Online Dating

Should Online Daters Retouch Their Profile Photos?

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Have you ever seen a selfie that looked a little too good? The staff of The Date Report is divided: should online daters edit their profile photos?

Molly Fitzpatrick and Rachel Sugar are the angel and devil on your shoulder in this debate.

Molly Fitzpatrick: Here’s an idea: in deference to capital-A Authenticity, why not select the most unflattering photo of yourself ever taken as your profile picture? Uh, no. No way. Most people, I think, would find this suggestion resoundingly bonkers. In reality, online daters spend hours poring over potential photos in order to cull the mere handful that construct a vision of their best selves. Is there really any moral difference between digitally fudging a photo and choosing the single most attractive one out of 500 differently posed, differently lit shots taken over a five-year period? As anyone who’s ever met someone from the Internet can attest, that might not truly resemble you anyway. To be clear, I would never recommend that you dramatically alter your appearance. That would be crazy, and wrong, and unfair to all parties involved. But – get that zit off your face. Fix your red eye. In that shot where you’re bent over, smooth out the mystery fold that appeared over your right boob. I certainly don’t care, and neither will your dates.

Rachel Sugar: Here’s my strategy: set the bar as low as possible. Your goal in your picture is to be cute enough to get attention, but not so cute your actual face is a disappointment. “Oh, she was nice, but her actual face was a real disappointment” is not something I want anyone to say about me, ever. If the picture you use is a real, un-retouched picture — and to be clear, fixing red eye is not retouching, it is common sense — then you can go into your date knowing for sure that at least for one split second sometime in your life, that is for real what you looked like. And while there may indeed be no real difference between digital alteration and using that one magic photo from five years ago that totally naturally makes you look like Cate Blanchett, a woman you have never resembled before or since, I would argue that neither serves you. Your teeth are not that white, your skin is not that clear, and you are not, tragically, Cate Blanchett. But somebody probably thinks you’re cute anyway. The point of your picture is to find that person.

M: As warm and fuzzy and life-affirming and belly-tickling as love as, the sausage-making process of online dating is, at its core, stone-cold game theory. There are plenty of fish in the sea (and there are plenty of fish on, for better or for worse. On any given site, thousands of users much like you compete for the clicks of the same potential dates. When you’re out there, alone in the Internet wilderness, you are your sole advocate: a self-salesperson. Consider what that profession normally entails. Cars are polished and waxed before they’re placed on the lot. Homes are routinely staged and tidied before open houses. This real-life retouching is far from disingenuous. It’s standard practice. And, because it is the norm, a salesperson who abstains from it, noble as he or she may be, will ultimately fail to compete with his or her peers. By not looking your best – a goal shared by every other dude and lady on the site – you’re only doing a disservice to yourself. For what it’s worth, I’ll be more than happy to rethink my stance at such time as someone can convince the worldwide online dating community to sign a #nofilter #nomakeup #iwokeuplikethis mutual disarmament treaty.

R: But there’s a difference between #iwokeuplikethis and #generallyonanaverageprettygooddaythisismyface! You can be competitive by looking like the best version of you, the version where your hair looks extra-great but you still have pores, because you are a human person. There are many lessons to be learned from used car salesmen, but overselling your face with Photoshop ain’t one of them. Especially because your oversold face isn’t necessarily even an improvement. I have some professionally retouched photos of myself. They look real dumb. I don’t look significantly prettier, but I definitely look less natural and less fun. Also, more like a person who has professionally retouched photos of herself, which is probably not, like, the main thing I want to lead with. Look, if you wanna Photoshop, Photoshop. Do what makes you comfortable. Advancing the #nofilter Disarmament Treaty is not your job. But before you spend the next six hours artfully and naturally tweaking your pics, seriously consider when the last time you saw someone really promising and then noticed their right boob mystery fold and ran for the hills. You didn’t.