A picture isn't really worth a thousand words — and neither is an emoji — but it can say a lot about you. This is especially true on a dating app, where users have anywhere from a fraction of a second to a minute to swipe right for a potential match or left, based on a picture (and sometimes bio) alone.
"Virtual self-representation is in many ways so much more complicated and layered than when we're looking at someone face-to-face," says Anna Akbari, Ph.D., the founder of Sociology of Style and author of the recent book Startup Your Life: Hustle and Hack Your Way To Happiness. "It's all about how things are framed. What's in the photo and what isn't? Is someone using a filter? How is the photo lit? Are they looking at or away from the camera? Are they alone?"
The list of factors is endless. And while you're probably hoping to show something specific about yourself in a profile photo or convey a certain mood, your interpretation — or that of your friends — isn't always accurate.
We asked nine women to submit a photo from their profile and tell us what they think it says about them. Then, we sent the photos (without the commentary or any information about the individuals) to Akbari, who weighed in with her take. Ahead, compare and contrast the different perceptions. Of course, at the end of the swiping, what really matters is whether or not you like the photo. But you're far more likely to prefer one that sends the message you want to be sending.