Want to make a good first impression in the world of online dating? It could cost you.
Way back when the Greatest Generation were courting, a good first impression meant attaining a base level of hygiene and human decency. Today, it often requires a stellar online dating profile — something that more people are putting in the hands of paid professionals.
The incentive? Millions of online daters, preening on services like OKCupid, are looking to make real connections. The stakes can be even higher on services like Tinder, which lets people choose each other based on their Facebook photos, and Glimpse, the Instagram-based dating app released for iOS on Tuesday, put a premium on how you present yourself.
So, yeah, that awkward photo from college graduation probably isn't going to cut it. That is why in cities across America, photographers on Craigslist are marketing their ability to craft the perfect online dating profile picture.
Rhe De Ville, a New York City-based actress and photographer, said she has noticed an uptick in people looking for professional profile photos over the last three years.
“In many ways, it’s kind of like an audition,” De Ville, who charges $250 for her services, told NBC News. “You can have a stellar profile, but if that photo isn’t connecting with people, it can kill a chance to meet an interesting person.”
Pro tip from De Ville: Avoid selfies at all cost. (She is talking to you, shirtless, flexing men in a club bathroom). Also, while professional photos are great, stiff headshots aren't. Natural poses are the way to go — ideally in around six total profile photos.
Of course, most people don't end up hiring a photographer. For every amateur photo, you might want to download an app like Beauty Box Photo and Facetune. The latter promises the ability to smooth over “wrinkles and small blemishes” with a swipe, “reshape” your face and patch up bald spots.
An actual line from Facetune’s website: “No one will be able to ignore your deep, penetrating gaze!”
But what if eyes that could burn through steel aren't enough? Then it's time to turn to math. Several books have been recently released by people who "hacked" their way to romance.
Those include "Data, A Love Story: How I Gamed Online Dating to Meet My Match," by Amy Webb, and "Optimal Cupid: Mastering the Hidden Logic of OkCupid," by Christopher McKinlay, the mathematics Ph.D. who was recently featured in Wired for building an algorithm to sort through thousands of women in Los Angeles until he found his optimal date. Creepy? Kind of! But just imagine the stories you will get to tell your cyborg grandchildren.
With Tinder, a few good photos are all that you need, which is great news for really, really, ridiculously good-looking people with limited writing skills.
But what about so-called "inner beauty?" Sites like OKCupid and Match.com require written profiles, which, ideally, let you share some of your personality through the power of words.
Yes, you can outsource that too. People like Lisa Hoehn, of Not-Just-OK Cupid, can simply write your dating profile for you. She talks with clients and peruses their Facebook profiles to find facts and interests that might stand out. Not having a generic profile, she told NBC News, is the best way to get a potential date interested.
“People will list things they can’t live without, and they will put things like ‘laughing’ and ‘my iPhone,’” she said. “Really, those things are true for most people. You’re not going to find someone on an online dating site who hates laughter.”
The freelance writer spends anywhere from three to five hours on each profile, which will cost you around $150. How is business? Hoehn is so busy, she said, that she is looking into hiring more writers.
Everyone Dates Online
It's time to get over your aversion to meeting people through the Internet. In 2005, only 44 percent of Americans thought online dating was a "good way to meet people," according to a study by the Pew Research Center. Compare that to 2013, when a majority of Americans (54 percent) were onboard with meeting a potential partner on the Web.
Conclusion: Online dating is going increasingly mainstream. But that doesn't mean everyone is willing to share their profiles with friends. Instead, many people go to Reddit, where they can get honest — and often supportive and constructive — feedback. It might seem harrowing, but profiles are meant for people you don't know. At least this way you can get some advice in the process.