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Office Hours With Dr. Jim
by James Houran, Ph.D

In this column, "Dr. Jim" honestly and candidly answers your questions about dating, love and sexuality. He doesn’t tell you what you want to hear – he tells you what you need to hear. Dr. Jim is committed to offering you guidance based on responsible clinical practice and hard data from the latest scientific studies. Send Dr. Jim your questions today for consideration in an upcoming issue.

This Week:
I Don't Want to Post an Online Dating Profile Photo

I really don’t want to post a photo in my online dating profile, so now what?


If this sounds like you, then I’d strongly recommend thinking about why you don’t want to post a photo. I can’t emphasize this enough – posting a good photo is the number one way to boost your online dating profile. If you want more views, more IMs, winks and email messages, then take time to get and post at least one good photo. Even better… post several photos. If you don’t have a good digital camera or scanner, then ask around your pool of friends. Almost certainly, one of them has access to what you need to produce a good photo.

And by a good photo, I mean a primary photo in your profile that:

» Is clear and of good quality (high resolution)

» Shows only you in the photo – no pets, distracting props, a group of friends, and especially not an “ex” who has a large black dot over his/her face. And to the single-parents, I strongly recommend not posting photos showing your children (remember, there are predators out there that look for these types of cues).

» Close-up shot of your face, neck and shoulders – preferably a full frontal view of your head and torse

» Shows you smiling

» Has some color, vibrancy or “attitude” to it. I don’t necessarily mean “art shots” reminiscent of Felinni, but rather a photo that conveys some of your personality or a certain mood.

Additional photos are icing on the cake, and using these is where your creativity can shine by presenting yourself posing with props that reflect a hobby or a sport you love to do, as well as you in a group of friends or standing by a romantic landmark on your last vacation. Remember, your profile photos are an advertisement of you; they’re your number one “calling card.” It’s all part of your marketing campaign, folks. There’s fancy science and statistics to back up what I’m saying about the positive and exponential impact of a good photo, but actually it’s not needed. Just try it! I did and can attest that good photos work wonders – I’ve had several personal profiles on dating sites for research purposes and indeed the response to good photos is overwhelming compared to poor photos.

Another little trick is to rotate good photos on a periodic basis. That way, there’s a good chance your profile will come up on others’ searches more often. You see, updating photos increases your site activity, and online dating sites treat very well their customers who are active on the site.

On the other hand, some people argue that not posting a photo is a good idea for reasons of “security.” What they usually mean is that withholding a photo from casual onlookers provides no clues as to your real identity and where you can be found. Others understandably say that they don’t want physical attraction to be the primary motivation for someone to contact them. Because of that, they will withhold a photo until they feel that a person showing interest is doing so “for the right reasons.”

Of course, sometimes what these responses really mean is that a person wants to avoid embarrassment – the embarrassment of being recognized online by family, friends, coworkers, and the like. But what I also hear, and much more often, is that a person wishes to avoid embarrassment because they’re insecure about their physical appearance. What I’m speaking of here is body image – the mental picture you have of your body, along with your feelings, thoughts, and judgments about your body.

You know you have a poor body image when you dislike (or are even disgusted by) your physical appearance – anything from body and weight to specific body parts, hair, skin color, or facial features. Nearly all men and women are dissatisfied to some extent with their appearances. Sexual attractiveness, concerns about weight, and a person’s level of physical fitness all work together to produce a person’s body image.

A person is more likely to post one or more photos in their personal profile if they have a healthy body image. You know you have a healthy body image when you’re comfortable with your body and have positive and self-confident feelings towards yourself. Better body image correlates with enhanced relations, connectedness, and attraction.

If you’re struggling with a poor body image, one of the best ways to respond is to develop a rational and healthy relationship with food. For example, try not to use food as a reward or punishment and teach yourself to listen to your body and to trust its messages. Remember, it’s okay to eat if you’re hungry, even if it’s not a meal time. Finally, strive to understand nutrition and the health benefits of various foods; instead of telling yourself food is either “good” or “bad.”

A poor image can be overcome, so don’t let it permanently interrupt your search for a partner. When it comes to finding a partner using online dating, a profile with a good picture truly is worth a thousand words.

> - The best approach to find the one. <

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