Intrepid men and women eager to explain the unknowable have long answered the great mysteries of the universe and the human condition through science. Penicillin, the genome, evolution and the Big Bang: these are the advances that shape our world.
Today, new research published in the BMJ journal, Evidence-based medicine, adds to this sparkling pantheon.
Scientists at Barts, the London School of Medicine and the University of North Texas have uncovered the secret to the perfect online dating profile.
It’s a breakthrough, they say, that will allow future lovers to slide right and increase their chances of taking romance from awkward internet messaging to actual date nights.
In a meta-analysis of 86 studies in psychology, sociology, computer science, and behavior, they found answers to questions that leave online daters paralyzed in front of their keyboard or in search of the perfect selfie. With a list of weirdly specific guidelines – covering everything from the perfect screen name to the wording of that first post – the science covers the search for love.
And for those who deem the breakthroughs in online dating insignificant in the annals of scientific discovery, even Carl Sagan knows that “For little creatures like us, immensity is bearable only through love.”
The perfect grip
Men are simple creatures, science suggests, so obvious screen names are the most effective. Men turn to positive handles – this is not the place for self-deprecation – that intimate that 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 smart (“MadeUpOfStarStuff”, maybe?).
Interestingly enough, the letters that make up your nickname can be even more important than the words they form. According to the study, several measures of success, such as education level and income, are associated with names that start earlier in the alphabet.
And if you tip the scales slightly to the scary side, similarity breeds affection, so a user named “Hot4YOU” would be more likely to respond to someone with the associated alias “Burning4YOU”. “You can exploit the name similarity effect by browsing a lot before recording, identifying the profile names of people you find attractive, and then choosing a similar nickname,” the authors write.
So aside from the obvious “looking good”, there are a few hacks that give you a better chance of being swept right. You should have a “real smile” in your photo, a smile that squinters. Women, wear red and tilt your head slightly.
Selfies alone will not be enough. You must provide photographic evidence that you have friends. It’s good if you can take a photo of yourself in the center of a group of people (because, Power), better if you are a man to have a few women smiling at you adoringly (because, Desire), and better if you are shown to touch another person, but not to be touched, as touching is apparently seen to be of a higher status.
First of all, be honest, but not blunt in your self-assessment. It will be obvious fairly quickly when meeting if someone is lying, say the authors. Liars “seem to be thinking for no good reason and conversing in a strangely impersonal tone.”
The perfect description falls into a 70:30 ratio of what you are to what you want. Researchers suggest the boring but supposedly effective, “Authentic, attractive, outgoing, professional woman with a good sense of humor, to stay fit, socialize, listen to music and travel, seeks a like-minded man and in a good mood to share quality moments. “
In general, research shows that online daters drive gender stereotypes. Men like fit women, but yoga over weight training. Women like bravery, courage and risk taking more than kindness and altruism.
The advice doesn’t stop there. The six-page study then offers a handy manual for online daters, including nuggets such as: don’t just wink or send a generic message; keep the first letter short and sweet; Be enthusiastic; and don’t keep a lover waiting in line.