Toronto
5 min

Selling yourself on-line

Trust the profile, not the pics

PROJECTING PERFECTION. Who doesn't want their on-line profile to show them in the best possible light? Credit: Suzy Malik

In a world where on-line parties are going on morning, noon and night, the personal profile is a crucial part of any cyber-savvy queer’s arsenal.



On-line, it’s all about selling yourself. But once logged on you immediately lose your usual social charms and are forced to define yourself within cybernetic parameters.



“How much can you really say about yourself in a paragraph?” asks Legendary Nobody, from Out In Toronto (Outintoronto.com). “It’s a very superficial interface when you think about it.”



Almost every site asks you to describe yourself in less than 200 words or using a checklist. On many sites you’re queried on topics like hobbies and home life to help you market yourself to any wandering eye that chances upon your profile.



Infamous blogger Jonno says that a homo’s primary concern when writing a profile is “to make themselves seem more interesting, better looking or better hung than they actually are.” The profile is a first impression that can leave an everlasting image of you, one that cruisers can refer back to over and over again.



Where you post your profile, and what you say in it, gives it the power to reveal a bit of yourself to the world. On Out In Toronto, you’re asked a general set of questions with the potential to add your own smart-ass remarks.



TresBone2003 feels the extras are the most important parts. “It’s the essay part, the comments that he adds to the standard question choices, his choice of language, tone, how he refers to himself and his own life – hobbies, pets, kids, work – which gives me an idea of what he considers to be important.”



Like many other on-line profile sites, Out In Toronto offers a free limited profile or a super duper profile with extras that cost. On the popular site Gay.com, profiles offer lots of room to fill in your thoughts and answers to all types of lifestyle questions. Gay.com has an extremely busy chat room section that uses excerpts of your profile to highlight you to fellow chatters. Manline (Manline.com) keeps it simple; mostly check-box answers. It’s the only one that let’s you focus on potential partner’s salaries.



One refreshingly different site is Friendster (Friendster.com), where you need to be invited to join and meet people in a friend’s circle of on-line companions, and then slowly infect the whole web with your presence. Friendster’s main goals seems to be numbers, as they love to ask you for more people to bring together in cyber-world.



You want to make a good impression, but should you exaggerate in your profile? Do other people? Professor Jeffrey Hancock at Cornell University did a study that suggests people on-line lie less frequently than in person. Hancock had his undergraduate students record their interactions and indicate where they may have bent the truth along the way. The results showed a quarter of face-to-face interactions and 37 percent of phone calls were tainted one way or another, but on-line fibbing was minimal.



“I’ve never understood why people would lie in their profiles,” says Jonno. “It’s just going to come back and bite them in the ass once an actual meeting takes place.”



Xanthian, who has a profile on Out In Toronto, agrees that it’s best to be extremely honest. “No point in creating a profile that isn’t you.”



“I can’t think of anything I wasn’t truthful about,” says Sly_dog, who has a profile on Faceparty.com. “But we all have our own illusions about ourselves.”



How you see yourself – and how you show it – is your calling card to everyone on-line. “No expectation equals no disappointment,” points out DancerInThe-Dark. “I’m just using this as one more outlet to finding people who I learn something from, or teach something to. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.”



Pez doesn’t spend time thinking about what people are getting out of his profile. “I have little control over how others perceive me especially on the ‘net, but I try and keep the profile pretty neutral and sometimes vague – if that is indicative of anything.”



People are drawn to different aspects of a profile, and from it they can make all kinds of assumptions. Photos also carry a lot of weight on-line. Headless chests can be very popular for the flash attention, but do they say anything important?



“I used my more risqué main pic as a screener,” says DancerInTheDark. “Guys who quick-mail me and just say ‘Hey you’re hot, wanna fuck?’ obviously haven’t read my bio. They’ve just seen the pic and quick-mailed based on it. If they just look at the pic and don’t bother letting me know about a connection they felt with the bio, then screw ’em.”



More people seem willing to risk falsified photos over falsified stories. “Not that I’m being superficial,” says TresBone2003. “But you can tell volumes about a person by what he chooses to show, or not show, in his profile pics. And I have to wonder why a guy doesn’t post a photo – I can think of several reason not to and none of them point toward someone I would want to have a relationship with.”



Often the main focus of an on-line profile is a description of what they’re looking for in other people.



“I’ll sound like an idiot, but I do believe in love,” says Legendary Nobody. “So I guess I was looking for hot, smooth, athletic, intelligent, artistic, sane (not as important an attribute as the others), masculine guys with fat uncut cocks who like to have sex in public places, take it up the ass like a champ to fall deeply, madly in love with.”



TresBone2003 is a little more flexible. “I wasn’t trying to be super strict in my criteria,” he says. “Because I think you get more interesting results if you throw a wider net. The two really good relationships I’ve had from the ‘net were with guys that didn’t really fit my criteria for the perfect guy. If I had insisted on that, I would have missed out on my last boyfriend – who is now a really good friend – and my current boyfriend.”



Some, like Xanthian, enjoy how the profiles show off many different aspects for meeting people of all sorts. “Providing a profile does not limit it to a certain category of people. It’s out there for everyone to see. It is in the hopes of finding people that you get along with, that you can share a bond – as simplistic and as limited as it may also be – as well as to always learn more of what’s around.”



The stickiest bit of the profile is no surprise – sex. Some profiles offer a chance to expose a little of your bedroom habits, which comes in handy when considering romantic partners, but can also lead to endless, mindless solicitations.



The on-line scene has grown so large though, that now you can target beyond sex. But the presence of sex-specific sites like M4M, Squirt and Gqueer haven’t relieved the pressure on other sites, like Out In Toronto, which added a sexual preference section to their profiles in order to compete, and turned everyone on-line into a piece of meat to be voted on with scorecards in the photo galleries.



Without a doubt, exposing yourself to any degree can be intimidating. We may choose to hide behind humour; we may focus on accuracy or give only point-form notes. The scary thing is however we approach it, it says something more – every detail to the profile broadens another person’s scope for investigation, forming first impressions without even a primary communication.



Scarier still, as more people go on-line, forming judgments prior to social interaction, the already dying art of face-to-face conversation will be a thing discussed in cultural anthropology in the chapter before the dawn of the cyber age.