On Tinder, millions of people around determine compatibility through a simple process: Swipe®, match, and chat. What drives a right swipe, more often than not, is a user’s carousel of photos. For many active users, the expectation that someone will share not just a headshot, but a full body pic, has become commonplace. But is that expectation fair?
The full body picture debate has been a hum of a conversation since online dating rose in popularity. To turn up the volume on the conversation, I talked to a matchmaker, an online dating expert, a dating coach, and a psychologist. Together we cleared out some of that murky and uncomfortable confluence between attraction and objectification.
Is it fair to expect a full body picture?
After talking with Tinder users who identified as male and female, it was easy to gather that the general consensus is that full body pictures are important. “When we meet people in person, we see the entirety of their look. It feels unnatural to only see someone’s face. If the person only has cropped photos of themselves, it makes me think they’re hiding something, and I’m attracted to confidence,” one user says.
Here’s how the experts weighed in.
Laura Bilotta, Matchmaker: “[…If] someone doesn’t like you based on your full body picture than they’re probably not the kind of person you want to be dating anyway, and it’s better to know that before you end up going on a date and wasting both of your time.”
Eric Resnick, Online Dating Expert: “Different people are into different things — if you hide something, it’s dishonest. To deny physical attraction in online dating is to lie to yourself.”
Damona Hoffman, Certified Dating Coach: “Dating apps aren’t Instagram. It doesn’t matter how many likes or messages you have if you’re not making a real connection IRL. The one thing you might be trying to hide about your body could be the very thing that makes someone attracted to you, so I never recommend hiding who you really are in your profile.”
Dr. Alex Lash, Psychologist: “Everyone should do what makes them feel safe and authentic to themselves. […Some] people may not feel comfortable putting themselves out there in that way and that should be entirely acceptable. […] Additionally, attraction is often found in the in-person details. Very frequently what people believe they are attracted to is not what they actually desire or feel drawn to in person.”
“Dating apps aren’t Instagram. It doesn’t matter how many likes or messages you have if you’re not making a real connection IRL.”
Is it shallow if a user is apprehensive or opposed to meeting someone who doesn’t show their full appearance in photos?
Tinder users were apprehensive about answering this question. There was an awareness that a focus on looks can be considered shallow, but also a sense of defensiveness. In the age of the online catfish, users seem more concerned about being deceived than being empathetic to why another user might not feel comfortable showing their full look online. One user says, “hiding your full body on a dating app is very counterproductive. There’s someone out there for everyone, so disguising elements of who you are just makes it less likely that you’ll find what you’re looking for. If you’re not on the app to be open and honest, you’re wasting your time.”
Here’s what the experts have to say.
Laura Bilotta, Matchmaker: “Basing a date solely on looks is ridiculous. It could be the person of your dreams but they’re three inches shorter than what you want so you won’t go out with them? [In] the end you’re only hurting yourself. Being physically attracted to someone is important but it should always be secondary to personality.”
Eric Resnick, Online Dating Expert: “If you are only looking for attraction, it’s shallow — but it’s a biological imperative to look at attraction as part of it. There’s not one constant of beauty, there’s someone for everyone. ”
Damona Hoffman, Certified Dating Coach: “When someone is over-focused on getting a full body picture, it usually sends the signal that he’s not interested in the substance of a person and they’re primarily focused on a physical relationship which, in itself, can be a huge turnoff for many people.”
Dr. Alex Lash, Psychologist: “It may not necessarily be shallow. Daters have different reasons for wanting to know how a potential date looks and some of them may not be superficial. But the great thing about Tinder is that it’s the user’s choice. Someone does not have an in-depth enough profile or a clear enough photo? No problem. You don’t need to swipe right.”
Is it fair to be disappointed if your date looks very different in person?
The reality is that people don’t always look the same as they do in photos. One user admits, “if someone was trying to sell you a car online and you went to go look at it and it wasn’t the same car you’d be disappointed. Not because it’s not a good car, but because it’s not what you came for.” Though the user admitted this was a harsh analogy, the sentiment is shared by others. “I put everything out there, I have lots of recent images that aren’t even necessarily my best looks, they’re just real. So I expect that from the people I match with. I want to be able to trust that they honor this platform and are being real, too,” another user explains.
Here’s the expert take.
Laura Bilotta, Matchmaker: “[…It’s] OK to be disappointed, but it is shallow to let that impact your date. […] Clearly you liked them enough to go out in the first place so try and move past the pictures and have a good time.”
Damona Hoffman, Certified Dating Coach: “People are rarely the same in person as they were in our dreams. Expectations will often kill a connection which is why I recommend getting offline quickly before you form a false opinion of the person you are about to meet.”
Eric Resnick, Online Dating Expert: “If you are actively curating an online persona that is not accurate to who you really are, what are you expecting as an outcome of that date? You get what you give with these types of platforms. You’re going into a situation hoping to overcome a perceived lie, that’s not a good place to start.”
Dr. Alex Lash, Psychologist: “It is reasonable to be disappointed if the person who shows up to your date looks nothing like the person you were attracted to online. But if you mentally check out at that point and don’t give the person a shot then than you are the one dropping the ball. That said, there are some exceptions. If your date is actually trying to deceive you into believing they are another person, that is not acceptable. General honesty and safety should be paramount in all dating scenarios.”
“Basing a date solely on looks is ridiculous. It could be the person of your dreams but they’re three inches shorter than what you want so you won’t go out with them?”
What are the healthiest etiquette practices and expectations regarding image choices on a dating profile?
Online dating experiences may vary from user to user, but the experts have some general tips that everyone can keep in mind.
Laura Bilotta, Matchmaker: “The main thing people need to do is to give people a chance! […] If you keep dating your ‘type’ and things keep not working out then that’s a sign that your ‘type’ might not actually be what you need for a happy and long-lasting relationship.”
Eric Resnick, Online Dating Expert: “100 first dates will sap you of emotional capital. The people who turn you down based on your image are not losses. That’s not a person who you want to win, so it’s not a failure, it’s the dodging of a bullet.”
Damona Hoffman, Certified Dating Coach: “You might think you’re not attracted to someone with a certain body type, you may have always dated women of the same size but the bottom line is, are you attracted to her or not. I know plenty of larger women who are super sexy and comfortable being themselves and I know even more thin women who feel terrible about themselves and are not in a good place for partnership. […] Like attracts like so if you approach dating apps with a shallow mindset, you are likely to be met with the same kind of judgment in return.”
Dr. Alex Lash, Psychologist: “I think we should think about what is good behavior and reasonable expectations away from our phones and then apply that information to how we act on our phones.”
When it comes to sharing private information online, it’s just that — private. We are our own ethics council when it comes to determining what’s appropriate to disclose on the internet. But when you listen to the choir of users, experts, and psychological professionals, there’s one note they’re all hitting together: when it comes to online dating, your input typically yields a matching output. Most dating experts agree that the more you put yourself out there, the more likely you are to find not just any match, but the right match.