25 March 2013

On Red Flags in Profiles -- Part I


With the boom in social media, and particularly as people use the Internet to  meet other people and engage in meaningful relationships, there notably arises a point where some things tend to stick out more than others.

In the online-dating world, many people (including Chewie and I) tend to these as "RED FLAGS." Specifically, these "RED FLAGS" tend to look innocuous or even beneficial on the surface, but when one thinks about it tends to paint an entirely different picture. Often, it leads to "this product wasn't as advertised" thinking. In a way, think of them as warning signs that may either merit further investigation or be enough of a danger to warrant disengagement.

It must be noted that there's a subtle difference between a "RED FLAG" and genuine sentiment. For example, some people (often men) naturally tend to come across as being colder, angrier/ranting, or more "wooden" in their profiles, and this fact in itself isn't a "RED FLAG" per se--but it can be taken as a caution. Rather, a genuine "RED FLAG" is something that appears somewhat out-of-place, or provides a solid clue that such a person isn't what they appear to be.

Most of the "RED FLAGS" Chewie and I will present are unisex in nature, meaning they can and do show up in male and female profiles alike. However, the solutions or remedies we propose may vary on gender. Without further ado, here they are:

#1: Email address in the pictures

Why it's a RED FLAG: This often indicates that the user isn't on there for legitimate purposes and the profile is a fake (e.g. for scamming/spamming or other illegal activity)

Resolution (both sexes): If you're a legitimate user, replace the pictures immediately. There's really reason to put your email address on your profile or to give it out right away.

#2: All of the pictures are sexually-laced

Why it's a RED FLAG: Outside of sites geared towards sexual activity, it suggests that the user is looking for casual sex and might not want a stable relationship.

Situations when it's NOT a RED FLAG: Sites that are explicitly catered towards sexual activity (e.g. sex personals, fetish sites)

Male Resolution: We recommend taking down the shirtless-in-the-mirror pics, and for Pete's sake, don't upload pictures of your genitals. Nobody wants to see that right away, and if they do, they'll ask privately.

Female Resolution: Moderate the cleavage, or perhaps only leave one pic up in a bathing suit. The rest of your pics don't need to show off your breasts and rear--save those for when you do find a decent guy and have been seeing him for a bit.

#3: Little or no profile text

Why it's a RED FLAG: It shows a lack of thought and effort. If people see that you took virtually no effort in your profile to at least provide some basic information about yourself, what's going to convince them that you'd put forth any effort in a relationship?

Situations when it's NOT a RED FLAG: When it's obvious that the profile text is limited (such as if the site happens to be mobile-only).

Resolution (both sexes): Expand more on your profile. Nobody's expecting you to write a novel, but at least provide some basic info about yourself and what you have to offer. Even better: try to be original.

#4: Overdrawn complaints about sexually-laced messages 

Notes: This one most often appears on female profiles, and is treated as a "female-only" RED FLAG. A common variant of this one is the "guys are just looking for sex" complaint.

Why it's a RED FLAG: Most people know that getting unsolicited offers of sex is something that happens on online-dating sites. Many women will complain at length about it (and the "creeps" who send them).

Situations when it's NOT a RED FLAG: when it's limited to "Please don't ask me for naked pics or sex." It's one thing to ask for respect in messages; it's another to spend a paragraph whining about it.

Resolution: In the appropriate area (or at the bottom), just state "Please respect me and don't ask for sex or "sexy" pictures. I will report users who do anyway as abusive." This states the sentiment well, and really is all that needs to be said. Also, if your profile contains quite a few risqué pictures, it might be best to take them down and post more modest ones.

#5: "New to the area and looking for friends" 

Why it's a RED FLAG: It's been seen on quite a few fake profiles, and may cause people to write you off as another fake. This is because it's so generic. Anybody could say that "they're new to the area" as a convenient excuse.

Resolution: Instead of openly saying it, implication may be of use. For example, "I just got my education degree from Michigan and now I'm a 5th grade teacher in Chicago" tends to send the message enough.

#6: Pictures come up in a reverse-image search such as Google or TinEye

Why it's a RED FLAG: A lot of guys who put up fake female profiles tend to do this a lot, particularly by using images of popular erotic actresses. Many women will do this as well to make themselves appear more attractive and/or sexually desirable.

Situations when it's NOT (necessarily) a RED FLAG: If the photos that do show up are ones that redirect to other online profiles you have.

Resolution: Post new photos. If possible, get the browser plugin and check for yourself to ensure they don't come up before posting.

Go to Part II

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