Online Dating & Relationships: Love, Lies, and Loss

Is your love interest as trustworthy as this used car salesman?
Is your love interest as trustworthy as this used car salesman? | Source

Would You Want to be Friends with that Person?

Online dating and social networking have both transformed the way we develop our friendships and romantic relationships, but those who later meet their Internet acquaintances in person are often surprised at having been deceived.

What kind of lies would make you not want to meet someone in person?

Men frequently observe that women are older or weigh more than they were led to believe. Another common complaint is that prostitutes may pose as available singles when in fact, they're anything but. Meanwhile, women find that men claiming to be single may be quite committed to another relationship. Nigerian scams profligate over dating sites and social networks, defrauding naïve, kind people out of many thousands of dollars annually.

Liars have a tremendous advantage when it comes to digital interactions, though deception has been present in social interactions since mankind first walked on two feet. We want to make a good first impression, be likable, and get what we want.

Because frequent communication with a stranger through chat, e-mail, or text messaging can, and often does, lead us to developing feelings for a person we've never met, we would benefit from asking ourselves a couple of questions.

  • What kind of deception is a deal-breaker for me?
  • Would I remain friends with a person who tells white lies?
  • Do I value this friendship enough to verify whether this person is truthful with me?

You can protect yourself from some of the common pitfalls of online relationships and friendships if you learn some tips and techniques to detect liars before you invest too much emotion, and to open offline avenues of communication if they pass your evaluation.

All Online Relationships are Prone to Breakage

If you've been a mouse-clicker since way-back-when, you've probably experienced times when people you've known suddenly turned silent. It may have been someone you talked with frequently on a message board who lives halfway around the world or someone with whom you never exchanged a single word but followed diligently because they posted memorably status updates on Facebook. It might be someone in your gaming network who wasn't especially close, but proved helpful to your experiences.

Whatever the case, the article "Meeting People on the Internet" can help you make the most of online friendships that have not yet blossomed into face-to-face ones.

Wish you could polygraph potential lovers? Keep reading to learn how to become the next best thing.
Wish you could polygraph potential lovers? Keep reading to learn how to become the next best thing. | Source

Be an Online Lie Detector

When your online interest is for romantic purposes, you have more reason to be diligent.

Your love interest might be long distance and inaccessible for months, even years. Wouldn't you rather find out if they're a liar before you've exchanged your deepest secrets and greatest fears? Unfortunately, it's tricky to do over a digital medium that lacks non-verbal clues. Was she being funny? Does he sound angry?

Skype and video chat can re-introduce some of these contextual cues, but they cannot fill in information that's well beyond non-verbal expression. If you were right there, would you see photos of her ex on the wall? Would his furniture and car look like he really does make the $100,000 he claims to earn each year?

Researchers from the University of Wisconsin - Madison now report that there are clues in a person's profile that can help you determine if they're telling the truth or not. Janice Wood, an associated news editor for Psych Central, reported what Catalina Toma, Ph.D., and Jeffrey Hancock, Ph.D., found:

  • About 80% of people lied to some extent. Weight, age, and height were the most common deceptions researchers found in the 78 profiles studied.
  • Liars use brief profiles to avoid getting caught when their stories don't match what they may say later.
  • People who avoided using the word "I" to describe themselves were likeliest to lie and to have more significant lies.
  • Liars flipped from assertive phrases like "happy" to more vague terms, like "not sad." This "flip of language (is) a hedge, Toma said, against weaving a more tangled web of deception."
  • Volunteers asked to rate the profiles for trustworthiness were not able to identify liars effectively. “They might as well have flipped a coin. They’re looking at the wrong things,” she said.

Source: Detecting Online Liars (PsychCentral)

Why Lies Happen, and How We Miss Them

Toma's summary of the volunteers' misperceptions isn't the first study that reveals just how bad we are at recognizing deception - even when we're face-to-face with a liar. Even though body language can reveal dishonesty, many of the cues are unreliable. They can be too subtle to perceive. Chronic deceivers and sociopaths (people who lack a conscience) may train themselves to control their voluntary responses, such as whether they look their victim in the eye when telling a fabrication.

In addition, we lie to others and get lied to all the time, even if we try to be genuine and honest. What one person considers tactful can make another person feel deceived. We know that brutal honesty can be, well, brutal, and result in very unpleasant consequences for ourselves, so we adjust our messages.

The kicker is, we must lie in order to function in society! Imagine asking a pal what they had for lunch and they replied, "Well, I had a double cheeseburger that had two four-ounce patties, a piece of lettuce, chopped onions, two slices of tomatoes tomatoes, and approximately half a teaspoon of catsup, a red container with a yellow M that contained twenty-seven fried potato segments that were sprinkled with salt, and..." If they simply said they'd eaten hamburger, you'd be more satisfied with their abbreviated answer than if they'd given the whole truth. Indeed, you'd think they were crazy if they didn't filter out much of the detail.

We only feel concerned when deception can produce results that may harm us.

Fortunately, as our knowledge of deception increases, we gain additional tools to identify those things that are harder to control. To better detect when people are lying to us (or when we're lying to ourselves, which is sometimes worse!) take a look at these highly-rated guides:

Put Deception in its Place

The Secret Life of Pronouns: What Our Words Say About Us
The Secret Life of Pronouns: What Our Words Say About Us

This highly rated book will help you learn how a person's speech patterns affect their deeper motivations, reveal his or her personality, and provide you with information about their social status and attitudes.

 
Getting Real: Ten Truth Skills You Need to Live an Authentic Life
Getting Real: Ten Truth Skills You Need to Live an Authentic Life

By being authentic ourselves, we can attract more authentic people. This guide shows you how to let go of fears that might tempt you to fudge the truth.

 
Liespotting: Proven Techniques to Detect Deception
Liespotting: Proven Techniques to Detect Deception

Thoroughly researched guide to detecting deceptions in other people - whether they're posturing socially or trying to harm you. One critic complained that it was too well-researched!

 

More Ways to Catch a Thief... Err... Liar

Other techniques can help you discover when potential suitors may be lying have proven controversial, perhaps because they're remarkably effective.

  • Google 'Em! Use the "real" name they give you and the user name they use on the site where you met. You may find tax records, court cases, news stories, and more.
  • Google 'Em Again! You can set up Google Alerts to receive ongoing notifications about your searches. If their name doesn't appear today, but suddenly is featured somewhere next week, you'll know it.
  • Find 'Em, too! Check out PeopleFinders to see if their name appears with someone else's name in public records. It's free to do a basic search, and sometimes identifies others by relationships. For instance, if you do a search for John Smith in Podunk, California (made up names), you may see "Mary Smith (Wife)" under the possible relationships column. For a fee, you can obtain more information on just about anyone. (A word of caution: relationships reported may be outdated or contain incorrect information, so this is simply an investigative tool that can be used to evaluate if you're getting the full story.)

Some people may feel this invades their privacy, so be prepared for possible repercussions if you choose to use one or more of these methods.

More by this Author


Better Yet, Share Your Tips on Protecting Yourself from Lies 14 comments

samadaslam profile image

samadaslam 4 years ago

Well it's a great problem that mostly we find fake profiles on the online dating websites and other such social websites. Thank for sharing some nice stuff.


jellygator profile image

jellygator 4 years ago from USA Author

I've heard that a lot - that fake profiles often lead to prostitutes or porn sites trying to dig out men's credit card numbers.


EvansP 4 years ago

Interesting hub. I met my girlfriend of two years through an online dating site. Very happy together. However, I had a couple of dates before, and one turned out to be a drastic liar! And the amount of fake profiles were unbelievable.


jellygator profile image

jellygator 4 years ago from USA Author

Congrats on finding a great girlfriend online, EvansP! It can be challenging to weed through the bad ones sometimes, so it's nice to hear when it works out for someone.


EuroCafeAuLait profile image

EuroCafeAuLait 4 years ago from Croatia, Europe

A great read, jellygator, I learned something. How true, both men and women can get hurt, used and/or ripped off with online dating scams. Voted up and useful.


jellygator profile image

jellygator 4 years ago from USA Author

Thank you!


creativebutterfly profile image

creativebutterfly 4 years ago from Florida USA

I just gave up all my online dating I have tried meeting casually and all sorts of other ways but every time without exception they were never who they said they were.

I am happy for all the people that met true love online :)


jellygator profile image

jellygator 4 years ago from USA Author

I'm sorry to hear you had such bad experiences, creativebutterfly. :(

When you were dating, did you use any of the techniques mentioned here?


amanthkr01 profile image

amanthkr01 4 years ago from India

Great piece of information. Now in the fast moving world, trend of online dating has become very common. But I have seen a very small success rate in online dating as there are very few who speak truth online.


jellygator profile image

jellygator 4 years ago from USA Author

It's true that finding lasting love online can be tough to do, but when I think about it, I'm not sure it's any easier in person.


ptosis profile image

ptosis 4 years ago from Arizona

Thank you so much for linking my hub liarliar. I was told that using the "I" too much was a sign of egotism so I tried to avoid it. Now it's a sign of being a liar. (sigh*)


jellygator profile image

jellygator 4 years ago from USA Author

LOL.... Too true. Or not. Or something. I'm confused now. ;)


rhysjo22 profile image

rhysjo22 4 years ago from United Kingdom

Yes I am totally agree that a person who uses only small sentences or explanation when you asked about them are liars...I encounter many of them over in the internet...


jellygator profile image

jellygator 4 years ago from USA Author

Kind of scary when you think about how much we interact over the internet, isn't it?

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