Robert Kneschke /

New research reveals some unorthodox tips for setting yourself apart on dating apps and sites.

The annual harbinger of emotional anxiety we call Valentine's Day is nearly upon us. And many of those still searching for a Valentine are looking online.

One in five Americans between 25 and 34 years old are active or have been active on online dating platforms. Nearly half know someone that's tried online dating or found a spouse or partner on the web. Online dating may have its pitfalls, but there are plenty of potential suitors on offer inside our iPhones and Androids.

But don't jump onto Tinder or with just a headshot and a prayer. Set up your online profile with the assistance of social science. According to new research published by the British Medical Association, there are quantifiable ways to make online dating profiles more attractive. After analyzing more than 80 separate studies, a pair of researchers determined the types of profiles and online behaviors that increase the likelihood of finding a real-life match. Some of their conclusions are predictable, but others are surprising.

Here are some unorthodox ways to make your online profile stand out:

Need a screen name? Go With Allison, Alex, A_Winner—anything near the top of the alphabet

(Flickr/Kyle Van Horn)

The alphabet is one of the first things you learn in school. But they forget to tell you it can lead to personal misery when it comes to where your name falls.

The N-Z group faces special challenges in the world of online dating. If your screen name begins with a letter toward the end of the alphabet (like mine), you can suffer when it comes to alphabetically ordered profiles on dating sites or apps. "Those in the lower quarter of the alphabet will be lost in the bottom of the pile," the researchers conclude. So don't choose a screen name like SamSturgis, or even RicoSuave. The alphabet will conspire against your chances at getting a match.

Stay away from selfies


Online daters frequently go with the ol' selfie when choosing a profile picture. It's understandable; our society is obsessed with the solo photo. But posting a profile photo of yourself might actually be diminishing your overall attractiveness online.

According to the new research, group photos, where a person is seen having a "good time" with others, are more desirable to other online daters than solo shots. Chances improve even more when the dater is at the center of a group photo. That relates "a sense of importance" to potential matches.

Tilt your head

After you've assembled fun friends to flank you for your profile pic, make sure your head is tilted in the photo. Online daters apparently prefer to see faces at an angle, so show your good side. "Still photos have a powerful influence on likeability," and a "slight tilt of the head can also enhance attractiveness," the scholars write.

Women, wear red

According to the research, women who wore red in their pictures received "significantly more contacts" from men on dating sites and mobile applications. The scholars concluded that the color "enhances men's attraction." (Any possible genetic link between men and bulls was not addressed in the study.)

Channel your inner Hemingway

It's not all about looks. Online daters who were perceived as intelligent were more likely to be contacted by others, according to the study. This means that your profile bio, that tiny window through which you can convey your smarts, is crucial. Here's the twist: Don't make it all about you.

Instead, the scholars suggest using the 70:30 rule, where 70 percent of the information is about who you are and the remaining 30 percent is dedicated to the type of person you're attracted to. Be brief. Think Hemingway. Think precision. "Simple language, not over-complicated wording, is likely to result in significantly higher ratings of intelligence," the researchers concluded. "[B]ecause people are naturally drawn to words that are easy to remember."

So remember, K.I.S.S. when describing yourself online: Keep it simple, stupid.

Bust a rhyme

It can be hard to show the real you online. With only photos and text to communicate with, there are limited ways to express your true attraction to someone. You can't leave them flowers, for example (emoji don't count). But you can show them that you are willing to embarrass yourself in the name of getting their attention.

According to the research, online advances that incorporated a rhyming reference to the person's screen name or bio were more likely to generate a response. Something like,"Hey, fun2bwith, how 'bout we grab drinks on March 5th?" The study doesn't reveal whether the responses were "Let's go out" or "Go away." But, scientifically, any response is better than none.

Top image courtesy of Robert Kneschke /

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