Online Dating and Deception

I've tried online dating at various times over the years with limited success. I must admit, though, that I haven't been 100% honest on my profiles.

When I last had an online dating profile in 2008, my post-concussion syndrome symptoms were at their worst. (Back then, a high-pitched ring tone or whistling could cause me to vomit. I wish I was exaggerating on that one.) I didn't disclose details about that or any of my other health conditions. I figured that if I met someone with whom I had a strong connection, I would tell him about my health — or he would see how I was affected — soon enough.

Quite a few of my ex-boyfriends have lied on their online dating profiles, including the following:

"Buckeyes" Boy changed his race on Match with the seasons, even stating at one point that he's Latino. And, he still maintains that he played football in college.

According to his profile, Philly Matt had completed some college. Umm…that's news to me.

Military Attorney Boy clicked that he was either "Separated" or "Divorced" on his profiles. I later learned that his children were unaware that he and their mom weren't together anymore. (They thought their dad had to work out-of-town for a year.)

This topic has been on my mind, after reading the blog of Eleni Bakst, one of my students in my Sexuality and Social Media class. In her post regarding "Recreating Yourself," Eleni writes:

A potential downside of online dating is the possibility of misrepresentations in personal profiles. Recent survey research showed that “86% of online dating participants felt others misrepresented their physical appearance” (Hancock, Toma, and Ellison, 2007). Everyone tries to make the best first impressions, occasionally lying to make themselves look better, more fun, or more interesting. When creating an online profile there is an even greater temptation to be deceptive because daters know that everything they are writing is being “scrutinized by potential mates” (449).

Online daters can “engage in selective self-presentations—a more mindful and strategic version of face-to-face self-presentation. More specifically, asynchronicity ensures the relaxation of time constraints between profile creation and actual interaction with potential dates, such that users have more time to carefully formulate their self-presentation. ” (450). In addition, when online daters notice that something in their self-presentation attracts the wrong daters, they are able to go back and edit their profile, putting them at a great advantage when compared to “normal daters” (450). Online daters have the ability to create, edit, and re-edit the version of themselves that they feel most confident and happy about.

There are also certain factors that discourage deception on online dating profiles. When it comes to who lies about what, the answer lies all in attraction. Research has shown that men and women look for different features in potential mates. Generally, “men look for youth and physical attractiveness in their partners, whereas women look for ability to provide and indicators of social status, such as education and career” (450). Therefore, women are more deceptive regarding their physical characteristics and age while men are more likely to be deceptive about their social status or height (which is often associated with power and status).

In a study performed on New York City online daters using, Yahoo Personals, American Singles and Webdate, researchers witnessed that 81% of the participants lied on at least one of the variables assessed (452). The most frequently lied about variable was weight, then height, and then age (452).

While it may be particularly tempting to be deceptive when creating an online profile, it’s important to always be honest and open from the beginning. Find a person who wants you for who you really are, not for what they want you to be.

Wise words, Eleni! Her project will look at the following:

Do online dating sites really have the potential to create and maintain long-term meaningful relationships?

I can't wait to read more of her findings, including her transcripts from interviews with people who have tried online dating — successfully and unsuccessfully.

Okay, it's time to 'fess up. Have you ever lied on an online dating profile, and if so, what about?

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