A Rare Plea for Leniency in This Age of Online Dating

The one part of Tindering where you can afford to show a little mercy. (But just a little.)

(Image credit: Getty, design by Betsy Farrell)

Even though I am off Tinder and Bumbleoff off, not delete-the-app-in-a-fit-of-pique-but-keep-giving-them-Facebook-access off—and blissfully the same except all the f*ckboys I meet are IRL now, those damn apps still won't leave me be. How are those instruments of auto-torture still so culturally pervasive? And can we really say we're in the dating apocalypse if everyone (else) is still swiping like there's no tomorrow? Debatable, but at least one corner of hell must have frozen over if I'm here as I am now, about to take a stand for all the un-photogenic people out there whose wills to find companionship digitally haven't yet crumpled like so many Egg McMuffin wrappers. WTF? Yes—to the bunkers.

As a person so un-talented at sitting for photos that the resultant images can range from blobfish snapped mid-sneeze to very, very distant relative of Gemma Ward, I cannot stand idly by as my simultaneously cruel and Pollyanna-ish friends dismiss potential matches because "Why does he look fine in some pictures but not in others?" First, there are way better reasons to dismiss potential matches: no bio, selfies only, bad shoes, shares name with grade-school archenemy, threatens "don't be basic." Second, if you want to get a sense of a person's true appearance, simply look at their tagged photos—this is what model scouts do.

But beyond that, I do think this might be where kindness could win over cunning, even though adult life usually proves otherwise. A leap of faith, if you will. (I can't believe myself either.) Most people haven't got friends who are both proficient in photography and patient and generous enough to follow them around and wait until they're flatteringly backlit and laughing prettily with not too much gum showing and in perfect three-quarter view—most people have only got regular friends and iPhones. Bad photos—not tragic or catfish-y ones—are therefore kind of sweet in a time of wanton FaceTuning and fingertip nip-and-tuck-age.

With me in front of a camera, it's a game of chance—you never know what you're going to get. And it's the same with anyone you meet online. Still bail if a dude doesn't even look like the great-great-aunt, twice removed of the impostor in his profile, but before that, cut him some slack. (Again, to self: "You're not getting soft in your old age, are you?")

Bad photos are kind of sweet in a time of wanton FaceTuning and fingertip nip-and-tuck-age.

But then again, not too much mercy, because then that would be a compromise. The most rational, "never complain, never explain, never settle even though you might end up Edie Beale-ing because of your cursed impossibly high standards" answer, then? Simple—if the average of the photos is cute, and the rest is in order, that is quite enough. (We leave the non-superficial bit to you.)

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Chelsea Peng
Assistant Editor

Chelsea Peng is a writer and editor who was formerly the assistant editor at MarieClaire.com. She's also worked for The Strategist and Refinery29, and is a graduate of Northwestern University. On her tombstone, she would like a GIF of herself that's better than the one that already exists on the Internet and a free fro-yo machine. Besides frozen dairy products, she's into pirates, carbs, Balzac, and snacking so hard she has to go lie down.