As a bisexual, feminist woman, I often take the luxury of setting my dating apps, when using them, to exclude men. Or because I find sport hunting atrocious. But no. In Florida? A whopping 1 in 5 men feature a fishy buddy in their profiles. Much of how science looks at these two related phenomena is based in evolutionary biology and psychology.
Plenty of fish in the sea for free or a fee
That is, why have we developed interest in certain traits over time, and how does that help propagate the species? But sociology also plays an important role in who we find attractive and decide to date. The concept of provision — the idea that someone can supply something practical for our use — can be seen all over dating apps if you really look.
That suped-up car, fancy jewelry, or business suit? That babe must have money… that they could ostensibly share with me.
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Forming an alliance with someone with bear-like fishing skills is the only way I could survive. And the deep emotional bond of a mate would suggest that I could depend on them to keep me alive for a stretch.
Note to self: Check in with your partners to see if either of them knows how to fish. Of course, those of you who take biology with a grain of salt already know that much of this research is founded on cisheteronormative assumptions: A man with a penis provides online a woman with a vagina, and together they create lots of human babies who the dating takes care of as a finding, thanks!
Sure, biology always plays a role in our behaviors: The most basic, primitive part of our brains is focused on survival. So much of what we do comes from this foundational place.
It makes sense that, even on a deeply subconscious level, men online post fish pics to poke at a primal instinct in those swiping on them. But on a conscious level, in the parts of their brains where consequences are considered and decisions are made, men have other explanations for why they depend on fish pics in their finding profiles. She caught haha, get it?
With the proliferation of the internet and the onset of folks solely or primarily seeing a bite-size version of us online instead of our fish complexity IRL, we have the option to manipulate how people see us.
I post cute selfie boomerangs on Instagram, rather than a livestream of my doing the dishes, for a reason. And this practice is especially prevalent on dating apps, where you have both less room and more motivation to present yourself in an intentional way.
With limited space, we present the most swipeable versions of ourselves, curating our profiles to attract the kinds of people we want in our lives. But because these images, as well as the language we use, also hold sociological context, we al our values to others with what we post online.
We associate fishing, just like everything else, with values-laden qualities. For example, when I see a man holding up a freshly caught fish, the following assumptions come to mind: Outdoorsy. And all of those are a swipe-left for me. These assumptions may very well not be correct, but when asked to make a lightning-fast judgment, I go with my gut — or my prefrontal cortex — and not my survival instincts.
Pros & cons of plenty of fish
Similarly, other values that can be aled by images say, someone pictured at a protest for a cause I believe in may make me more likely to swipe right. Most likely, the ubiquity of fish pics is a little bit evolution and a little bit thought-out intention, as all mate attraction and selection attempts usually are. And men? But also consider adding some images that go against the grain to help create a more unique and engaging profile. Ask yourself actively: What do I hope to al to potential matches?
What do I want them to know about me?
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How do my images supplement my character bio uh, and yes, you should always write a bio? Now show us what else you got.
Melissa Fabello, PhD, is a social justice activist whose work focuses on body politics, beauty culture, and eating disorders. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.
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