The Cheerleader Effect can be misleading

Hey lovebirds! I recently posted a video about the Cheerleader Effect, otherwise known as the idea that people look more attractive in group photos than single shots. I’m not a photo data scientist, and I don’t mean to debunk this study’s core findings—I’ve heard they’re real anecdotally, and I believe I’ve observed those effects in practice. But that doesn’t mean you should overextend this conclusion to assume that every single picture you ever post of yourself again should be a group picture. ESPECIALLY when it comes to online dating!

When you’re trying to attract a mate, you need to stand out. You do NOT want someone to wonder whether that cute friend standing next to you is single! And you don’t want to confuse people about whether the kid you’re holding is yours. You don’t want to show a picture of your extended family when you haven’t even met a potential date yet—it feels WAY too much too soon even though it’s all just pixels on a screen. What seems like a natural feel-good family pic actually telegraphs poor judgment and boundary issues, even if that’s not accurate.

Plus, your profile picture specifically really needs to be eye-catching. It needs to be a clear and fairly close-cropped view of your well-lit face, so that the tiny thumbnail version visible in search results is still somewhat eye-catching and intriguing. After all, you’re trying to stand out from competition, no matter what gender/age/demographic you’re competing in.

Think of it this way: would you post a group shot as your LinkedIn avatar? No, right? That would be totally off for that context. Same deal with online dating; the focus should be on you! If you do feel the need to post shots that demonstrate you’re a social creature, get a shot of you doing something cool activity- or travel-wise. If you must, blur out the faces of other people in the shot (pros only).

And hey, it’s not just me! I got into this on Twitter, and received some great feedback from a researcher and science writer in SF who totally agreed with me but articulated it way more succinctly, haha. So take our collective word for it! :)

There you have it! If you need some photo help, don’t hesitate to ask. I can help you hire someone to shoot you in the right vibe, or just help you pick the best options and crop sizes from your existing photos. Bring ’em on! (And check here for more photo resources!)

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