Online dating has become the norm rather than a rarity, with statistics showing one in ten Americans have used an online dating site or mobile app. Now researchers have taken a scientific approach to figuring out what can make or break a potential first date while looking for love online.
Researchers from Queen Mary University of London gathered data from 86 published psychology and sociology studies about attraction and persuasion. By analyzing computer, behavioral and neurocognitive science, they were able to find the most effective approaches between men and women trying use online contact to get a first date.
The findings, published in the journal Evidence Based Medicine revealed that while a profile picture is important, there are other factors that play just as large a role in determining whether you spark a fellow user’s interest.
What’s in a name?
In addition to your picture, the first thing another online dating user sees is your user name.
Khalid Khan, lead study researcher and professor of women’s health at Queen Mary University of London, said choosing a profile name beginning with the letters A through M can have a positive influence on how other users view you.
“Starting a screen name with a letter in the top half of the alphabet is surprisingly important, because several measures of success, such as educational attainment and income, are linked to names higher up the alphabet,” Khan said. “Add to this the fact that search engines sort names alphabetically.”
When it comes to what your profile name says about you, researchers found small words can make a big difference. Their data showed men are more drawn to names that suggest physical attractiveness, like ‘cutie’ while women tend to favor names that hint at intelligence, such as ‘cultured.’
"People are also attracted to those similar to themselves,” he said. “So before setting up your profile, look at the profiles of people you find attractive and choose a name with a likeness.”
Trends showed names with negative associations such as 'little' or 'bug' should be avoided.
“It seems obvious to say an attractive photo is best, but try and include features such as a genuine smile that crinkles up the eyes, and possibly a tilt of the head,” Khan said.
Most online dating profile pictures feature the person in a solo shot, but researchers said people shouldn't limit themselves to selfies. They found group photos showing other people having a good time in your company can be more effective. They recommend choosing a photo where you are featured right in the middle of the action, preferably touching another person to convey friendliness, importance and status.
For men, choosing a photo where other women are smiling at him could make him seem more attractive to prospective users. For women seeking men, researchers found wearing red has a higher success rate in catching the eye of potential matches.
Researchers analyzed several different factors that can affect how other users feel about your profile. The biggest turnoff, they found, was using language that was too complex.
Khan suggested using words that are easy to remember and pronounce, because analysis showed simplicity in processing profile information increased likability.
“Steer clear of fiction in your profile, written information could come back to bite you,” he said. “Bear in mind that likeability is more attractive than academic achievement and that a profile that appears genuine is more likely to generate interest."
Khan told FoxNews.com that success in converting initial online contact to a first date is not a complex formula.
“Just like when you meet someone in real life, simple actions such as showing interest in the other person, like commenting on something in their profile rather than just talking about yourself, goes a long way,” he said.
Once an interest in another user has been sparked, research showed the most effective way to correspond was by personalizing emails instead of making them generic and to keep them short. After making initial contact, be sure to ask questions, give some personal info and try to use humor. Lastly, researchers said, contrary to popular belief, eagerness did not prove to be a turn-off in the study, so respond promptly.
“Those who have not been finding success with their online dating profile should go through these findings and see if they can use any of the advice to improve the image they're portraying of themselves online,” Khan said.