The case for being alone…in your profile picture

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If you’re trying to show that you’re social by including a picture of you with your friends, it often does the opposite – it looks like you’re trying too hard to show that you’re social.

Online dating experts often give conflicting advice… 3 pictures versus 5 pictures, a long profile versus a short one, listing your salary range versus leaving it blank. But there’s one online dating pointer that most experts can agree on: Be by yourself in your online dating pictures. The last thing you want is to be compared to someone else in your own profile, or this could end up happening to you, too.

People have all kinds of reasons for including others in their photos, and I’m here to debunk them all… and then add two caveats for when it’s A-ok to share some screen time with someone else.

1. I want to show that I’m social.

If you’re trying to show that you’re social by including a picture of you with your friends, it often does the opposite – it looks like you’re trying too hard to show that you’re social. If you have an active social life, your profile should list some of the activities you do (kickball, mahjong, sailing club, etc.), and you’ll therefore have no need to show it in a picture. And we don’t want to make anyone pause to wonder whose profile this is. Remember – don’t let people compare you to your friends!

2. I want to show that really attractive people (often of the opposite sex) are friends with me.

This picture is intimidating on many levels. 1) It makes the person looking at your profile compare him/herself to your picture-mates to determine whether he/she is attractive enough for you. 2) It looks a bit conceited, like you only befriend really attractive people. 3) It makes the person looking at your profile wonder if all of your friends are of the opposite sex. Is there even room for someone else in your life? Lose-lose-lose.

3. I want to show how attractive my ex was so people can see who’s in my league.

This picture is also intimidating. 1) We compare ourselves. 2) We think you’re not over the ex if he/she still takes a prominent spot in your profile. 3) Even if you’re in a picture with just one other person of the opposite sex, we assume it’s an ex, even if it’s just a brother or sister. Again, lose-lose-lose.

4. I want to show how good-looking I am compared to the rest of my friends.

This has the opposite effect of #1. People may think that you’re only attracted to friends who aren’t as attractive as you are and wonder why. Or, more likely, they’ll see right through it. Shallow? Yes. True? Yes. (I’ll spare you a picture for this one.)

What are the two caveats? Children and pets. If you have children, it’s your choice whether to include a photo with them or not. But if you do, one is sufficient, and please add a caption saying that these are your kids. For pets, again, one picture with Fido or Mittens the Kitten is plenty. And remember, don’t just show a picture of your pet without you in it. For all we know, you stopped some guy on the street and asked to take a picture of his pup!

The moral of the story? Being alone is best… in your online dating profile picture, that is.

Got burning questions you’d like answered in a future blog post? E-mail date411@alittlenudge.com

Erika Ettin is the Founder of A Little Nudge, where she helps people navigate the world of online dating. Her services include: writing unique profiles to get you noticed, helping to choose your best profile pictures, writing one-of-a-kind emails to get someone’s attention, and planning dates.  A Little Nudge has been featured in The Washington Post, NPR, Talk Philly, Good Day Philadelphia, JMag (JDate's online magazine), and Ask Men. 

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