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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 without first seeing a full photo of them, that still seems like a recipe for disaster.
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. 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.
Men’s photos are most effective when they look away from the camera and In terms of getting new messages, the My Space shot is the single most effective photo type for women.
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. 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. To wrap up our cleavage discussion, let’s assess the of messages the cleavage-showers are getting.
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.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.