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Here are the photos you should use on your online dating profile

For our inaugural CNET online dating advice column, we explore just how the hell you're supposed to strike up a conversation with a complete stranger on Tinder.

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Love could be a swipe away. Or not. 

Angela Lang/CNET

Greetings, friends. Welcome to CNET's online dating advice column by me -- Erin Carson, staff reporter, resident young-enough-person, refrigerdating correspondent, curator of odd stuff on the internet, most likely to leave you on "read."

You might be wondering why you should pay any attention to what I have to say about online dating.

First off, I've been happily married for 10 years. Kidding! I'm out there just like everyone else, a machete in one hand, pocket knife between my teeth, hacking through the dating wilderness, wondering how this all happened, and why I didn't pack bug spray.

Read more: Best dating sites of 2019

I've also been covering dating apps for about three years, which means that if I've written about it, I've probably downloaded it. In that time I've talked to many of the folks behind the apps you use, and with experts who work with hopeful lovebirds every day.

Most of all, believe me when I tell you: I get that online dating is a little weird. However, I subscribe to the philosophy that tech is a tool, and if folks can have tacos delivered to their apartment, hitch a ride, and shout their desire to know the weather into the ether and get a response, they should be able to find someone to drag along to that random free arts event in the park.

So, if you've got questions about how to pick an app, craft a bio or how not to sink into an existential mire whilst on the apps, hit me up.

Q: What are the best types of profile pictures?

You. In the bathroom, flexing hard, about to take a selfie. Put your phone down.

If I've just destroyed your entire dating profile photo strategy, pull up a chair and we can chat.

Now, I will couch what I'm about to say with the fact that more than a few dating platforms out there have put out data in the past about what seems to work on profiles. You might be able to dig up platform-specific info on the ideal number of pictures you should have, or even the most successful facial expressions for men and women. One study found that guys come off as more attractive and trustworthy if they have a dog in their profile, which is great news if you're like me and like looking at pictures of dogs (and dreaming of stealing said dogs).

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You're better than a bathroom selfie. 

Vinicius Rafael/EyeEm/Getty

Dognapping aside, think of your photos as a whole. You've got maybe 4 or 5 pics to tell some kind of story about who you are and what your life is like.

Here's something that sounds obvious: Make sure people can see your face clearly in at least your main profile picture. THAT MEANS YOU IN THE SKI MASK. Are you robbing a bank?? What is happening??

Anyway. Throw in some lifestyle photos. Like to travel? Play soccer? Hike with friends? Great. (Side note: Make sure you're not projecting some type of unrealistic, showboat persona. Odds are you don't spend every weekend in a tux or evening gown. Give folks an idea of how you spend your time when you're not scaling a boulder shirtless.) Not only are you illustrating who you are, but you might be making it easier for someone to message you about how they, too, play Tibetan singing bowls in their free time.

When constructing a profile, it doesn't hurt to imagine how some random person out there will perceive it. If all they have to go on is one grainy picture of you, taken at 3 a.m. while lying down on your couch, using your laptop's built-in camera, well… the odds are not in your favor, pal.

You might not have perfect travel pictures of exotic destinations or delightful snapshots from Gatsby-esque soirees. That's OK. At the very least, put on a clean shirt, go outside and get a friend to take a decent picture of you.

And never forget: Car selfies are trash. 

Q: What are the best pickup lines for starting a conversation?

Let's get one thing out of the way: The best way to start a conversation is not "hey," or "hi" or any derivation thereof, unless you're actively trying to get ignored. In which case, by all means go for it. I can almost promise you'll end up in the hey stack of rejected matches.

In truth, "hey" might be a perfectly acceptable way to start a conversation with a friend or colleague. You start at "hey" and end up debriefing on Game of Thrones. But here's the thing -- you're not approaching someone you have a preexisting relationship with. You're talking to a stranger on the internet who, in all likelihood, is trying to place a bet on which strangers from the internet they should talk to while fighting off the creeping numbness that comes along with flipping through 3 bazillion dating profiles. At best, "hey" is uninteresting; at worst, it's rage-inducing.

"Hey" just isn't going to cut it, partly because, as is the case with your photos, your bio, and other profile elements, you're making a pitch about yourself to the person you're trying to talk to.

In sum, "hey" is the worst thing since stepping on a wet spot on your kitchen floor while wearing socks. Don't do it. Just. Don't Do. It.

So, what do you say?

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There's no science here, folks. But the opposite of a soul-suckingly generic greeting is actually taking the time to look at a person's profile. Try asking them a question about something they've mentioned. Do they like to cook? Ask them what they'd make based on what's in their kitchen right now. Into live music? Ask what bands are on their bucket list. Big Westworld fan? Ask them what the hell happened last season because I have no damn clue and would love to know. (Maybe not that last one, but you get the idea.)

You're just trying to break the ice and veer into a more natural chat about whatever is actually interesting to you both. The first contact is a small hurdle to clear to get you toward either figuring out if the other person has the personality of a wet mop or maybe you'd like to meet up in person.

Granted, you can scour the internet for cheeky opening questions like whether pineapple belongs on pizza (it does and I will fight you) or send along a GIF of a waving panda. Yes, you can do that. It might work. I would argue, though, that's a bit of an assembly line approach to trying to start a conversation.

Keep in mind that when it comes to online dating, it's easy to feel like you're on some kind of nightmarish, overcrowded merry-go-round. Just think— wouldn't it be nice to get a message from someone who seemed like they were specifically interested in you?

This is a recurring advice column focusing on online dating. If you've got a question about finding love via app, send it to erin.carson@cbsinteractive.com for consideration.