I Am Awesome for Unspecified Reasons!

What makes for a successful online dating profile?

Posted Feb 14, 2008

It's funny to me that Dan Ariely & co. are using HOTorNOT for research purposes. First, because I didn't realize that site was still around. Second, because a few years ago, when I was a HoN profile moderator (responsible for viewing people's submitted pics and personal statements and approving or rejecting them), I emailed a friend, "After painfully reading over 1000 profiles I think I could write a sociology dissertation on it." Also: "I have gained a tragic glimpse into the heart of human nature."

One of my peeves: I don't know why anyone would present herself with such sentiments as "I really like hanging out," or "I'm into pretty much anything." Best of all, "I like to have fun." Really? Me too! We're a perfect match! One meathead from New Jersey (his pic included gold chain, backward hat, no shirt, and flexed biceps) actually listed "Anywhere in the world" among the things he finds "hot." I love there! Oh, and he ended his profile with this kicker: "Aight, your [sic] probably bored, so later."

According to an upcoming paper in Computers and Human Behavior, these milquetoast daters should not expect success. In one study, the researchers compared the effects of emotionality in introductory emails. So while JimJ789 exclaimed "Travel excites me since it allows me to see places and people that I read about," FrankXYZ summoned only "I also like to travel. After I go on a vacation I feel very content that I have done something I like." Unsurprisingly, Jim was seen as more confident, happy, enthusiastic, cheerful, energetic, excited, interesting, proud, determined, strong, bold, and daring, while Frank was seen as more calm, relaxed, at ease, shy, and nervous. I assume most people would choose the more "interesti

ng" man.

The researchers also looked at self-disclosure. Sample emails included lines like "I would tell [my ex-wife] that I was lonely and she would change the topic." The imaginary man who shared the most was seen as most open, and the most discreet man was considered strongest, but correlations with other personality traits were less consistent, and I'd be hesitant to draw general conclusions from the study's small number of example emails anyway. Last year PT covered another study (pdf) that bears on the issue of TMI, though: The less you share initially while dating online, the more easily others can fill in the blanks with high expectations, which may score you that face-to-face meet-up. (This study was also co-authored by Ariely.) So maybe saying that you're "into pretty much anything" is hot after all.

My favorite profile on HOTorNOT, by the way, was a man who left much open to interpretation but had already

filled in one big blank with permanent ink. He used as his photo a shot of a huge tentacled fantasy monster tattoo covering his back, yet called himself "just your average everyday guy."

Combining the findings on ambiguity with the findings on emotionality, I'm thinking of changing my online dating profile to just a long series of exclamation points. !!!!!