Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

OKCupid Removes Photos, Discovers People are Shallow

Online dating

Last year OKCupid launched a short-lived app that set up blind dates. (They spent a year and a half working on it, but it was gone from the app store within six months). To celebrate the app’s release in January of last year, OKCupid removed all the pictures from their site on launch day, calling it “Love Is Blind Day.” They discovered some things — some obvious and some maybe not so obvious — about human behavior and dating when their users weren’t able to see what each other looked like for the seven hours that the photos were removed.

First, user engagement was way down during that 7-hour period compared to the same time frame on a regular Tuesday. Also:

– People responded to messages 44% more often
– conversations went deeper (whatever that means)
– contact details (emails and phone numbers) were exchanged more quickly

And then when photos were restored at 4 PM, something happened to the 2,200 conversations that were in progress and had started “blind”: they rapidly dwindled. Maybe not so surprising. But OKCupid did discover something somewhat surprising when they reviewed data of people who actually used the blind date app: women who had dates with guys who were hotter than they were reported feeling less happy about their dates than those women who went out with guys who were more equally-matched to them in the looks department. Maybe those guys were assholes? Or maybe the women felt self-conscious about not being as attractive. Or… maybe there just wasn’t a spark and it turns out that good looks aren’t enough to keep things interesting if there isn’t any chemistry. Shocking, right?

OKCupid also looked at stats from when users could rate each other’s looks (ew) and personality (less ew, but still ew-ish). They found that people who rated more highly for looks were, across the board, rated more highly for personality, too. Even if their profiles contained zero text, leading OKCupid to believe that most users just look at the photos and not the profiles.

After we got rid of the two scales, and replaced them with just one, we ran a direct experiment to confirm our hunch—-that people just look at the picture. We took a small sample of users, and half the time we showed them pictures we hid their profile text. That generated two independent sets of scores for each profile, one score for “the picture and the text together” and one for “the picture alone.” Here’s how they compare. Again, each dot is a user. Essentially, the text is less than 10% of what people think of you.

Screen Shot 2014-07-29 at 9.13.19 AM

So, there you go: people are shallow. Personality isn’t as important as looks. Etc., etc. Of course, this isn’t a controlled experiment, and we don’t know how the average OKCupid user compares to someone who doesn’t use OKCupid (though we can probably make an educated guess), or who doesn’t online date at all. But these are interesting, if depressing, things to think about nonetheless. This post goes on to cover how the myth of compatibility works, at least in terms of OKCupid users, which is also interesting. Like, can the mere suggestion that you are a good match with someone affect whether you believe that to be true? Apparently. Quick, someone tell Ryan Gosling we’d be a great match if anything ever happens to both our significant others…

[via OKCupid Blog]

41 comments… add one
  • Miel

    Miel July 29, 2014, 4:02 pm

    This is not exactly online dating, but my first contact with my now-boyfriend was through facebook, and back then I really built him a personality purely based on his profile picture. He looked hot, confident, but also arrogant and self-centered. I thought he would be a great person to hook up with. So we met and I was already thinking “how many hours do I have to wait until we jump in bed ?”
    .
    But then we met in person and he was completely different than what I had imaged. Sure it was the same guy, but he was shy and soft spoken and he was really different from the person I had imaged. And so instead of just hooking up with him I fell in love with him and we started a relationship.
    .
    I don’t think me judging him based on one picture was shallow, but it definitely colored everything he would write. If you see a written online profile, or when you exchange messages with the person, all of their sentences can be interpreted in a nice/sarcastic/creepy/outspoken/shy way depending on the picture you first saw of them and the general feeling you have about them.
    .
    If the first picture I had seen of my boyfriend was giving the impression he was shy and soft spoken, I would have gone on that first meeting thinking he might become a friend, not thinking I was going to flirt all night.

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    • Addie Pray

      Addie Pray July 29, 2014, 5:09 pm

      Oh you met on FB, perfect, can you help me understand how FB hookups work? Was he a friend of a friend and that’s how you saw his name and little profile pic (e.g., he commented on a friend’s picture or something so you noticed him)? Or were you apart of the same FB group (e.g., like an alumni group page and you saw him comment there)? Or did you do a random search for men within your area and go through the list? But then how would you know he was single and looking? I am really curious how people use FB to cold solicit each other, as opposed to reunited with an old friend or meeting someone IRL or on a blind date and then connecting through FB …. Enlighten me!

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      • Addie Pray

        Addie Pray July 29, 2014, 5:10 pm

        I know I’ve asked this before (not of you but generally) but I still don’t get how it works.

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      • Miel

        Miel July 29, 2014, 5:40 pm

        We were part of a facebook group for student studying abroad in Germany. People would post things like “I want to go visit this city next weekend, who’s with me?” and people would comment and organize trips like that. I posted that I wanted to go see the Alps and he answered he wanted to go too. So we agreed on a certain weekend and at first that was it… And then the weekend was almost there and we hadn’t booked hostel beds yet, so I found this hostel that still had one private bedroom with two twin beds. You need to book the two beds at once, so I did that then messaged him “do you still want to come, because I have a bed for you!” And that’s how we became facebook friend (so we could chat and organize the trip now that I had booked a room without his knowledge).
        .
        I think on the first facebook conversation we had, we both succeeded at saying something that implied we were single. And I guess the fact that we would share a room + being single + said so in our first conversation meant flirting was ok.
        .
        Actually it’s funny. Today is the three years anniversary of our first meeting. The day where I went “Hopefully it wasn’t a mistake to book a room for the two of us”.

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      • Addie Pray

        Addie Pray July 29, 2014, 6:14 pm

        Awww, that makes complete sense, and that’s cute!!!!
        *
        So next nosy question: did you hook up on the trip? 😉

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      • Addie Pray

        Addie Pray July 29, 2014, 6:15 pm

        Also, i’d like to just point how how BEING A STUDENT ROCKS

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      • Addie Pray

        Addie Pray July 29, 2014, 6:15 pm

        Also, i’d like to just point how how BEING A STUDENT ROCKS

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      • Addie Pray

        Addie Pray July 29, 2014, 6:16 pm

        (oops, hit submit before I finished my thought.) Only in college does shit like that happen. Never ever not once in the practice of law have I found myself in a group, traveling with a hot guy that I whoospie have to share a room with. It’s not fair, really.

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      • Miel

        Miel July 29, 2014, 7:33 pm

        When we opened the door of the hostel room we saw that this “two twin beds” thing was a lie and we only had one king bed. So OBVIOUSLY we hooked up. Destiny wanted us to hook up and the king bed was just the biggest hint it put on our way.

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  • Lyra

    Lyra July 29, 2014, 4:06 pm

    Yeah I remember when I was OKC, I was suuuuper intimidated by the super hot guys. There were a couple who I messaged — because why the heck not??? — but I mostly stayed within my own perceived “hotness” zone. I think I would just be too insecure to date someone a lot more attractive than I am. I think I’m pretty most days, but definitely not “hot” as it were.

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    • avatar

      lets_be_honest July 29, 2014, 4:30 pm

      That’s interesting. I would think the opposite would happen – that you’d really like to be with a guy hotter than you because, well, he’s really hot, and/or you would be more secure in your looks just because a “super hot guy” wanted to date you.

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      • avatar

        HmC July 29, 2014, 5:33 pm

        No way. Most people self select into their same hotness range (*cringe*) for a reason. It makes sense that we would do that biologically… somehow. Okay I need to stop citing vague studies and get some coffee and actually try and research what I am talking about.

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      • avatar

        ktfran July 29, 2014, 5:37 pm

        Yeah. I don’t date your typical super hot guy. I’ll look, but I’m usually not attracted enough to date them. Although, I thought the kid was pretty hot. But looks are subjective.

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      • avatar

        HmC July 29, 2014, 5:44 pm

        Looks are subjective but they’re also not subjective. Whether you are personally attracted to someone is subjective, because you have internalized what you believe you are capable of attracting and that has informed what you are attracted to. A lot of what humans find objectively attractive, from afar, is similar across the board- clear skin, symmetrical features, muscles that are toned, thinness (but not too thin), certain size boobs and hip ratios on women etc. So interesting!

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      • Portia

        Portia July 31, 2014, 12:36 am

        I totally see your point that there is the same general features that people are attracted to, but that there’s got to be a more subjective, individualized attraction in each of us. When I met Bassanio I thought he was pretty much the hottest guy who’d ever paid attention to me, I was so intimidated. I still can’t believe I talked to him the first night we met. When we started dating a year later and I had friends who were like, well I don’t personally find him that attractive, I remember being confused. To me, he was obviously very attractive, and not just in the unconventionally-attractive way.

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      • avatar

        HmC July 29, 2014, 5:37 pm

        Maybe something about maximizing the possibility that the best possible partner will like us back? I watched a documentary about human attraction and it showed how people develop a sense of their own attractiveness growing up based on their interaction with other people ie. rejections, not rejections. We then internalize and learn to be attracted to the best potential mates that are likely to like us back. Sorry this is so vague and must be annoying to the smart science type people here. I can’t help myself I find this topic fascinating!

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      • avatar

        lets_be_honest July 29, 2014, 5:38 pm

        Haha, I will trust your “study” then. The only downside I could see to dating a much hotter person is people throwing themselves at the much hotter person, thereby I guess upping the chance of him/her cheating? Idk. I don’t really get why dating someone hotter would make you insecure. Maybe its good I don’t get that though.

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      • Lyra

        Lyra July 29, 2014, 5:39 pm

        Well would YOU feel more secure if a super hot (and I’m talking SUPER hot) guy was dating you? Personally I have issues with certain parts of my body and I would be more self conscious than anything. There is a reason why many people tend to date people who are on the same “level” as they are.

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      • avatar

        lets_be_honest July 29, 2014, 5:45 pm

        Oh, see I was just thinking maybe you meant prior to dating, you’d feel insecure he’d shoot you down. That I could understand.
        Anyway, I still don’t get why you’d feel that way. Obviously if SHG (super hot guy) was dating you, it’d be because he presumably likes banging you or looking at you, in addition to personality, so I would think that would make you feel like, oh, wow, I guess I AM hotter than I thought or that hey, SHG likes me too! Look at this hottie on my arm. Or something like that.
        My boyfriend (obviously, imo) is way hotter than me, but I guess he also says that he likes the things I don’t like about my body, so it negates the chance for being insecure?

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      • Lyra

        Lyra July 29, 2014, 6:03 pm

        Well, I guess I know my own attractiveness and a guy isn’t going to change that. I don’t feel more or less attractive just because of a guy.

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      • Lyra

        Lyra July 29, 2014, 6:06 pm

        Case in point I (obviously) find Navy Guy attractive. I wouldn’t say he’s hotter than me per se, but he’s definitely a cutie. He makes me feel special and I know he finds me pretty, but my self esteem/self confidence is the same regardless of any compliments that he gives me.

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      • avatar

        lets_be_honest July 29, 2014, 6:12 pm

        If a guy isnt changing how you feel about yourself, then why would you feel insecure if he’s hotter?

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      • Lyra

        Lyra July 29, 2014, 10:30 pm

        It’s simply what makes me most comfortable. I know this happens a lot to a lot of people. I’d say 98% of the couples I know, both parties are on a similar scale attractiveness wise.

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      • avatar

        lets_be_honest July 29, 2014, 5:47 pm

        I guess I understand a bit actually. Like if you had a weird thing you don’t like about your body, you presume that in his body perfection, he would be like wtf is that? Because he’s not used to anything but super hotness?
        Or that he’s only been way Super Hot Girls?

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      • avatar

        HmC July 29, 2014, 5:49 pm

        Lyra I think if you were a SUPER hot woman and used to dating guys of a certain level of attractiveness, you would be more likely to feel comfortable doing so. Of course other things play into attractiveness- if you have super low self-esteem that might bring you down a notch, if you have super high status that might bring you up a notch, just in terms of who you feel comfortable dating.

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      • Lyra

        Lyra July 29, 2014, 6:00 pm

        Exactly. I consider myself very average, yet I have a high self esteem. I love myself. I feel pretty most days. I simply tend to date people who I think are on the same level as me.

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      • Dear Wendy

        Dear Wendy July 29, 2014, 6:28 pm

        I went out with a guy once who was super totally fit. His face was cute, but it was really his body that was like men’s fitness magazine quality. And I felt pretty insecure about my body in his presence. And this was many moons ago when I was in my early 20s and thin and perky and everything. I mean, I had fun making out with him, but mostly for the novelty of it (“I’m kissing a super hot guy!”), knowing I wouldn’t go out with him again (beyond feeling insecure about myself in comparison, we just didn’t have much in common and he didn’t make me laugh).

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      • Lyra

        Lyra July 29, 2014, 10:19 pm

        This exactly. I don’t feel like I have major insecurities or anything, I just think that a ton of people tend to date people who are similar in looks and I’m one of them. I’m simply most natural and comfortable when dating someone who I find to be on the same level of attractiveness.

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    • avatar

      RedroverRedrover July 30, 2014, 5:57 pm

      I think that’s a female thing. Men don’t seem to have that issue, judging by the number of rich unattractive guys who have hot women for wives/girlfriends.

      Also, I remember reading an article about a study that showed that the most stable relationships were the ones where the woman was more attractive than the man, and the least stable were the ones where the man was more attractive than the woman. For whatever that’s worth.

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  • avatar

    HmC July 29, 2014, 5:32 pm

    Maybe I am naive or over-simplifying, but I do feel like you can tell a lot about someone’s personality through their pictures. You see their styling, their clothes, possibly their interests. But you know, more than that, I really feel like looking at someone’s face smiling gives you more than just superficial information. Wasn’t there a study about that somewhere? I really feel like there was!

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  • Portia

    Portia July 29, 2014, 5:47 pm

    As someone who met pretty much everyone I dated as a teenager (before facebook and before internet dating was a common thing), I find this all fascinating! I also met everyone I had a romantic thing with in person, most of which were from my school or my summer job, so at most I would see them from afar or hear about them from mutual friends, but no social media contact.
    .
    These days, everyone’s internet persona is such a curated look at their life, I feel like it can be so easy to pre-judge people, and pre-judge them wrongly. Even on here, the people I’ve met in person did not really line up with how I imagined they would look necessarily, but mostly I got a good sense of their personalities and that matched up.

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  • Skittlegryph

    Skittlegryph July 29, 2014, 7:49 pm

    My boyfriend and I met on OKC. I came across his profile, thought he was pretty good lookin’, and got too intimidated to message him. Wake up the next morning and he’s messaged me! That was four years ago.

    I guess that didn’t contribute much to the discussion, haha.

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  • Classic

    Classic July 29, 2014, 9:08 pm

    When I met Ronon on OKC, each of us had only a single profile picture, and both his and mine had been taken from far away. Each of our single profile photos was a huge landscape with each of us seen from far away– just enough to make out that I am a legitimate female human and he is an actual male human. We each had answered more than 1,000 OKC questions, and OKC had us at 99% match.
    Can’t say what this means here (need Fabelle!)
    We were both the same, both looking for very compatible real person of opposite sex.

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    • Dear Wendy

      Dear Wendy July 29, 2014, 9:55 pm

      I love this.

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      • Classic

        Classic July 29, 2014, 11:26 pm

        Thank you, dear Wendy, for helping me find someone for me! And thanks to your DW community too. It took a long time, but it is so worth it! Happy 🙂

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  • Cassie

    Cassie July 30, 2014, 12:19 am

    There used to be a show on TV called Dating in the Dark. People were set up with each other on dates in a completely dark room, and after the relationships progressed a number of dates they would finally be able to see each other and decide if they wanted to date in real life as well. It was fascinating, but also really, really sad because even with some amazing personality connections, people would get turned off based on appearance.

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    • Cassie

      Cassie July 30, 2014, 12:25 am

      Also, it was a reality TV show, so chances are it was fake. But still.

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  • Nookie

    Nookie July 30, 2014, 6:21 am

    We’ve got our eyes pointing the same way on our heads, we are visual creatures. It’s no surprise to me that people are interested in meeting people that they’re physically attracted to and online dating sites don’t really give you the overall impression of the person. Most of the time, all that online sites can give us is the visual – it’s up to us what we think when we meet them.
    .
    I remember a friend of a friend that was totally smoking, I crushed on his looks hard. But when I met him, I realised quickly we were looking for different things. Never hooked up with him knowing that.
    .
    With the Cockney, we met via email. He sent me a picture and I was surprised he was as old as he was, I had had the impression he was much younger. We chatted quite a bit and made each other laugh before we met in person and I instantly felt attracted based on his look and personality… but really, it was the latter that hooked me.

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  • veracityb

    veracityb July 31, 2014, 2:16 am

    But isn’t it so weird how chemistry plays a part in how attracted you are to someone, an indefinable something that pulls you together? So I sort of dated someone for a couple of months before my current boyfriend, and he was objectively speaking pretty hot. As in, everyone I showed his picture to were like “mmm, he’s hot!”. And while we had good sexual chemistry and we got on pretty well, something was definitely missing. We just couldn’t connect romantically on an emotional level, despite quite involved conversations about our lives and being genuinely quite fond of each other. And then I met my boyfriend. We both thought there was something different about the other person. While he is good looking – cute I’d say – it wasn’t that I was primarily responding to, but his kind energy and a feeling that here was a real possibility.. Everything seemed to fall into place, like that feeling when you slot in that final jigsaw piece. It’s been very very quick, which is odd for historically cautious daters like us, but hey, it feels amazing. I met them both online. But I remember feeling a bit “Meh but why not” while looking at the first guy’s profile pics (as in, there seems no cogent reason not to message/click like) but “he looks kind and sweet” with my boyfriend’s online pics (although it was also not a “sheeeet, how hot is he??!” sort of thing). Very subtle but ultimately telling energy shifts in my responses to their profiles I think.

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