A mathematician solves the problem of which online dating picture to post

When it comes to online dating, having a good profile photo is of the utmost importance. It sounds superficial, but this isn’t talking to someone at the park or starting up a conversation at a party — on the Internet, you only have a handful of pics to make a digital first impression. It’s kind of a lot of pressure.

There’s tons of online dating advice out there: What to write on your profile, how long to wait before replying to messages . . . Sometimes, it feels like one giant mind game. But all strategy aside, a mathematician ran the numbers and offered up some pretty wise advice for picking a profile pic, as Business Insider first pointed out.

Hannah Fry works at the UCL Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis in London, and gave a TED Talk last year (plus wrote a book, no big) on the subject. She says that we tend to — whether it’s consciously or sub-consciously — display photos that hide things we find unattractive about ourselves.

“The classic example is people who are, perhaps, a little bit overweight deliberately choosing a very cropped photo, or bald men, for example, deliberately choosing pictures where they’re wearing hats,” Fry says in her TED Talk.

And it makes perfect sense. We want to put our “ideal” versions of ourselves out there into the universe, a universe of seemingly narrow beauty standards. Especially in a setting like a dating website, when it’s so easy to feel judged based on your appearance. If you’re self-conscious about your legs, you might crop your picture at the torso. If you’re worried about being judged for having a birthmark, you might choose a photo of a certain angle to hide it. Things we consider “flaws” we try to hide, in order to conform to what we think (or think other people think) is attractive. That’s supposed to work, right? Well, maybe not— Fry says that isn’t the case.

In fact, she believes our photos should embrace what makes us unique—after all that is also what makes us beautiful. And we love that message. She’s also a no joke expert on the topic of online dating, and she believes this method stacks the odds in our favor.

“You should really, instead, play up to whatever it is that makes you different,” she says. There’s a game theory behind this method. If you find someone attractive that you think is unique, you believe you have more of a shot with them because of your personal connectedness and a perceived lack of competition. This means you’re more likely to reach out and make contact with that person.

The most important thing to remember is that “the people who fancy you are just going to fancy you anyway, and the unimportant losers who don’t, well, they only play up to your advantage,” says Fry. Be yourself, and the right person will find you — and love you for YOU!

Check out her TED Talk here.

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[Image via Shutterstock]

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