Love In The Time Of Algorithms

Eureka! Scientists Decode The Best Online Dating Profiles

Just in time for V-day, intrepid researchers have discovered the scientific tricks behind the most alluring online dating profiles.

02.12.15 11:30 PM ET

Intrepid men and women with a drive to explain the unknowable have long answered the great mysteries of the universe, and of the human condition, with science. Penicillin, the genome, evolution and the Big Bang: these are the breakthroughs that shape our world.

Today, new research published in the BMJ’s journal, Evidence Based Medicine, adds to that glittering pantheon.

Scientists from Barts, the London School of Medicine, and The University of North Texas have discovered the secret to the perfect online dating profile.

It’s a breakthrough, they say, that will have would-be lovers swiping right and boosting their odds of moving a romance from awkward Internet messaging to real-life date nights.

In a meta-analysis of 86 psychology, sociology, computer, and behavioral studies, they found answers to the questions that leave online daters paralyzed at their keyboards or searching for the perfect selfie. With a list of eerily specific guidelines—covering everything from the perfect screen name to the wording of that first message—science has the looking for love covered.

And for those who judge breakthroughs in online dating insignificant in the annals of scientific discovery, even Carl Sagan knows that “For small creatures such as we the vastness is bearable only through love.”

The Perfect Handle

Men are simple creatures, the science suggests, so obvious screen names are the most effective. Men gravitate towards positive handles—this isn’t the place for self-deprecation—that intimate the person on the other side of the screen is sexy (stuff like “Blondie” and “Cutie”). Meanwhile, women prefer a screen name that makes its owner sounds smart (“MadeUpOfStarStuff,” perhaps?).

Interestingly enough, the letters that make up your screen name may be even more important than the words they form. Several measures of success, like educational achievement and income, are associated with names that start earlier in the alphabet, according to the study.

And tipping the scale ever-so-slightly on the creepy side, similarity breeds affection, so a user named “Hot4YOU” would be more likely to respond to someone with the related handle “Burning4YOU”. “There is an opportunity to exploit the name-similarity effect by browsing extensively before registration, identifying profiled names of people who you find attractive, and then choosing a similar screen name,” the authors write.

Photos

So the obvious “be good looking” aside, there are a few hacks that give you a better chance of being swiped right. You should have a “genuine smile” in your picture, one that crinkles up your eyes. Women, wear red and slightly tilt your head.

Selfies alone won’t cut it though. You should provide photographic evidence that you have friends. It’s good if you can get a shot of you in the center of a group of people (because, Power), better if you’re a man to have a few women smiling adoringly at you (because, Desire), and best if you’re shown touching another person, but not being touched, because apparently the toucher is perceived to be of a higher status.

Your Headline

First and foremost, be honest, but not brutal in your self-assessment. It’ll be obvious pretty quickly upon meeting if someone is lying, the authors say. Liars “look as if they are thinking hard for no good reason and to converse in a strangely impersonal tone.”

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The perfect description falls in a 70:30 ratio of what you are like to what you want. The researchers suggest the boring but supposedly effective, “Genuine, attractive, outgoing, professional female, good sense of humor, into keeping fit, socializing, music and travel, seeks like-minded, good-natured guy to share quality times.”

In general, the research shows online daters steer gender stereotypical. Men like fit women, but yoga over bodybuilding. Women like bravery, courage and risk-taking more than kindness and altruism.

The tips don’t stop there. The six-page study goes on to offer a practical how-to for online daters including nuggets like: don’t just wink or send a generic message; keep the first missive short and sweet; be enthusiastic; and don’t keep an online paramour waiting.

Read the whole thing here. But consider, singles, while strict guidelines are sure to be a comfort for some in the online dating pool, love is not an exact science—and even stone-cold science needs its skeptics.