Navigating yourself around the world of online dating might seem like a fine art. However, the likes of Tinder, OkCupid, and others provide a huge amount of statistical data that give social scientists and psychologists new avenues to explore. Within this exploration of human behavior in the information age, researchers have identified the golden rule for dating through these technological cupids.
The study from the University of Iowa looked into the psychology of how different types of content swayed people on online dating sites. They gathered over 300 participants – from a selection of ethnicities, ages, sexualities, and backgrounds – and asked them to view a series of OKCupid profiles that featured three main sections: “Self-summary”, “What I’m doing with my life”, and “I’m really good at…” They were then asked to measure their levels of "social attraction", "trust", "desire to date", and "likelihood of contact" on a 1 to 5 scale.
Now, a little bit of selective self-presentation – where a person plays up their positives and edits out their downfalls – is expected. Realistically, everybody is going to put up their best Facebook photo.
However, the study's results suggest that the golden rule is to go easy on this pick-and-choose selection process, as you run the risk of appearing flashy or boastful. But this is not strictly because users are concerned they might fall for a narcissist.
“We found people want to contact a person who appears to be accurate in what they are saying about themselves online,” study author Andy High, assistant professor in the Department of Communication Studies, said in a statement. “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.”
It’s more to do with potential daters thinking the profile is too good to be true – perhaps a valid concern when “catfishes” and bot profiles are rife. The study notes: “Users of online dating sites are aware that people misrepresent themselves, and inaccurate profiles are one of the biggest drawbacks to using online dating sites.”
According to the researchers, the trick is to strike a balance between staying humble and realistic, while promoting all your positive attributes.
In the words of Andy High: “You want to balance all that is wonderful about yourself with some things that aren’t negative, but more humble or realistic about yourself.”
“It’s important to put your best foot forward,” he adds, “but maybe not in your best pair of shoes.”