Do Photos Expire?

I had a weird dating experience.

The dude requested a photo, and, as usual, I didn’t provide one until I got one.

The photo I got was of a fellow who looked a lot like an accountant. Thin, glasses, many lines rippling out from his huge, endearingly dorky smile.

So when I opened the door to my date, I wasn’t entirely sure who was standing there. I stared for slightly longer than is normal. Could this possibly be the same guy? If he gained  weight, trimmed his hair different, took off the glasses… No way. It still couldn’t be.

After the date with Date Guy, I immediately fired up my laptop to compare him to Photo Guy. No resemblance to my forensically untrained eye. Was it possible that someone could change their appearance so drastically in a few years?

I emailed the shadchan, just in case she’d maybe mixed up the photos in her files. But she insisted that she’d forwarded the exact photo that Guy had sent her.

Naturally, I began wondering. Maybe Photo Guy hadn’t felt well, so he’d sent Date Guy in his place? Maybe Date Guy felt self-conscious about his appearance and preferred to use Photo Guy’s photo? Maybe they were twins, and didn’t realize how unidentical they were? Maybe Photo Guy had undergone an extreme makeover and become Date Guy? I had to discard the last one. I mean, they must give you an “After” photo for those things.

I let it slide because I didn’t go out with Date Guy (or Photo Guy) again, so, whatever, you know? But then he showed up as a SYAS suggestion. Photo Guy, I mean. With Date Guy’s biography in his profile. I stared at it again, trying to find some resemblance between Photo Guy and Date Guy. I might as well have had prosopagnosia.

So I did some cyberstalking. Of Date Guy. And although I found out that Spokeo thinks he is somewhat (a lot) older than his profile claims, I couldn’t find any picture of him that wasn’t Photo Guy.

Okay. So Photo Guy and Date Guy are one and the same. How old is the photo?

I’ve got photos of me that are five years old. I look pretty much the same. Even ten years ago, I was thinner, but basically me. Heck, we once had one of those baby-photo-on-a-paper-bag-over-your-head thingies at school, and the teacher didn’t even have to think about mine. I haven’t changed much since I was three, I guess. Just grew more hair.

Even so, I don’t use the five-year-old photo for shidduchim any more. Even though my face is more or less the same, I don’t have the same look. And by “look” I mean the combination of accessories, styles, and physical appearance that most immediately catches people’s eyes.

How often do you replace your photo? Is there a recommended replacement period, like every five years or 100,000 miles as recommended by your Dealership?
If there isn’t, can we create one?

About Profile Pictures

I’m finally really getting the problem with showing photos to someone before they go out. I reach this conclusion via SYAS, where the photo is the first thing to slam me in the eyes when I get a new suggestion. And yeah, I can’t seem to help mentally sketching the guy in my head based on superficial impressions.

“Whoa, look at that Adam’s apple… I bet he’s the tall, gawky, nerdy type. Ooh look, he’s a programmer. Who’s surprised, raise your hand. Probably a little socially awkward with a ‘hyuk hyuk’ laugh… okay, shut up, Bad4. You’re really being obnoxious. Who, me? I wasn’t being negative. Nerds are cute. I’ll be able to buy one of those “I love my geek” shirts from ThinkGeek.com. Look! He likes museums… and political events. What does it mean when someone says they ‘like going out to political events’? What’s a political event? Oh gosh, he didn’t use capital ‘i’ in his little personal paragraph. Or commas or apostrophes. Forget it. There are a lot of things I can take. Not txtspk in a dating profile.”

There’s a certain guilty pleasure in being the one doing the judging, but it’s mostly guilt, very little pleasure.  I don’t want to be shallow. And my father, who disapproves of anyone seeing pictures of anyone else before dating, is quick to point out that photos are often a poor representation of a person.

“Remember the guy you said looked like a middle-aged burgomaster in his photo? Well, he was a lot better in person, wasn’t he?”

Yeah, totally true. Good thing I hadn’t judged him by his photo.

“So don’t look at the photos,” my father insists. “At all. And take yours down too.”

“I can’t take mine down!” I protest. That would look like I had something to hide. Who would go out with someone who doesn’t have a profile picture?

“My friend’s neighbor’s daughter didn’t have a picture on her SYAS profile,” my mother informs me. “And she got married through it.”

Okay, score one for the anti-photo crowd. I’m still not convinced. Yes, I might be more willing to go out with someone if I had no photo instead of an awful one, but…

Are my pictures awful? I have no idea. This is not because I didn’t scrape up the best photos available. It’s because, I’ve noticed, people tend to be poor judges of their own photos. You know like those photos people put up on LinkedIn, where they are solemnly gazing off into the distance? The subject means to look visionary, but generally they just look like they have a stomach ache.

In my opinion, nobody should put up a profile picture until they’ve taken an extensive poll of all their acquaintances and a few random strangers to ascertain that the snapshot both resembles them and is also flattering (if possible).  I have not done this. Making such a fuss over a profile picture would be distinctly uncool. Also, I’d need to take more photos.

So, pictures up – or pictures down? I don’t know. But til then, I will try to squinch my eyes shut and not look too hard at the pictures. Cuz judging by the pictures would be shallow. But those lowercase “i”s? Sorry, they’re still a dealbreaker.

Top Six (Male) Profile Picture Genres

When I saw the “upload your photo” option in SYAS it never occurred to me to upload anything beside a standard smiling headshot. But after picking through a number of male profiles, I can see that I’m missing quite a lot of the wisdom that goes into picking a profile picture. For the men out there who are wondering what to put up, here’s a rundown of what your fellows are presenting to us. And if anyone can do a rundown of what female photos look like, I’d appreciate that too.

There are about six major categories of profile pictures.

The Thinker:

This subject is gazing solemnly into the distance. If he’s turned a moody quarter profile to the camera, he is trying to look like a visionary. In reality, he usually looks like he needs an antacid. If he’s turned away from the camera, then you can hardly see his face at all. In this case, chances are he just wants you to notice that he’s looking over the Old City walls into the sunset, which is his way of showing that he’s a sensitive, inspired man, with a love of the Land of Israel.  Or else he thinks his profile is his strongest side. Women: beware of that.

The Natty Dresser:

This photo was taken five minutes before his family left for a cousin’s wedding. His father straightened his tie, his mother brushed a speck of lint from his lapel, and his sister took the photo against the wall in the front hall. Alternatively, it was taken at the simcha itself. In this case, the background is cluttered with tables and bottles, his face is flushed from dancing, and there might even be a disembodied arm around his shoulder. Point is: he cleans up nicely. Women: this is probably what he’ll look like on your first date and never again for the rest of your mutual lives (excepting the occasional wedding).

The Family Man:

Every woman wants a man who is good with kids, right? So, it follows that if he puts up a photo of himself cooing at his niece or throwing his nephew in the air, it can only score points. (Er, they are his nieces and nephews, right? Not his? What was that marriage status again?)

Alternatively, he’ll put up a photo of him with his entire family. The sheer quantity of siblings should assure you that he’s not spoiled. Or the quantity of sisters will assure you that he knows a ceramic hair iron from a diffuser, among other essential items. Men: avoid this one if you have a brother around the same age as you.

The Sportsman:

These photos are almost invariably taken at the top of a mountain. The subject is wearing a backpack or skis. Sometimes he’s even wearing goggles. The point isn’t for you to be able to see him. It’s so you can see that he’s healthy, fit, adventurous, and good at something. (Hey, he made it to the top, right? So what if it was via ski lift…)

A subset of this genre is the Traveler photo. In this case, again, the subject is dwarfed by his surroundings, which can range from huge sand dunes in the Gobi Desert to a coral reef underwater. Point being, he’s been around, you know? Seen the world a bit. Not one 0f those boring types who have never been out of NYC in their lives. You can be he won’t take you to a lounge either. Probably.

The Cool Dude:

The cool dude photo is often posted along with the Natty Dresser photo, lest you get the wrong impression. In the cool dude photo, the subject is wearing shades, a snug black t-shirt, and a self-satisfied smirk. Yeah man, he’s cool. Fingers crossed that coolness is as important to you as it is to him.

The Homeboy:

Don’t think this guy has no friends. He does. And he’s fun to be around. Just to make sure you know, he’s posting a photo of himself playing his guitar at a kumzitz with his friends. The friends are mostly cut out so you don’t confuse the subject, and the subject himself is looking down at the frets, so you can’t really see his face. But you see the guitar. What girl doesn’t like a guitar? And those disembodied arms on the side. See – other people like him. Why wouldn’t you?

With all this apparent thought going into male profile pictures, I can see that I’m playing at a disadvantage. Time to dig up a photo of me climbing some sand dunes. I think I might have been wearing sunglasses that morning, which is a 2-in-1 score. Or are the points categories different for women?

With thanks to Relarella.

And a hat tip to the Curious Jew for pointing out that, coincidentally, SoG posted about profile pictures just a day and a half ago.