Online dating relies on two pieces of information: pictures and profiles. I’ve heard of this new form of finding your match being called ‘data dating.’ Unlike how it was back in my day, that guy becomes a fully formed image in a piecemeal fashion; you see his primary picture that pops up first, and if that’s impressive, you look at any other photographs he’s posted; if you had any interest from what you saw, you clicked on his profile to read his description of himself and what he’s looking for. Then if his pic and profile appealed to you, you’d click the ‘Like’ button in whatever form that site used. If you really wanted to get his attention– you’d send a message to try and get a written conversation stream going. After that, you’d check the site to see if he responded and if he did, you’d reply back and end that message with a question to keep things going.
From the messaging, you’d see his ability to write and convey his thoughts, get a sense of his conversational style, and gather more details about what he’d written in his profile. At that point in the process, you’d have the pics, profile, his style of emailing/messaging and would possibly move to the next step of talking on the phone. Then you’d know what his voice sounded like–his accent, tone, ease in conversing, warmth or hesitance in how he carried the conversation. If that conversation went well, then you’d move onto the next step: meeting in person for what I’ve now termed a date/interview because it’s not like first dates back in the day.
Finally, at that first meeting, the entire person would come together from the pics, profiles, messaging and talking on the phone. In the old days, you’d have a fully formed person from the beginning–except, perhaps, their writing style and ability because most likely he wouldn’t have written you a note and we sure didn’t have email or texting back then. You may have known the guy from your homeroom class, when you’d see him, hear his voice, see his style of interacting, and know what it was like to be in his presence; he would not have come to you in a piecemeal fashion.
But in these online dating times, you start with a picture.
When I began this journey, I was amazed at the wide variation of what guys posted as their primary picture. I was aghast at the number of pictures that appeared that they sat up in bed and took a selfie– before they’d washed their face or combed their hair, some even daring enough to stand and show their bare chests.
“Put a shirt on!” I said to the guy in this picture.
Really? You couldn’t go to more effort than that? I thought, sitting on my sofa in the privacy of my apartment, finding my entertainment during COVID going through the potential matches offered by the site.
If he doesn’t have any more care than that who’s going to want to go out with him?
Some of the guys took a different route. I think they’d heard that women wanted you to have a sense of humor. One guy posted a pic wearing ginormous clown glasses and I couldn’t see anything funny about that photo; it just appeared corny. Another guy posed with a small fish holding it like he was about to eat that which I presumed he’d caught. What is it with the guys who like to fish? I mentioned in a previous post that I’d had offers from older men to go fishing with them–even go to one’s house afterwards and cook what we’d caught.
There were men who posted pictures that were professional– headshots for work or Linked in. Those were impressive but they didn’t tell the whole story, either. One man, that I met for coffee, had a nice photo and described his work in an academic setting– a professor with a Ph D. We messaged on the site, didn’t talk on the phone and decided to meet for coffee. It was early on during this journey and I later thought I should have talked with him on the phone first; you can hear some of a man’s age in his voice.
When we met at the coffee shop, I was glad I knew we were meeting at eleven o’clock. I got there first and stood at a distance waiting for him. The man, who walked in shortly after eleven, would have looked like the profile headshot if it had been taken at least fifteen years prior. Why hadn’t I asked him when the photo was taken since he put no date on that picture and had no others to compare?
I walked over to him and said, “Michael?” It was a question because he sure didn’t appear as I’d thought.
We took our coffees to the patio area and sat at a pandemic distance. We eased into a conversation about the weather, work we’d been doing and other intro topics. I found myself distracted by this now fully formed man. He appeared like someone’s older uncle, the lightness of the profile picture replaced by a tired, wrinkled, I’m-much-older appearance. We managed the coffee ‘date’ for a respectful hour; then he had to get back to his work.
Thank goodness, I thought, as we finished and walked out, thanking each other for the time and making no mention of any future meet ups. Note to self— ask for the dates when those pictures were taken.
There are guys who post pictures that are like cover ups. The most obvious one, especially for older men, are those who only have pictures wearing a hat or baseball cap. You assume they’re bald underneath. Some will post accompanying photographs that tell the whole story–their receding hairline or baldness laid bare for the picture. I found I preferred the guys who embraced their head with less-hair-than-before; it showed a confidence that the cap-covered heads didn’t. I was reminded of my discovery when I was bald after undergoing chemotherapy for breast cancer. When I saw other women who’d lost their hair, too–I started looking more at the beauty of their faces than the crowning glory of their hair; I saw them. That’s how I felt about the pictures of the guys without hair.
Some men have hair but only post a pic wearing sunglasses. Recently, a man named, Bob sent me a like and a message. His only picture was taken outside wearing sunglasses. I liked what he’d said in his profile– we seemed to have similar interests and values. But I wished he had more pictures; with his eyes covered it felt like he was mostly hidden. Aren’t your eyes called “the windows to your soul”?
I complained to my son, Ross about the photographs that guys posted.
“I don’t get it. Why don’t these guys post better pictures?” I asked my ‘baby’ boy who’s declared that he’s the “online dating expert in our family.”
He waited a little, then answered.
“Mama, you know guys are lazy,” he reminded me, mother of two sons. “Besides, they don’t have as many pictures on their phones as girls have.”
I considered this perspective from a thirty-four year old man, who was also my child.
“Oh, I hadn’t thought about that,” I responded, and marveled at the role reversal, my son becoming my online dating coach.
Some guys did post more pictures, including shots with their dogs, daughters, and grandchildren. I thought that some of the men were pushing their luck with posting pictures with their puppies. If it was a breed of dog I especially liked–Goldens or Labrador retrievers– the dog could upstage his master.
“I like your dog. But you– not so much,” I’d say to the picture– wishing I could pet that dog. I thought of my Madison, my last Golden Retriever whom I missed so much during the sheltering in place.
For some men, it seemed that the pictures with their daughters were like a prop. They were showing a precious family member who seemingly gave them courage by posing with dad in his primary picture. Sometimes they’d say that she’d ‘put them up’ to going online to date. I was always touched by a photo of a man, dressed in a tuxedo and ushering his daughter down the aisle on her wedding day. I know how special it is when your child marries and I know the pain of not having your dad usher you down the aisle. Likewise, there are many photos of men holding their grandchildren and I instantly connect with them. I know that joy and we’re at least compatible on that score.
I kept going through pictures and one man, who’d sent me a like, had a nice profile pic in a white button-down shirt and stylish, not-too-baggy jeans. It’s a casual pic and he mentioned working in real estate–maybe a photo from his worksite that showed his easy-going realtor persona. He had other pics: standing on a dock looking into the distance–a photo that illustrated his love of the beach; another with him standing on the porch of a sprawling house.
It was his final picture that stopped me. He had on a baseball cap– turned backwards, harkening to his youth. One foot was propped up on a workout bench with a weight room in the background. He had on a Gold’s Gym tank and his shoulders were broad and strong and his arm muscles were bulging. He looked straight into the camera with a slight smile.
“Oh, my!” I said aloud. “Put a shirt on!”
I felt breathless, like I was twenty, seeing this guy on the beach. Was he for real or was he one of the many scammers who’d photo-lifted the pictures of some unsuspecting handsome man or a posing actor? Surely he was not a real man, who I’d actually meet, and would really look like his picture.
I’d had enough of looking at pictures: the good, the bad, the ugly. All the pictures were representations and many of them weren’t accurate. A picture may not be worth a thousand words when they were taken carelessly, not dated, covered up part of the truth, or offered up a possibility that probably wasn’t possible.
Maybe my friends are right; maybe I’ll meet my match the natural way, like we did in the past.
But—until then, I’m stubborn, maybe tenacious, and I keep on thinking that it’s a numbers game, like Ross has told me repeatedly. The more pics and profiles you view, the more attempts you make at finding your online match, the more you increase your chances that one day you’ll meet the right person. Ross did.
How have you been misled by pictures before you met someone in person?
What do your photographs say about you?
Do you use props in your photos that give you courage?