Attraction Behind Beauty:

Revealing Gay Men’s Self-Presentation on a Dating App with Computer Vision


  • Jia Fan Beijing Normal University
  • Yanming Chen Beijing Normal University
  • Lun Zhang Beijing Normal University
  • Ye Wu Beijing Normal University
  • Xiao Fan Liu City University of Hong Kong


computational methods; computer vision; gay; online dating; Finka; social cues; self-presentation


Photos, a fundamental construct of online self-presentation, are crucial to the success of building online relationships. This paper applies social bots techniques to collect user profile photos on a Chinese gay dating app Finka and uses computer vision algorithms to analyze the selectively presented social cues from the photos. Extending from existing research on physical (i.e., facial and body cues) visual cues, we incorporate non-physical (i.e., background scenes) cues as another theoretical dimension. Results show that although showing the face and making facial expressions are not associated with user popularity, appealing faces and body disclosure are attractiveness determinators, confirming the existence of “the gay male beauty myth” in the online dating community. Interestingly, we also discovered an “ambiance effect” in profile photos: selectively choosing background scenes can act as a new self-presentation tactic that could influence a user’s popularity. Particularly, intimate scenes (e.g., home, hotel, and gym), as the most attractive non-physical cues, can arouse the desire for further interaction with the presenter. Our findings suggest that intimate background scenes can reinforce the presenters’ physical attractiveness and invite intimate relationships on dating platforms.

Author Biographies

Jia Fan, Beijing Normal University

Mr. Jia Fan ( is a graduate student in the Department of Journalism and Communication at Beijing Normal University, and also a research assistant of City University of Hong Kong. Research interest: computational communication research, visual cultural studies.

Yanming Chen, Beijing Normal University

Mr. Yanming Chen ( is a graduate student in the Department of Journalism and Communication at Beijing Normal University. Research interest: media sociology, media cultural studies (on gender and feminism studies).

Lun Zhang, Beijing Normal University

Dr. Lun Zhang ( is currently an associate professor at Beijing Normal University. She obtained her PhD degree in communication (2010) from City University of Hong Kong. Her current research projects focus on news consumption on mobile Internet and knowledge sharing on social media sites.

Ye Wu, Beijing Normal University

Prof. Ye Wu (corresponding author,, Computational Communication Research Center, Beijing Normal University, Zhuhai, 519087, China; School of Journalism and Communication, Beijing Normal University, Beijing, 100875, China. His research focuses on computational social science methods and media use.

Xiao Fan Liu, City University of Hong Kong

Dr. Xiao Fan Liu (corresponding author,, Web Mining Laboratory, Department of Media and Communication, City University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, China. His research centers around computational social science methods and natural experiments.




How to Cite

Fan, J., Chen, Y., Zhang, L., Wu, Y., & Liu, X. F. (2023). Attraction Behind Beauty:: Revealing Gay Men’s Self-Presentation on a Dating App with Computer Vision. Computational Communication Research, 5(1), 51–75. Retrieved from