Cross Country Checkup

Hey fellas, skip the gym selfie for better luck on dating apps

When it comes to apps like Tinder and Bumble, many men struggle to showcase themselves visually. One sociology professor says that's because men are unaccustomed to being objectified in pictures.

Many straight men unaccustomed to being objectified in pictures, says sociology professor

Talib Contractor is a Toronto-based photographer who offers sessions for people who want to spruce up their dating profile. He says 85 per cent of his clients are men. (Submitted by Talib Contractor)

Jon Aaron Sandler's foray into online dating would never have happened, if not for his brother.

"I don't feel like I'm a million years old, but I'm 38 and I've never used a dating app before," the Toronto writer and former classical musician said.

Sandler was in the dumps after ending a long-term relationship last fall and his brother urged him to try online dating. He figured it wouldn't hurt to give it a go.

So, his brother set up dating profiles for him. But when Sandler logged on, he was confused by apps that prioritized photos over written bios.

"It was just sort of gibberish," said Sandler.

Jon Aaron Sandler enlisted his brother and sister-in-law to help take some better photos. (Submitted by Jon Aaron Sandler)

The 2016 census says there are approximately 14.3 million singles in Canada. Online dating has become a dominant form for those seeking romance, with nearly half of Canadian singles using dating apps.

But the internet is also rife with complaints from straight men who can't entice women to "swipe right" — and the reason may lie in their photos.

The art of visual seduction

Sarah Knudson, a sociology professor at the University of Saskatchewan who has studied matchmaking services, suggests the prominence of photographs in online dating means straight men often struggle because they're unschooled in the art of visual seduction.

"Men haven't been pressured so much culturally to have to be presenting themselves physically like objects ... They haven't had to care," she said.

"They're like, 'Oh, I'll just put up a photo of me and my dog.'"

They [men] think taking a good picture is taking a good selfie. That's just absolutely wrong.- Talib Contractor, photographer

By contrast, says Knudson, women are accustomed to rituals of self-presentation, such as putting on makeup or getting their hair done professionally.

"Men aren't as evolved," Knudson said laughing. She has spoken with dating coaches and matchmakers in cities across North America and discovered it's not unusual for people to take men under their wing and assist in developing their profiles.

In fact, it's become a business.

Talib Contractor, a Toronto photographer, started advertising his services to singles because he was tired of seeing terrible pictures on dating sites. He says 85 per cent of his clients are men.

"They just don't take good pictures. They think taking a good picture is taking a good selfie. That's just absolutely wrong."

He says photos are a crucial first impression in the digital world and cringes when he sees the ubiquitous washroom or gym selfie.

"Taking a good picture is someone else — a third person — taking a picture of you in your natural habitat, showcasing who you truly are," said Contractor.

'Showcase their personalities'

Jon Sandler says his brother and sister-in-law took on the task of refurbishing his online dating profile with zeal, describing them as his "launch team."

His sister-in-law's first step was to offer fashion advice.

"She's like, 'You're not dressed wrong, it's just not quite the right fit.'"

Sandler, left, pictured with his brother at his brother's wedding. (Submmited by Jon Aaron Sandler)

After tweaking his wardrobe, she took candid photos of Sandler as he hung out with his brother. She also suggested he pose with a dog, to show how tall he is.

"I've actually been pretty impressed at the number of responses that you get and the people you talk to," he said. He's been on five dates over two months, and is now happily dating a woman and "sort of seeing where it goes."

Contractor says a great photo can make the difference between a potential partner swiping left or right.

"I'm hoping they can get that conversation. Once they get a match, then it's up to them to talk to them and showcase their personalities based on who they truly are."


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