Let’s not beat around the cell-phone screen:  A lot of online dating is based on first impressions — and that includes looks. While there’s nothing wrong with that — we all want to be physically attracted to a potential romantic partner — it is not, in the long-term, the be-all and end-all. In my own dating habits, I’ve noticed myself putting a lot of weight on the photo portion of guys’ profiles and my initial impression of their looks. So, in an effort to gain a more well-rounded view of potential dates, I decided to challenge myself and embark on a little image-free social experiment. After all, a photo may be worth a thousand words, but it certainly doesn’t tell the whole story. 

My goal was to decide whether to Like or Nope based solely on the guy’s personality — or at least as much of it as I could make out from their bio. To ensure I wouldn’t be swayed by any deep baby blues or cheeky smiles, I slapped a sticky note onto my phone to hide the photos. As a writer who has slaved over every word in her profile, my expectations were high.

In each bio, I looked for information about lifestyle, hobbies, emoji use, creativity, and humor. Anything less than a complete sentence or a pretty generous listicle got a left flick of the wrist. And as the matches started rolling in, I learned a hell of a lot.

Figure on what actually matters to you.

As I scrolled through bios, I caught myself being choosier than I would be Liking profiles based on looks. Slowing down helped me realize exactly what I found to be non-negotiable. Guys using their bio word count to poke fun at ladies’ online dating habits? No, thank you! Guys with completely different political and religious beliefs or lifestyles than my own? Let’s not waste each other’s time. For my own purposes, these questions have become the gold standard when deciding whether to Like or Nope. But there are also the little things — the “funny” bios that are obviously copied templates, the “Super Likes™ are an accident” crew — that I’m making more of a conscious decision to overlook. 

You can establish connections right away. 

Just like IRL, the first conversation with someone new on a dating app can be particularly awkward if you don’t have some background information on the person. Liking people whose interests seemed at least tangentially related to mine allowed us both to avoid fishing for topics of conversation and get straight to the good stuff. Many guys chose to initiate convos by pointing out the common interests in our bios (in my case, reading, writing, and foreign languages) and asking for book recommendations or impressing me with their language skills as a follow-up.  

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Those with good bios are also good conversationalists.

Gone were the days of “hey” and “wyd?” Not once did I have to tell some dude how my day was going or whether I had any exciting plans for the evening. These guys brought it with engaging questions or specific comments about my profile. My opening sentence includes a riddle about my country of origin, and at least two-thirds of my matches started our conversation by attempting to guess the country. Not only was it a fun game on both ends, but the challenge gave me insight into whether or not the guy had a deeper global awareness (or, at the very least, decent Google skills). I end my bio with, “I may or may not be writing an article about you.” Not only did a fair amount of men acknowledge the statement, but many even volunteered as interview tributes. Well, guys, here we are!

So, was it worth it? 

I’m not going to lie: Walking around with a sticky note on my phone for a week didn’t land me the dream date I had cooked up in my mind. In fact, although it has led to some deep insights into education systems around the world and whether or not Santorini is worth the hype, my strategy brought on no dates as of yet. But it has saved me the trouble of meeting up with guys only to realize there is zero spark or common ground. 

Since concluding my experiment, I’ve revealed my matches’ faces and was surprised to realize how different my choices would have been had I gone solely based on the photos. While, in some cases, the photo immediately told me there wouldn’t be a continued spark, these were in the minority. For the most part, the guys I would have passed on hit on my mini pet peeves within their photos — the wrong shirt-and-cap combo, low-res images, etc., that would have overshadowed their bio personality under normal circumstances. 

They say it takes a month to form a new habit, but this past week has trained me well. Though the experiment is over, the first place my eyes wander to when choosing whether to Like or Nope is the bio section. Nowadays, the imagery is secondary. And for me, this formula feels right.