Most of the time regardless if an average looking or below average looking guy has an interesting profile and despite that he sends an interesting message, to a woman around his age he has things in common with, and despite if he is messaging women in the same attractive level as him or below him, nearly all females regardless how they look like that read his message and look at his profile after that will not respond to his message. Since females have lots of options it has been proven that most only respond to good looking guys. Best option for average and below average looking guys is to meet women in person.
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Women receive countlessly many more times as many messages as men do. That's a fact. The reason is because men will frequently copy and paste the same message to tons of women to play the numbers game, as they don't really give a shit who responds. They just want p*ssy.
That doesn't describe all men online, but it describes enough to cause women to get way too many messages to reply to. Because of that, they need a heuristic to help sift through all the messages, and pick the ones that pop out to them. Hence, the picture is what's most easily used to pick which messages to read. The rest simply go unread. This isn't a statement of shallowness of women, just a matter of practicality. If anything, it's the shallowness of the men who send tons and tons of the exact same message that leads to it.
Incidentally, photo is how most men skim the search results, too. So in that sense, women with a less attractive photo will also probably get fewer messages than other women, because the other women are who the men will spam first. Though, they will still get more messages than men overall.
That said, photo is not the ONLY thing women (or people in general) care about. Sending a good message can make up for other factors, because people are also attracted to confidence, depth, wit, and sense of humor, although I know you're feeling rather cynical right now with your "proven through experiments" line (what experiments? Were they scientifically valid/peer reviewed? Or more likely, were they just some random survey quoted in a magazine-type article?).
That said, it's easy to put up a bad photo online, even if you're "physically attractive," so making sure your pic is the best it can be should still always be a priority. I find a lot of people who think they're unattractive create their own self-fulfilling prophecies by refusing to do things like take a good picture (or care for their health or their appearance in general) because they wrongly believe it's futile.1
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