hobley, chief marketing officer for the dating app OkCupid, recommends a variety, to give others’ a well-rounded view of who you are and what you like. “Not every photo should be a selfie,” she said in an e-mail. “Try to show off your family, your friends, your hobbies.”
Oh, and ditch the moody, brooding pics. According to Tinder’s figures, those who are smiling in their profile pictures are 14 percent more likely to be swiped to the right than those who aren’t.
Never, ever leave the bio blank
Experts agree: One of the biggest mistakes a dating-app user can make is to leave the bio space blank. Typically, the bio is a place for users to write a two- or three-sentence description of themselves.
“I’m constantly told by men and women that not having a bio is the kiss of death,” says Jess Carbino, an in-house sociologist for Bumble. “You could be the spitting image of Brad Pitt and not get swiped on.”
The reason is simple: Taking the time to write something — anything — is a sign of investment.
But what do I say?
More than anything, the information included in your bio should act as a springboard for conversation.
Do you love reggae? Were you captain of your high school bowling team? Winner of your fantasy football league? Now’s the time to say so.
Golden recommends listing four or five of your interests, making sure that you’re using the space to tell potential dates about yourself. Definitely do not use the space to outline what you are or aren’t looking for in a potential mate.
“Negativity is a big repellant,” says Golden. “Sometimes a profile will seem great until the last sentence. ‘Don’t write me and then vanish!’ or ‘I’m not looking for a new pen pal!’ This quickly generates a swipe left.”
Don’t be (too) basic
Anyone who’s spent 10 minutes scrolling through dating app profiles can attest that after a while, they all seem to look the same. Everyone, it seems, loves wine, the Red Sox, and travel.
Which is why it’s imperative to set yourself apart — and one way to do that is to use specifics.
“Instead of saying ‘I like trying new restaurants’ instead try ‘[insert place] has the best milkshake in the city IMHO!’ ” Golden says. “Instead of listing ‘working out’ in the description, try ‘Forrest Gump in training, I ran my first marathon this year.’ ”
Another way to separate yourself, Carbino says, is by using your own words, rather than relying on a quote or song lyric, as many do.
“Speak with your own voice, in a meaningful way,” she says. “You can talk about [your fondness for] Tupac or Barbra Streisand without using their exact lyrics.”
One way to quickly get yourself passed over? Pour grammer.
According to Hobley of OkCupid, more than 75 percent of people say they’re less likely to respond to someone whose profile contains misspellings.
And while it should probably go without saying, it’s best to keep the sexually explicit stuff to a minimum.
Even if you’re using the app solely for hookups, rather than in a quest for everlasting love, you should aim to present yourself in the most respectful way possible, Golden says. That means shelving the sultry pics and eggplant emojis. (Yes, the poor, innocent eggplant emoji has come to represent a male body part, in case you were unaware.)
Seek a peer review
Once you’ve selected your photos and constructed your bio, run it past a trusted confidante to make sure you’re painting yourself in the best — and most accurate — light.
Sometimes, in our quest to present our most attractive selves to the world, we use photos and details about that don’t truly represent who we are. Having a trusted source examine your profile and offer honest feedback can help save you from yourself — before it’s too late.
At the end of the day, understand that the dating app bio can only do so much
While a profile can serve as a helpful peek into someone’s life, it’s nearly impossible to tell how you’ll hit it off with that tall, handsome, MIT professor until you two are actually sitting down over drinks.
“It’s very tempting to obsess about your profile, and think they make a big difference,” says Moira Weigel, a junior fellow at Harvard University and author of the book “Labor of Love: The Invention of Dating.” “But it’s very hard to predict how two people are going to like each other until they’re together in person.”Dugan Arnett can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @duganarnett.