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I want to start by making a shoutout to the other regular, engaged content creators of this sub. This post has every intention of being supplemental to the basics of a good profile, not a replacement nor an improvement of the content already out there.
That said... get ready for the overkill post of a lifetime. After this, you should have everything you need to write a bespoke profile fitting your personality, and ask for feedback specific to the impressions you want to make. Notes are spoiler-blocked out to help (or at least try) to avoid content overload.
Before we get started, we must lay out the (unpleasant?) facts of life you need to know, which motivate the outcome goals of this post.
First impressions matter. And they matter a lot. We may not like this. We may wish people were more self-aware about their biases and give others—especially ourselves—a fair chance without jumping to conclusions. But ultimately, humans are meat robots, animals, and often emotional reasoners. We can dislike this fact, or we can use it to our advantage.
No matter how you look or how one-dimensional you think you are, you have a lot of say in how you make your first impression. That's right, Hinge is a gift in disguise. Hinge gives you the chance to curate exactly how you introduce yourself. You don't get that same perk on your bad day at the supermarket with a broken shoelace and snippy attitude. As an example, the creator of PhotoFeeler wrote an article to show just how diverse you can display yourself based just on which photos you choose.
Unique details are more memorable. As are our ways of breaking expectations. Do you ever wonder why the funny guy or gal seems to be more popular? Or how flirts can sometimes leave a good impression even when their banter borders on mean or rude? No, it's not because people secretly love assholes (well, actually they do, but it's not because they treat us like shit). It's because these behaviors tap into more primitive limbic responses rather than letting "polite" social conventions run on autopilot in our prefrontal cortex. They break expectations and "wake us up" from the monotony. On a place like Hinge full of generic profiles, this gives you a massive advantage, if you play it right.
That's all we need to agree on. If you are with me so far, and you remember these three facts about forming impressions, you can be well on your way to dialing in your profile—and not just at the introduction stage, either, but also in messaging, flirting, and actually meeting up.
Note: Give those links a real look and read, they have some pretty great info—especially the one about being funny—that will improve your flirt and banter game as well.
Before you jump straight into your profile prompts and photo choices, you need to decide what impression you'd like to form on others. Ideally, this would be your authentic self. Not only is that the more virtuous approach, it also serves your best interests.
If you try to give off an impression of being a sexy gritty biker badass, you may succeed in attracting lots of matches who are drawn to the gritty rebel asshole. But if you're secretly a lovable teddy bear who loves cuddly bubbly affection, as soon as you start messaging or meeting in person, your dates will fall flat, and you may not realize why. Worse, your real values won't go appreciated. And worse still, you may feel trapped in pretending to be someone just to be liked. Don't do any of that.
Exercise 1 requires some introspection. Ask your friends and family. Reflect. However you do it, list at least ten qualities that are true about yourself that you are most proud of and would like to be highlighted in your first impression of your potential matches. Maybe it's your love of fitness or travel, maybe it's your kindness, maybe it's your work ethic and grit, or outlook. My advice is to pick things you believe your ideal match would highly value. So novel!
Note: Don't worry too much about being "unique" here. Having similar qualities and values is what helps us connect to others, that's a good thing! Just find the things that best exemplify you and want to show to others.
We are still working backwards. Now that we know what we want to show in a first impression, we need to leverage facts 2 and 3 (above) to come up with the best examples of how to display them. We also need to decide how many of the qualities we want to show. There are two basic approaches to this:
Wide net. Pros: more likes and matches. Cons: Less chance of highlighting particular qualities you want seen or noticed. Also less chance of matching with someone highly compatible, and a chance of seemingly conflicting values (e.g. he seems wholesome but I'm also getting fuckboy vibes).
Narrow and focused. Pros: Highly selective likes and matches. Cons: Fewer matches, possibly missing out on matches over another dimension you may equally like or going overly focused.
Personally, I like going for a wide net, because I'm a relator and I like lots of personality types. However, I also find this approach increases the risk of not standing out, as you have to really find ways to highlight each quality uniquely, given fewer chances to do so. Despite my personal choice, I actually think the focused and narrow approach yields better matches in the long run.
In either case, now choose from your list of values and qualities which ones you want to display. If you are casting a wide net, I suggest choosing 8 or more. If you are casting a narrow and focused angle, hone in on at most five.
Note: Consider how these values work together as well. A smart, nerdy, driven scientist is a beautiful combination of values. As is a free-spirited, nature-loving, spiritual yogi with a flare for MMA. But a hard-partying, rom-com loving, beer-brawling, relationship-seeking sea captain who loves casual sex, while fascinating and entertaining, will also be disorienting. Yeah it sucks, but people form prejudices, and if you have a value that unintentionally conflicts with what you want (e.g. something long-term but you have fuck-boy/girl vibes) you will have worse results.
Note 2: It also helps to use at least one prompt to highlight who you would like to date. This isn't giving up ground on the first impression. If you're strategic about it, listing who you like reveals your values, which also reveals more of who you are. I recommend adding a few values to the list that give you a chance to do this.
Now come up with 10-20 specific examples about you that display these qualities. Maybe it's a story, like that time you cliff dived in the Caribbean (values: adventurous, daring, bold, spontaneous). Maybe it's something personal, like your memory of your grandma when you drink hot chocolate on foggy mornings (values: nostalgic, family-oriented, vulnerable, affectionate). Maybe it's your love of the song Yaye Boy by Africando because it makes you dance whenever it comes on (values: open-minded, cultured, fun-loving, uninhibited).
Whatever they are, keep them specific, and make sure you tie them back to the values you want to highlight. Write down all the values you believe each example displays.
Note: Make sure others find your story or detail accessible as well! You may think loving 'No Reason' by Sum41 shows your anarchistic and pop punk side, but if the majority of people don't know the song, the band, or the context, you miss out even on showing people you could relate to.
We're finally here, and after doing all your groundwork, this part is actually, arguably the easiest. Choose at least ten of the best examples from your list (remember to verify they actually translate to your friends and others!), and we'll work from there.
For photos, you want to focus mostly on direct value display. A smile shows you're warm. A photo abroad shows your love of travel. A full-body shot gives a chance to reveal how active you are, and your fashion sense. Too easy. But... a word of caution: Remember Fact 1.
Note: First impressions have high impact. You may think your travel photos are all the most flattering, but if all of your photos are of you abroad, you may unintentionally convey that you don't like being in one place. Mirror selfies often look lazy and (in my unsolicited opinion) can make you appear a little clueless. Overly polished photos can make you look fake or vain or high-maintenance. There's no pleasing everybody, but be aware of what your photos may unintentionally convey as a first impression. Would you show up to a job interview in a t-shirt?
For prompts (full list here), tie them back to specific examples and consider your approach (wide net vs. narrow focused). If you are casting a wide net, choose prompts that let you list things, like The Way To Win Me Over is... and Green Flags I Look For. For narrow and focused you can "dive deep" on a single subject in one prompt. There's not much right vs. wrong here, the key is fleshing out as many examples as you can in an effective way. Your goal is to choose prompts to fit the example, not the other way around.
And that's it! I will use this post to address questions directly related to the approach outlined here, for any followups, but hopefully this is enough information to get you started.
DO NOT HIDE YOUR FACE. Sunglasses, hats, filters, turning away from the camera, random photos of your pets or that art piece you made... think about how that comes across as a first impression with limited chances to show yourself.
Consider the context. You may look amazing whenever you go to the bar. But you look like an alcoholic if every amazing photo of you is holding a drink. You may be fit and love the beach, but showing skin—for better or worse—leaves an unconscious impression on people. I hate it as much as—or more than—you do.
Consider the composition. Photo composition is an art. Lighting, shadows, angles, body language, how you crop the picture, how much of you is in the photo vs. background will all have an impact on our subconscious first impressions. Consider these things when choosing photos. The PhotoFeeler blog entries have a few great articles on how to work on some of these things.
Get specific, but always consider read-fatigue. You may feel Hinge profile prompts are too short to write anything meaningful, but you can easily tire you lack care. Generic lists and "nothing" statements waste brain power and make you unintentionally annoying. Treat every word as an essential contribution towards your first impression. If it can be cut or shortened, do it.
Avoid "nothings" at all costs. "Nothings" are things that apply to basically everyone except Hitler—and maybe even Hitler himself. Love dogs? Wow, so did Hitler (he had one, and it probably loved him dearly). Love travel? Holy shit, so does my mom! Taco Tuesdays? Wowzers, I also have tastebuds and a digestive tract! If you are going to use something "everyone loves" to exemplify a value, find a way to be specific. An easy example of this is to name a specific place and time. So, instead of "(If loving this is wrong I don't want to be right...) TaCo TuEsDaYs!" you can say "(I'm a regular at...) Pepitos Taco Shop, 7.30pm, every Tuesday, next to the hot chipotle salsa stand. Bet you can't beat the heat." Use the nothing as a platform to dive into something more meaningful.
Don't be afraid of emojis, but also consider how they affect impressions. Example: the Australian flag emoji instead of "Australia" saves me 8 characters at little cost.
Replace usages of the verb "to be" with concrete adjectives and verbs. My writing instructor in uni taught me that. Compare these two sentences: "Tacos are delicious" vs. "Tacos make my mouth water." The second paints a picture, is more memorable, and more enjoyable to read. You don't have to do it all the time, but often places where you are using "is," "are," "be," "was," and "were," you could use far more dynamic language, or just remove the word entirely!
Good luck out there!