Início > Computadores e Internet > Mitos sobre Fotos em Redes Sociais

Mitos sobre Fotos em Redes Sociais

The 4 Big Myths of Profile Pictures

January 20th, 2010 by Christian

old friends. I am back from dark months of data mining, here now to
present my ores. To write this piece, we cataloged over 7,000
photographs on, analyzing three primary things:

  • Facial Attitude. Is the person smiling? Staring straight ahead? Doing that flirty lip-pursing thing?
  • Photo Context. Is there alcohol? Is there a pet? Is the photo outdoors? Is it in a bedroom?
  • Skin. How much skin is the person showing? How much face? How much breasts? How much ripped abs?

In looking closely at the astonishingly wide variety of ways our
users have chosen to represent themselves, we discovered much of the
collective wisdom about profile pictures was wrong. For interested
readers, I explain our measurement process, and how we collected our
data, at the end of the post. All my bar charts are zeroed on the
average picture. Now to the data.

It’s better to smile

One of the first things we noticed when diving into our pool of
photos is that men and women have very different approaches to the

Women smile almost twice as often as men do and make that flirty-face four times as often.

Now, you’re always told to look happy and make eye contact in social
situations, but at least for your online dating photo, that’s just not
optimal advice. For women, a smile isn’t strictly better: she actually
gets the most messages by flirting directly into the camera, like the
center and right-hand subjects above.

Notice that, however, that flirting away from the camera is
the single worst attitude a woman can take. Certain social etiquettes
apply even online: if you’re going to be making eyes at someone, it
should be with the person looking at your picture.

Men’s photos are most effective when they look away from the camera and don’t smile:

Maybe women want a little mystery. What is he looking at? Slashdot? Or Engadget?

It’s interesting that while making flirty eye contact is relatively okay for men, flirting away from the camera is the worst thing they, too, can do.

You shouldn’t take your picture with your phone or webcam

The rationale behind this myth seems solid: cell-phones and webcams
take low-end photos; when the camera’s fixed on your desktop or at the
end of your arm, the context of the photo is bound to be pretty
mundane; and there’s the avoidable creepiness of someone lurking in the
dark, in front of the computer, snapping his own button.

So we were very surprised to discover that for both genders, self-shot pictures are more successful than average:

Granted, the benefit of a self-shot photo is small (I’m not exactly
sure what a guy’s supposed to do with that extra tenth of a girl he
talks to), but given our expectations and the prevalence of advice against
taking your own picture for a dating profile, we thought this result
was noteworthy. Perhaps what these photos lack in technological quality
they make up for in intimacy, and it’s undeniable that at their best,
self-shot pics can have an approachable, casual vibe that makes you
feel already close to the subject.

This finding led us to investigate a controversial women-only subset
of the self-shot picture: the universally maligned “MySpace Shot,”
taken by holding your camera above your head and being just so darn coy.

We were sure that everyone thought these pictures were kinda lame. In fact, the prospect of producing hard data on just how lame got us all excited. But we were so wrong.

In terms of getting new messages, the MySpace Shot is the single most effective photo type for women.
We at first thought this was just because, typically, you can kind of
see down the girl’s shirt with the camera at that angle—indeed, that
seems to be the point of shot in the first place—so we excluded all
cleavage-showing shots from the pool and ran the numbers again. No
change: it’s still the best shot; better, in fact, than straight-up
boob pics (more on those later).

At least from the perspective of online-dating, and perhaps social
media in general, the MySpace Shot might be the best way for a woman to
take a picture.

Guys should keep their shirts on

The male “Ab Shot” has the same reputation as the MySpace Shot—it’s
an Internet cliché that supposedly everyone thinks is only for bozos.
To wit: a journalist was visiting our office recently, and when we told
her we were researching user photos, the first thing she said was
“please tell me people hate it when guys show off their abs.” We hadn’t
finished running the numbers yet, so we confidently reassured her that
people did. The data contradicted us.

Of course, there is some self-selection here: the guys showing off
their abs are the ones with abs worth showing, and naturally the best
bodies get lots of messages. So we can’t recommend this photo tactic to
every man. But, contrary to everything you read about profile pictures,
if you’re a guy with a nice body, it’s actually better to take off your shirt
than to leave it on. We would never suggest to a Fitzgerald or a Dave
Eggers to limit his profile to 100 words, and so why should guys with
great bodies keep their best asset under wraps?

Dating, both online and off is about playing to your strengths, and
it should be no different for men with muscles, even if the classic
pose is kinda hard to take:

After weeks of sorting through pictures, I started calling these guys headless horsemen.

An interesting caveat here is that a six-pack does seem to have a
short shelf life: the effectiveness of the “abs pic” decreases sharply
with age.

A 19 year-old showing his abs meets just under 1.4 women for every
women he reaches out to, meaning that not only are females responding
to his messages, but many are actually contacting him first. For a 31 year-old ab shower, that ratio has regressed to much closer to the average.

Because of our restricted data set for this post, we can only make
confident claims for 19 to 31 year-olds right now, but it’s our strong
suspicion that this downward trend continues with age. In the future
perhaps we can investigate what’s behind the decline: is it because
older guys and their older abs are inherently less attractive, or
because women as they age find body shots less interesting?

One final point, vis à vis men, their torsos, and the clothing
thereupon: if you’re not the type of guy who can show off your muscles,
don’t veer off in the opposite direction and get all dressed up.
Outfits more sophisticated than a simple collared shirt fare poorly:

The Cleavage Shot

There are no clear myths associated with showing cleavage in your
picture. Most “experts” recommend you don’t, but everyone knows that
breasts get attention, so to treat that recommendation as a “myth”
would be disingenuous. But since the Cleavage Shot is the feminine
analogue of the Ab Shot, and an undisputed online dating archetype, we
thought we should discuss it.

Like the Ab Shot, the Cleavage Shot is very successful, drawing 12.9 new contacts per month, or 49% more than average. But unlike the Abs Shot, this positive effect actually trends against the effects of age.

As you would expect, women get fewer and fewer new messages as they age (which is a topic for another whole post!), but this decrease in new contacts is substantially slower
for women with cleavage pics. A 32 year-old woman showing her body gets
only 1 less message a month than the equivalent 18 year-old; an older
woman not showing off gets 4 messages less, a large relative fall-off
in popularity. The older the woman, the more relatively successful she is showing off her body

We find this anti-aging trend surprising. When we look further into
the data, we can see that as women get older, they are more hesitant to
emphasize their bodies, despite its still being a good strategy (at
least in terms of message volume). Instead, they increasingly choose to
show themselves in non-sexual contexts, like being outdoors:

For women in their late teens and early twenties, body pictures are
the most popular type of shot; outdoor pictures are second. This
ordering is reversed by the mid-twenties.

To wrap up our cleavage discussion, let’s assess the kind
of messages the cleavage-showers are getting. A message like “Hey nice
rack” isn’t really gonna lead anywhere, and isn’t very valuable to the
recipient. We looked a level deeper and analyzed what resulted from the
incoming contacts. Did the messages go unanswered? Did they turn into
legitimate conversations? We didn’t go through anyone’s inbox to do
this; we mathematically modeled a “conversation,” based number of
messages back and forth. And we discovered the following:

This chart gives excellent insight as to why to the subject of this picture:

gets many more meaningful messages than does the subject of this one:

even though the two women are basically the same age, spend the same
amount of time on the site, have similar profile length and quality,
and have the same “attractiveness” as rated by OkCupid’s male
population. If you want worthwhile messages in your inbox, the value of
being conversation-worthy, as opposed to merely sexy, cannot be

Make sure your face is showing

We used to think that the one iron-clad rule of Internet dating
photos was to at least show your face. In fact, we used to give this
very advice on OkCupid’s own photo upload page:

That page reads differently now because we found that all other things being equal whether you show your face really doesn’t affect your messages at all.

When at first these results came back, we didn’t believe it. We
installed all kinds of sophisticated photo analysis software libraries,
ran scripts to measure the percentage of face in each of our photos,
generated diabolically meaningless scatter plots:

But the facts were stubborn: your face doesn’t necessarily matter.
In fact, not showing your face can in fact be a positive, as long as
you substitute in something unusual, sexy, or mysterious enough to make
people want to talk to you.

All of the above subjects get far more messages than average, and
yet none of them have outstanding profiles. The pictures do all the
work: in different ways, they pique the viewer’s curiosity and say a
lot about who the subject is (or wants to be).

Of course, we wouldn’t recommend that you meet someone in person
without first seeing a full photo of them, that still seems like a
recipe for disaster. In the near future, we’re going to be arranging
series of blind dates through the site, and profile photo accuracy vs.
the success of the date will be a big part of the report. Thanks for

How we collected and evaluated this data

Our data set was chosen at random from all users in big cities, with
only one profile photograph, between the ages of 18 and 32. We then
lopped the most and least attractive members of the pool, fearing that
they would skew our results. So all the data in this post is for
“average-looking people;” here’s a graphical representation of that
concept for the female pool.

After a bit more sifting, we finalized our data pool at 7,140 users.
Aside from running each picture through a variety of analysis scripts,
we tagged, by hand, each picture for various contextual indicators. We
double-checked the tags before generating our data.

To quantify “profile success” for women, we used new messages received per active month on the site.

We had to do something different than this for guys, because of the
fundamentally different role they play in the online courtship process:
they are the ones reaching out to new people; women send only a small
fraction of the unsolicited “hellos” that men do. As you’ve seen, the
metric we settled on is, “women met per attempt”, which is:

(new incoming messages + replies to outgoing first contacts)
outgoing first contacts

Basically, this is how many women a guy has a conversation with, per new woman he reaches out to,
and we feel it’s the best way to measure his success per unit time on
OkCupid. Note that if a guy has a particularly compelling photo, this
ratio could exceed 1, as he’d be getting messages from the women who
come across his profile, as well as the women he himself is reaching
out to.

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. . .

We do a lot of math on OkCupid—most of it to help people get dates. The site is totally free. If you’re single, you should check us out.

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