Communities and Web 2.0 Identity in Communities and Networks Social Networks

Online Dating: Encouraging users to depict and enhance their physical appearance online.


Online dating platforms and apps are all around us with photos being the main focus. People base opinions on what they see first and this also shapes their reaction to others. In a world that is integrating more online sites everyday it is now more evident that a picture does say a thousand words. With this being both positive and negative for its users. Some users are spending lots of time and effort into perfecting their ideal self online so they can impress and attract others.

In a society that now places more value on a person’s physical appearance rather than their character, it is clear that users are finding it more important to put their best face forward when presenting themselves online. Dating apps such as Tinder, Bumble and Grinder all start with users adding photos of themselves for potential partners to base their decision on if they should “swipe” yes or not. Web 2.0 has been revolutionary in this shift to more image based communication and plays a large role with the everyday user being able to share information constantly and easily. Users of online dating sites believe that in order to get matches they have to look perfect and show no flaws. This means more pressure and unrealistic standards being subconsciously placed on users. People have forgotten that their flaws make them different from others, so why are more online users wanting to change and present themselves to look more like others? Online dating platforms have contributed to user’s perception of themselves and society, encouraging users to depict and enhance their physical appearance online.

First impressions play a big role in the online dating sphere, if someone doesn’t like the photos you have posted they are not going to proceed with getting to know the individual. This is why the first photo that is displayed is one of the most important aspects of a profile. This will often determine whether someone will even consider looking further into the profile. This tends to be the same across most online dating platforms. “Online dating offers access to a multitude of potential partners, the possibility to communicate and to exchange technologically enhanced messages, and a helping tool, the matching algorithm, producers seeking to promote an image of individuals” (Stoicescu, 2009, p.g 22). The notion of having to have the perfect first photo which inevitably correlates to other user’s first impressions. With these sites often the first impression reflects if the user will succeed with any matches or attracting people. Which is why “self-presentation choices in online dating profiles are strategic” (Toma and Handcock, 2010, p. 347). It is hard for users to not get caught up in this idea of having to create a perfect profile in order to have as many matches as possible, which may increase their chances of finding ‘love’ or a partner. This concept of basing a decision on what someone sees first increases the likelihood of users caring about what they look like, which leads to this need for impression management. This is when users present themselves in a way that is not always true, it is presenting a persona to the outside world. Although sometimes this can be a way of self-expression, usually people take it to the next level and spend too much time caring about what others think of their appearance. “Self-presentation is the packaging and editing of the self during social interactions to create a desired impression in the audience” (Toma and Handcock, 2010, p. 336). Dating profiles are heavily curated to edit and change the user’s appearance to seem more inviting to others. While a culture of self-conscious and cautious people is now being nurtured.

We as online users are driven by looks and looking good to impress others, even if it means altering our appearances. This idea of wanting to look good all the time stems from real life experiences, when going to an interview people are going to dress up and present themselves in a way they may not usually. So why is it such a big thing when it is done online? “Dating applications might have influenced the dating culture in an unfavourable way, facilitating short, numerous and simultaneous relationships due to the access to hundreds of possible partners given by the dating applications and websites” (Stoicescu, 2009, p.g 22). This urge and need for people to change their appearance online adds increased pressure for more users to follow and change what they look like online. Having this control of how others see oneself now has increased importance as a few photos is all someone bases their first impression on. “Image construction involves figuring out one’s desired impression, or how one wishes to come across, and then implementing it” (Toma and Handcock, 2010, p. 345). Social media sites and online dating platforms are contributing to user’s perception of themselves and the society around them. Ultimately creating groups and categorising people. With online dating the most common categories people are placed into are either the yes I want to get to know this person or no. Which is why many users believe it is imperative to get their physical appearance perfect and only show their best side, even if it is slightly altered from the truth.

Visual affordances of online dating apps and the ease of photo editing on smartphones or tablets now allows users to build their desired identity. When it comes to photo editing the impossible has recently and very fast become the norm, with many celebrities now taking part of this fake representation. “These affordances alter the nature of deception primarily by enabling less attractive daters to be deceptive about their physical appearance in ways that would not have been possible in face-to-face meetings” (Toma and Handcock, 2010, p. 346). This is creating a culture of people who have different personas online compared to their real life. Online profiles are often how people want to be seen as it is possible to change aspects of themselves that one may not like. Although this deceptive behaviour is wrong and people are falsely attracting others. It now increases and creates “many options for constructing more attractive personae, including selecting flattering photographs, retouching their photographs, and simply stating verbally that they are more attractive than they really are” (Toma and Handcock, 2010, p. 346). Social networks in the form of online dating platforms contribute to the user’s perception of themselves and others.

Image based communication aids this need for people to only show the best parts of them online. Dating apps push people into creating and presenting this perfect image and identity of themselves. This helps in attracting the right type of person or someone who is looking for specific traits. “Together, these affordances of the online medium allow online daters to engage in selective self-presentation, a highly deliberate and strategic type of self-presentation” (Toma and Handcock, 2010, p. 346). Our online self has to show the best version possible and affordances have made this readily available to everyone. The presence of multiple online dating platforms which is evidently growing has generated more connection between people. As more people are participating and using these platforms, more people are now feeling that they have to change what they look like and how they come across to the outside world. “Online dating allows individuals to take their time at presenting themselves” (Whitty and Buchanan, 2009, p. 67). The concept of dressing and presenting images online that reflect our ideal selves has rooted from real life. Which in a world of billions of people is it wrong to want to stand out, to look and feel ones best? But starting this trend for young people in a society where they just want to be accepted can have negative impacts also.

Communities work because people share information to help create trust and markers they can be identified by. Although if people do not have the same looks as others they can be made to feel like they are not good enough. Leading to feelings of selflessness and not fitting in. When users believe they do not fit the same criteria as other people it can be detrimental to shaping their own identity. This can effect current and their future selves, possibly finding it hard to create relationships. “The more a person becomes dependent on the media to fulfill these needs, the more important the media is for that particular individual” (Joo and Teng, 2017, p. 41). This urge that people feel that they have to represent themselves differently increases the likelihood of people catfishing others. Catfishing is luring someone into a false relationship from a false persona. This is done online by using other people’s photos, with the user pretending that is themselves. This sinister act is deceitful and wrong in stealing someone else’s identity. This need to be accepted makes it more common for catfishing to occur as users think they the only way to succeed is being someone else. “Online dating sites these days do not provide complete anonymity – as daters typically do and expect others to present to provide a photograph” (Whitty and Buchanan, 2009, p. 67). Therefore, it is easier for users to get away with catfishing and pretending to be someone else behind a screen. On the opposite side, users may find it harder to determine if someone else is catfishing and they are being lied to. With communication and contact being online the users do not always see each other face-to-face. But how does one know that they aren’t being a victim of catfishing? They do not, until they meet in person which can be unsafe at time. We have to trust the face behind the screen is who they say, which for a lot of people is easy as they have built a relationship with this particular person.

Being part of a community is important to most people, whether it online or in person they both have positive effects. It is human nature for people to need to feel included and that they have a connection with others. It is rooted in our subconscious. Although being in a community who base their first opinions on looks over substance is it creating a society as a whole who only care about what others see? It is hard for users of online dating platforms to not get caught in this contest. After all, most people who participate in online dating are wanting similar outcomes, so essentially they are fighting to be perceived as the ‘fittest’. “Communities do not have to be solidary groups of densely-nit neighbors but could also exist as social networks of kin, friends, and workmates who do not necessarily live in the same neighborhoods” (Wellman and Guilia, 1997. p. 2). Online dating platforms are creating communities and friendships that may not have been possible without the introduction of Web 2.0. The internet has aided and allowed communities to emerge without physical location being an issue. The elimination of this physical barrier now allows more people to connect, although adds this importance on showing the best image of oneself. People have this urge to fit in and long for friendships of all kinds. By creating a persona users are showing the world how they want to be seen, which often reflects this need find and fit in with a group. “Enthusiasts hail the Net’s potential for making connections without regard to race, creed, gender or geography” (Wellman and Guilia, 1997, p. 1). Communities can reach and be from places that are on distant grids, which can work as a blessing to make it possible for this connection.

The idea of people wanting to show the best version of themselves online and in real life is not a negative thing. It is the cultural norms and expectations that come with it that can be destructive to a person’s livelihood. In the era where technology is a large way that people communicate it is important for people to feel they can express themselves how they want to be seen. People are driven to look good and only present a perfect and flawless version of themselves online. No one wants unappealing photos of themselves spread all over the internet. As the internet and online dating platforms now includes majority of images it has fostered more need for applications and ways to enhance one’s photos. Which is why we are seeing an increasing number of photo editing apps created and added into existing social media platforms. Although communities are established through the use of social networking and online dating platforms, are they all bad? Are the individuals who just want to fit in with others the bad people here? How is adding a filter and only showing the best parts of your life online a negative thing? Is it not the same as straightening your hair or applying makeup? It is time that we realise that society is forcing individuals to conform and abide by these unwritten rules if they want to make it in a technological world.  


Joo, T., & Teng, C. (2017). Impacts of Social Media (Facebook) on Human Communication and Relationships: A View on Behavioral Change and Social Unity. Research Of Knowledge Content Development & Technology7(4), 27-50. doi:

Stoicescu, M. (2020). The globalized online dating culture: Reframing the dating process through online dating. Journal Of Comparative Research In Anthropology And Sociology10(1), 21-32. Retrieved from

Toma, C., & Hancock, J. (2010). Looks and Lies: The Role of Physical Attractiveness in Online Dating Self-Presentation and Deception. Communication Research37(3), 335-351. doi: 10.1177/0093650209356437

Wellman, B., & Gulia, M. (1997). Net Surfers Don’t Ride Alone: Virtual Communities as Communities. Department Of Sociology And Centre For Urban And Community Studies, 1-18. Retrieved from

Whitty, M., & Buchanan, T. (2009). Looking for Love in so many Places: Characteristics of Online Daters and Speed Daters. Interpersona3, 63-86. Retrieved from

23 replies on “Online Dating: Encouraging users to depict and enhance their physical appearance online.”

Hi Georgina,
I found your paper particularly compelling especially your idea of self-representation on social network sites and how people can manipulate the visual affordances of these sites. The idea of catfishing is extremely prevalent in online sites, especially dating sites, so it was very interesting to learn more about that topic and how it not only affects the individuals that were catfished but also the person whose identity was stolen. I agree with your idea that visual affordances of these sites have made it easier for users to catfish and I think that these sites should implement more practices to combat this issue.


Hi Ash-Le,
Thanks for reading my paper, I am glad you can resonate and agree with the plethora of affordances we have and how this changes everything. I believe this issue is just going to become more prominent in our society as more people rely on social media and online dating apps to find partners. I don’t think people realise its full extent, this is also going to effect the mental health of users. Do you think developers really care about the individual users or just making money? I am concerned that this is going to be detrimental…


Hi Georgina,
I too found your paper a very good read. It definitely outlines some key points to online dating and how Web 2.0 has impacts our lives in a different, more personal way but with similarities to social media.
I was just wondering how you decided on your topic? I think it’s an interesting topic that is not always explored so I’m curious on what made you decide to write about it.

Hi Jade, thanks for reading my paper and for your feedback.
I decided on the topic as lots of my co-workers were commenting on their personal experiences with online dating apps and how they felt like they had to change how they look online to impress others. After I started thinking about it in more depth I soon realised that many of us as online users are trying to change how others see us. I strongly believe it is a growing issue in todays society and feel we need to accept ourselves! Have you found similar situations in your social circles?

Hello Georgina,

What an interesting topic! I really enjoyed reading your paper as it gives a deeper insight on online dating and concepts like ‘self-presentation’ and ‘impression management’ among the users.

You highlighted a very good point when you talked about ‘Catfishing’ on dating apps because this is a kind of ‘digital deception’ which happens very often among people when they start to date through dating applications. I totally agree with you when you said that we are living “In a society that now places more value on a person’s physical appearance rather than their character” and I think that this is one of the reasons why people are constantly lying about their real self and involved in catfishing. I also think that the ‘swipes’ on dating apps contribute a lot to this kind of behaviour from people because the need to show a better version of themselves is so strong that they start to use a fake identity or editing tools to modify their pictures without realising that deception does not fit well with lasting romance. Some quick questions – What are your thoughts about the ‘swipes’ on dating applications? Don’t you think that the focus is too much on the physical appearance thus finding ‘love’ by being truthful and real is no more taken into consideration?

And have you ever heard of an MTV reality show called ‘Catfish’? In the show people want to know whether their online relationship is real or not but most of the time, they end up realising that they have been catfished. I found out that very often when those people who catfish others are asked why they do so, most of them explained that they are ashamed of how they look in real life or are afraid of not being attractive enough and this is what encourage them to steel another person’s identity or use photoshopped pictures to appear better and the way they want.

My paper is quite different from yours and I wrote on the ASMR community challenging the society’s misconception on ASMR videos so if you are interested, feel free to have a look at my paper 😊 Here is the link:



Hi Georgina,
I enjoyed reading your paper and found it interesting! You discussed many good points with one being the importance of first impressions on dating apps and the shift towards visual content with Web 2.0. This idea of perfection has been normalised on all social media platforms and has been quickly integrated on dating apps.

I completely agree that photo editing has created “a culture of people who have different personas online compared to their real life” – do you think this could be considered a low level of catfishing? Or are these normalized actions are almost expected on online platforms and are ‘done by everyone’ so it doesn’t count as catfishing which you defined as “luring someone into a false relationship from a false persona.”

In the online space, it is hard to know what the line is and where the lines are with so much freedom and lack of online policing.

I wrote my paper about the different ways people perform their identities on Instagram depending on their audience and like you, I also mentioned the posting of highlights online as reality when this is often not the case – feel free to check it out


Hi Amy,
Thankyou for reading my paper and your comments.
How strange that photo editing is now accepted as norm and a social requirement to fit in? I believe that this is the case not only in on online dating apps but all forms of social media, including “professional sites” such as LinkedIn. To answer your question, yes I do think that it is a low form of catfishing, online users are pretending to be someone else. It starts off as photo editing, but who knows how far people could go with this need to being presented in the best way possible. I did also discuss impression management which is similar to people “performing” on Instagram. It sounds like we have very similar values and topics addressed in our papers. I look forward to reading yours and discussing further.


Hey Georgina,

I really enjoyed your paper and I can link it with my own as I looked at dating/hook up apps for men and found a lot of similarities to what you have mentioned.

I completely agree with your paper. The technology online dating affords and I think it pushes users to create an ideal persona to achieve more matches. Catfishing is such a huge issue for online dating given that it is so common today, but like social media, its hard to monitor or identify the fakes.

Did you find any information on how dating apps were trying to reduce such issues? Or if it was included in their guidelines at all? I know when I looked into Grindr and Tinder in my research, there was very little in their guidelines about major issues such as fake profiles. But I did find something similar that men preferred to have a more masculine image as the ideal persona.


Hi Georgina

First of all, kudos for taking a subject which has been deemed sensitive by a lot of people. This makes a very interesting read because of your explanation from both the sides. There are different people with different perspectives around the world, one who looks at online dating sites and social media as just another reality and another who thinks that the online world is the real one. There was a point where you mentioned that these online sites and applications help in developing the outlook of a person, I feel that this is a point which most people tend to ignore. Think about it, if you compare the way people dressed and presented themselves about 10 years ago to now there would be drastic improvements in a good way and like you I agree that social media and online sites have paved the way for it.
On the side note I think that the topic which I have written can also correlate with yours and it would be great if you could have a look at it and give me your thoughts.

Hi Georgina,

I really enjoyed reading your paper. I agree that online dating has encouraged catfishing because a lot may think they are not the typical person that one will like. So to become more favourable is to use someone else’s picture. But what do you think can be done to check the authenticity of the dating app user? As one can easily find a picture on Google, dating apps can find some ways to use the algorithms to cross out the fake ones and prevent catfishing from occurring.

‘No one wants unappealing photos of themselves spread all over the internet’. I mean some really don’t mind when they are unappealing because it is portraying their true self and in dating apps, being too perfect physically can actually make people doubtful and question themselves whether it is real or not.

While we’re at it, although our topics are very much different, I would like to hear your thoughts on my paper which is about teenagers using online games as an escape from reality.

Hi Georgina

I found your paper very thought-provoking.

With the affordances of online dating platforms somewhat encouraging enhancements of one’s photos, do you feel like photo enhancement is actually becoming expected by the users of such platforms?

Reading your paper also spurred me to think about the definition of catfishing. If catfishing is using pictures to pretend to be someone else, then could it be argued that those enhancing their pictures beyond real-life recognition are actually participating in catfishing?

Interested in your perspective.

Hi Georgina
You paper is really worth reading and very interesting. It has literally catches my mind how online dating platforms provoke people indirectly to enhance their photo. Do you agree that these online dating platforms encourage people to portrait their “style” as well?

My paper also speaks a part of self representation. You can have a look and give your honest point of view.

Kind regards and be safe
Katoosia Gerard

Hi Georgina!

I really enjoyed reading your paper, I wrote mine on a similar topic and it was nice to read about how others viewed the materialistic standards which accompany online dating. I’m wondering if you think other aspects of social media or online communities paved the way for these standards?, since online dating apps and the magnitude of photo editing apps are relatively recent.

It also makes me question if people pre-enhance photos knowing they will end up on their dating platforms or social media, if they are aware of what they are doing or just following normalised acts.

My paper is about how social media has manufactured deceptive identities online and I also talk about online dating briefly which you may take an interest it. I would love to hear your feedback!

Have a great day!

Hi Georgina, this is my favourite paper I have read yet! It is such a harsh, but accurate truth that this day and age puts appearance on top of the podium in so many different parts of life. The issue with this as we’ve shifted into web 2.0 is that, if everyone knows how important appearance is, then why not do small adjustments to make sure their photos match the expectation? Despite this being a very toxic mentality, it appears to be what so many people do these days. A filter, a little photoshop, a crop, whatever it might be – people are falsely adjusting their photos to suit their liking. This is especially apparent on online dating platforms. I completely agree that Tinder, Bumble, Hinge, etc. promote looks to be the number one thing that people should be looking for. Hence the reason they emphasize the importance of the first photo. There is hardly room to share details about interests and hobbies and even at that, so many people skim over that part and focus on what the person looks like.

Additionally, I think it is really detrimental to a person’s confidence to “swipe” on people and knowingly see that they have not “matched,” therefore meaning the other person did not swipe right on them too. It is for reasons like this that little enhancements to a photo seem to be the only way to be “successful” on online dating sites. My paper has really similar roots, being a focus on appearance but more so directed to young teenage girls on their Instagrams. Should you have a chance, I’d love for you to give it a read at


Hi Georgina,
this was an interesting paper to read; different from mine yet so thought provoking.
especially when you said “The idea of people wanting to show the best version of themselves online and in real life is not a negative thing. It is the cultural norms and expectations that come with it that can be destructive to a person’s livelihood.”
I would argue that the trends are changing online. We see more and more unedited pictures, and people of different physical appearances. What is considered as “flaws” as per societal beauty standards, is being flaunted by many online. Taking the example of Harnaam Kaur which I discussed in my paper, she proudly shows off her beard and spreads awareness about her medical condition. There are many more like Winnie Harlow, the VS model with skin issue.
Do you think with increasing influencers being fully authentic online will finally help common people present themselves as they are online, be it on dating sites? would that bring a change to cultural expectations and norms that requires to be well presented online?

Feel free to check my paper which is about the promotion of self acceptance online

Hi Bibi,
Thanks for your response to my paper and I am glad you saw some difference of opinion!
I definitely understand what you are saying, not everyone online is taking part in this deceptive behaviour. Although I do believe that many people are falling into the trap as they do not want to be seen as different from the crowd. I love that there are people especially celebs embracing their ‘flaws’ and showing them off to the world. It creates this feeling that we are all beautiful and special in our own ways, and empowers younger followers to be comfortable in their own skin.
I would love to live in a world where influencers depicted themselves truly and honestly, and do believe we are making some progress. But I feel there is not enough people embracing their true selves. So to answer your question, yes I do believe and hope that if more influencers started to show a more honest vision of their lives then it would become more normal and accepted within all users.
I think most people can be their own worst enemy at times especially when it comes to self acceptance, and I believe that this does have consequences for each individual.

I am interested to know, do you think we as online users are taking a step forward or backwards when it comes to mental health and online behaviour?


Hi Georgina!

I feel as though you had a very captivating piece that was interesting to read but also made me think deeply as well. Your topic on dating was interesting for me to read as I am at the stage of my life where I am dating and am even online dating too. It is funny that online dating is so common nowadays – at least enough for you to write a paper on – were a while ago it would have been taboo to admit you date online. A few comments you made were very interesting to me, specifically where you explain how people perfect their ideal self to impress others. I can relate to that where I feel like I want people to see me as this fun, positive and well-travelled girl so that is what I represent myself like on social media sites. I feel as though I am like this but it is dramatised to people.
The feeling to impress people like you mention is only enhanced on dating sites. Being on dating sites myself I feel the need to have the best pictures of myself to capture the attention of guys. Like the point you make, the photos we have up on dating sites are what people base us on rather than our actual character. This paragraph you wrote was really interesting!!

I think that your comments about catfishing were interesting too. Catfishing is a concept that is so crazy to me and yet happens so often evidently. I raise the question to you, do you believe that by presenting ones ideal self on social media that they are in turn, catfishing?. I wonder where the line is for this.
Let me know, would be interesting to get your ideas!

Thank you, Isabella!

Hi Georgina
I enjoyed reading your paper. As you highlighted how it is almost like is a normality to put out on display a completely different photo of yourself or well photo shopped of yourself as your selling point to these dating sites or any other social media platforms in general.
You also commented about how these dating sites influenced the dating culture as am whole, due to easy access to the platforms,users might be engaged with multiple dating at one time,or encouraging short relationship.
I do agree upon a lot of your arguments, however i also might argue that, users of these dating platforms are aware when they sign up to these apps, that image (photos)is the number one selling point,so may be the first target of these dating platforms are the photogenic enthusiasts.
Otherwise this is a very good topic with more to talk about, yes technology has improved vastly on how people engaged with one another but i might a be a minority here, i still think a traditional one on one conversation with your future potential partner/lover will always be a better alternative,what are you thoughts about it..
Have attached my paper below,your comments would be appreciated.

Hi Sam, thanks for your comments!
I believe that there is still so much that could be addressed with this topic as this is only skimming the surface.
Technology has changed the way us as users interact, although I do agree with you. I believe that ‘traditional means’ of conversations will always trump the online means. Online it is so hard to convey emotion which is needed when building relationships of any kind. Online dating apps have helped create relationships that may not have been able to happen without this technology. So it can be both a blessing and a curse.

Hi Georgina,

A very interesting read. I agree with many of the points listed in your paper. It astounds me that altering your physical appearance and “catfishing” people has become somewhat of a norm when navigating the online sphere.

I think your paper accurately highlights how image-centric the world has become. The vast majority of social networking sites focus extensively on imagery, rather than someones likes, interests, dislikes etc. I believe it is because of this that people feel pressure to adhere to unattainable standards, as beauty is so heavily emphasised. What do you think?

It would be greatly appreciated if you could check out my paper!

Hi Tess,
Thanks for your comments and reading my paper.
I 100% agree with that your statement. We are so caught up in what we look like that we forget it is what is on the inside that counts! I doesn’t help that celebrities are only showing their so what perfect lives.

I look forward to reading your paper and discussing this more.
Stay safe and well,

Hey Georgina,

Super interesting read and something that I feel many people over look as most of their attention is focused on editing Instagram photos. As Tess mentioned earlier it is crazy that no matter who, but especially females are branded as ‘Catfish’ if they edit photos or even try and impress people with the makeup ability. It’s just crazy that young women are told that they are beautiful and should be happy in their own skin, or they should wear makeup but as soon as they do they are called out for leading men astray.

You mentioned that dating sites have changed the way in which people go about dating. Do you feel that the shift from more intimate monogamous relationships to fast short interactions such as one night stands is influencing the way in which these users perceive love and impacting how they construct themselves around these fast flowing interactions to potentially be more desirable?
I’d love to hear your thoughts.


Hi Georgina,

This was a very interesting paper!
The idea of people ‘cat-fishing’ or ‘falsely advertising’ themselves on dating sites and social media is always fascinating to me. Isn’t it just matter of time before the person realises they’ve been duped and it will end worse than it would have otherwise? I like that you mentioned the cultural contextual factors that cause people to do this, as well as the ease in which they can due to filters, in-built editing software and photoshop. The social pressures to be “always on” and always looking perfect may stem from the idea of dressing up to look your best for a date or an interview, but I think its likely more to do with the ubiquity of smart phone cameras and strict media expectations rather than a sort of act for good first impressions, as its more so an active lie.

Great work!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *