Erika Ettin column: Mask off for online dating photos

Erika Ettin helps people navigate the world of online dating.

Erika Ettin is the founder of A Little Nudge, where she helps others navigate the often intimidating world of online dating.

We are all living — and therefore dating — in odd times. Amid the coronavirus pandemic, more consideration must go into meeting with new people face-to-face, talking about exclusivity, and so much more.

While many people have updated their dating bios to reflect the current state of the world (and if you haven’t, please do), like discussing upfront what they’re comfortable with or making a joke about not leaving the house in months, some have opted to share photos of themselves with the most popular and important fashion accessory of 2020 and 2021: a mask.

Here’s what they likely think they’re portraying with their masked-up photo: “See? I’m taking this pandemic seriously! And everyone can tell this is a recent snap.”

But what potential matches are probably thinking is: “I can’t really tell what this person looks like. Next…” or “What is he/she trying to hide?”


Yes, it’s important to wear your mask when out in public, and it’s also vital to have recent photos in your dating profiles. However, your pictures are meant to show what you look like — and covering half of your face essentially defeats the purpose.

I’ve even seen a lot of people wearing face coverings in their main profile photo, which is likely discouraging those coming across it to read on and scroll through other photos. In the fast-paced world of online dating, it’s much easier to just swipe left and move onto the next profile.

A lot of my clients have brought up that it’s been difficult to come up with recent photos. After all, most of us haven’t been dressing up to go out with friends or doing much traveling over the past year, and that’s where a lot of people’s favorite photos come from. If you feel like your photos need an update, there’s a better option than a mask selfie — in fact, just about anything is better than a mask selfie.

Next time you’re with a family member or friend on a nice day, head out on a hike or beach walk (even your backyard works!) and ask them to take a few new photos of you. Have fun with your mini photo shoot — and then become the photographer for your plus one. (Even if your pal is not single, it’s always fun to get in front of the camera and have some fresh photos to share on Instagram. Who doesn’t like to play model once in a while?)

And I’m not saying to pretend there’s not a world-altering pandemic going on. Making a short joke or mentioning coronavirus in your messages is OK— something like, “My dog deserves an award for keeping me company over the past few months. How have you been staying busy with all this extra time at home?”

If you’re vaccinated already, you should wear that shot like a badge of honor on your dating profiles. You can mention it while keeping it short and sweet, writing something like, “Vaccinated and vacation-ready!” It shows you’re taking COVID-19 seriously and are a good candidate for a healthy first date. Another way to proudly share that you’ve gotten the shot is to add a selfie featuring your Band-Aid with a caption such as, “COVID-19 Super Stopper.”

At the end of the day, an online dating profile is a quick glimpse at who you are — and like it or not, what you look like. When you only have a few photos to capture someone’s attention, it’s best to show them your face … all of it. Daters want to see the face of the person who is going to show up on that first date — nothing more, nothing less.

Erika Ettin is the founder of A Little Nudge, where she helps others navigate the often intimidating world of online dating. ©2020 Erika Ettin Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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