More than half of Americans filter their online presence for a stronger first impression

·2-min read

Three in five Americans hate how their smile looks in photos, new research suggests.

A recent survey of 2,000 U.S. respondents found that most have based a first impression of someone else on their smile (76%) and eyes (69%), more so than on their clothes (56%) or social media presence (27%).

However, people's online presence can affect how they're perceived. Results show that how people look in their photos and videos (52%), their spelling and grammar (49%) and the types of content they post and share (48%) have all influenced a first impression.

With so many initial impressions occurring digitally, it's no wonder that 57% have removed old photos of themselves online. 

Yet according to those polled, the average Twitter or Instagram profile photo is six years old.

Conducted by OnePoll on behalf of Spark Aligners, the survey also found that more than two-thirds have a favorite photo of themselves. 

Most (71%) prefer this photo because they feel they look their best in it, rather than due to the lighting and composition of the image (54%).

But 76% of Americans said they don't always smile in photos.

Rather than grin from ear to ear, some will present a poker face (46%), cover their mouth (43%) or make a surprised expression (43%).

Men were more likely to prefer framing their profile photos from the waist up (42%), while most women were comfortable with a close-up of just their face (38%).

When asked what social media platforms people feel most pressured to present their smile on, Facebook topped the list (53%), with more than twice feeling obligated to do so than on LinkedIn (24%). 

"Part of the pressure we feel to smile in photos comes from the way others who smile make us feel," said a spokesperson for Spark Aligners. "Our data shows that more than two-thirds of people think those who smile are more trustworthy, confident and approachable."

Facial expressions can play a big role in the dating realm, too. When using a dating app, the first thing most said they would notice about a profile photo is a person's smile (32%) — more than twice as those whose initial attention would be drawn to their body type and posture (15%).

As for the least noticeable features? The backdrop or location where the image was taken, the presence of a vehicle and the person's clothing went largely unnoticed by potential dates.

Looking ahead to 2022, three-fifths of survey respondents plan to update their online presence with all-new profile photos.

"People are aware of the external and internal benefits of smiling; seven in 10 said smiling makes them feel less stressed about their day," the spokesperson added. "While many of us take the time to pick out an outfit and have a hair care routine, maybe what we all need for an extra confidence boost is just to share our smiles with the world more often." 

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