When you're scrolling through the 40 million Americans on dating profiles like OkCupid, Match, Tinder and Hinge, the carousel of faces can blur into a single blob of thirsty selfies, group shots and height measurements.
The thing that really pushes that similarity over the edge? We're all using the same goddamn phrases to describe ourselves.
Matt*, 28, an online dater for several years, started noticing this trend when he first joined the app Coffee Meets Bagel. He began to collect "buzzwords" that kept coming up in the profiles of women on the app. Matt and two of his buddies realized that all their matches were describing themselves as "spontaneous," "adventurous" and "laid-back." Their profiles were reading nearly identical.
Everyone is "looking for an adventure": The women who were always "up for an adventure," "exploring the city" and "taking initiative" are symptomatic of a larger trend: Millennial daters aren't sure how to accurately describe themselves.
"The nature of the medium is such that you're answering 'I am,'" Matt told Mic. "But what is adventurous? Are you Jane Goodall going on a wild safari, shooting wild tigers and hanging up trophies? Or is it like 'I feel like I'm going to have a merlot tonight while watching Netflix'? Adventurous and spontaneous don't mean anything out of context. You can't all be adventurous. It's just not possible."
While Matt doesn't doubt that, in fact, these women lead interesting and fun lives, the real issue is the ubiquity of buzzwords that portray users as less nuanced and unique than they actually are. "Once you've seen five people in a row who all say they are 'spontaneous,' it doesn't mean anything anymore. Give me something to work with," Matt said.
Common cliches: It's not just the ladies who have a tendency to opt for cliches in lieu of revealing anything personal. We're all guilty of dropping trite keywords into our profiles.
"'Likes to travel' is the dumbest thing ever," Alecia, 30, said of dating self-descriptors. "No one doesn't like to travel."
"If I see one more dude put 'friends and family' down on OkCupid as 'one of the six things I can't live without,' my eyes will permanently roll back into my head," Cat, 26, told Mic.
"People who list 'sarcasm' as one of the six things they can't do without," Meghan, 29, told Mic.
"I really rolled my eyes when guys would say they were 'sapiosexual,'" Sarah, 24, told Mic; it's a word for people who describe themselves as attracted to intelligence. "I believe some guys mean it, but it was co-opted by the kinds of guys who clearly didn't mean it. I could tell because all their pics were them like, crushing beers with their bro friends."
What we're really looking for: After all, the purpose of our online dating profiles is to create a jumping-off point for conversation. One meta-analysis conducted by researchers from Barts and the London School of Medicine and the University of North Texas found that dating messages that directly address someone's personality are the most successful. So the problem with being an "adventurer" just "dreaming of my next adventure" is that it does nothing to individualize or distinguish the person behind the profile.
Despite what the prevalence of skinny apps and the existence of online dating coaches might have us believe, a perfectly manicured dating profile doesn't actually help our love lives. Online dating profiles that can actually be traced back to a living, breathing human on the other end fare the best in studies. That means getting specific in our profiles: swapping the "adventure" for that white river rafting anecdote, replacing the "drinks" with an old fashioned or exchanging the "city exploration" for a line about underground funk dance parties.
At the end of the day, we're not dating the spontaneous, laid-back, adventuring, go-getting people we claim to be in online dating profiles — we're dating the people with the stories and experiences to back it up.
*Names have been changed to allow subject to speak freely on private matters.