Over dinner recently, a friend of mine, fresh out of a long-term relationship, asked if I could show her how dating apps worked. Halfway through my mini-tutorial of the two on my phone, Tinder and Hinge, she paused and asked an entirely serious question: "Why are all of these men standing on or next to mountains?" We swiped for another few minutes, only to find her initial assessment was true for the vast majority of profiles. After our laughing finally stopped, she asked: "Can I even be on this app if I'm never up a mountain?"
I've heard plenty of jokes about gym, bathroom mirror and car selfies over the years (and when I lived in Texas, there were plenty of gun-toting pics to make fun of too), but the innocuous mountain selfie was one that I hadn't previously noticed—probably because of its generally inoffensive nature. Now I can't un-see it. Sometimes, it's obvious where they are—Machu Picchu, the White Cliffs of Dover, the edge of the Grand Canyon, somewhere in Japan where Mount Fuji is visible in the distance—but it seems that, these days, dramatic and rugged environs are the go-to backdrop for single men everywhere. Why?
In 2017, Medium published an article titled "5 Things Men Get Wrong On Dating Apps." It advised daters that "the second photo [on a profile] should be a picture of you in action or doing something you love. This could be hiking, fishing, running a marathon, bowling, etc., or just doing one of your hobbies. Having a picture of you doing an activity shows you off in your natural element. It tells women that you like to get out and live life. It sends the message that you do things, have hobbies. It also reflects that you have a passion and that you’re not the boring type who likes to just stay home."
Pride.com also recently encouraged the trend, calling the "I Hiked to the Top of This Mountain!" profile photo "an excellent opportunity to be shirtless and not look so douchey." Further backup comes via research done by eHarmony Australia, which found that, of the top ten "most attractive interests for men to list in their profile," travel and exercise came in at number two and three respectively. Politics was number one, so pretty much the only way to improve on that mountain selfie would be by adding a woke slogan T-shirt.
Vox suggests the spike in hiking pics is not as contrived as all that, saying: "When people are doing things like 'trekking around Iceland,' that’s when they feel the most sexy, interesting, and fun... Ultimately, everyone wants that euphoric couples vacation."