Top Reasons People Lie on Online Dating Sites
Many people have been “surprised” when they finally meet the living, breathing person behind the avatar on internet dating sites. No doubt, more often than not, it's not a pleasant unveiling, although there can be pleasant surprises. Among the most common discrepancies and misrepresentations are: height, weight, baldness, age, marital status (God forbid), relationship status, profession, salary and the existence of kids. As much as I'd like to be the inventor of a “Lie Filter” for these sites, this unfortunate phenomenon isn't going away anytime soon, ladies and gentlemen. Suck it up, it's a fact for those venturing online to meet a potential mate. I'm going to delve into the reasons for profile flimflaming and the motivations behind lying on online dating sites.
I've come up with the most common reasons for internet dating site profile misrepresentation. First, I'll present six groups each with different motivations. Next, I'll delve into specific reasons internet misrepresentation occurs given the limitations of computer mediated communication.
Online Dating Liars: Misrepresentation from Vulnerability
The first group I've coined “misrepresentation from vulnerability”. This person doesn't have any malicious intent, but rather either a history fraught with rejection or is just a very insecure or self conscious individual. This may be based upon real or perceived shortcomings in the individual. Perhaps the final show stopper in his or her last relationship was lack of education. So, embellishing or changing the facts to compensate may seem a necessary step in securing subsequent dates. Or maybe height was the real or perceived problem. So, “tweaking” with one's profile may develop from feelings of pure frustration, powerlessness, insecurity and lack of confidence. There may be the profound hope that these lies by omission (silent fraud) or commission will successfully get him or her at least in the door. Then, consequently these “undesirable” traits will be overshadowed by all of the positives.
Online Dating Liars
The second group are called “MySpace chameleons”. This is clearly among the most unacceptable groups practicing profile chicanery. They boldy skew their stats because they have been lead to believe everyone's doing it and it's just an acceptable practice on social networking or dating sites. They may be of the opinion that people who utilize these venues for dating are asking for it anyway. They justify the practice by presupposing it's just a part of “the dating game”. An unknown percentage of them are simply not looking for a relationship, but utilizing “foreploy” (Any misrepresentation about yourself for the purpose of getting laid).
Slanting from Self-Deception
The third group I call “slanting from self-deception”. Occasionally, one's self image become stuck at a particular period of time, perhaps from even a decade or two earlier. An honest appraisal of self becomes impossible. How a person perceives him or herself simply doesn't match with how others do. A common example of this is one who has remained in denial or is legitimately out of touch with his or her weight gain. The static mental image of this person might be 40 pounds lighter, with perhaps the physique he or she possessed in that glorious seconds decade of life, before everything went south. Or perhaps one's easy going nature has drifted over the years landing one on the high maintenance doorstep, completely unbeknownst to him or her. Or, there is that constituency that truly has misinformation about one's stats or features. I've met men who are clearly no taller than 5'8” who wholeheartedly believe they are 5'10”. Perhaps they've been mismeasured somewhere along the way. Or maybe age has robbed them of those precious few inches.
Innocent Misrepresentation: The Only Acceptable Group of Online Dating Site Liars
The next group have a unique status. I call “innocent misrepresentation”. This problem does not arise from intentional deception, but rather results from the discrepancies in definition between two people. What is considered tall to one person is short by another's standards. The definition of success can vary wildly from person to person. One might only consider another successful if he or she is pulling in a six figure salary, whereas another's success might be completely independent of money or social status. Another problematic profile claim is the use of the word “good looking”, “beautiful” or “handsome”. Beauty is clearly in the eyes of the beholder. The fact that someone isn't your type doesn't mean they're not another's ideal image. Finally, attempting to describe a personality in a brief profile lends itself to a significant problem in definition. You may indeed be funny, the comedian of your group of friends, but your date may find your jokes or sense of humor off the wall or highly annoying.
The sixth group are called the “maritally challenged”. They are married, possibly separated but not committed to leaving the spouse. They utilize the dating sites as a way to feel good about themselves, to discover whether or not they're still attractive to the opposite sex, to get attention they're lacking at home, or to test the waters.
Computer Mediated Issues that Assist in Perpetuating Lying on Online Dating Sites
Many sites have checkboxes where you are asked to enter your age. With the knowledge that searches are made within well defined age limits, some individuals are trying to maximize their search presence. For example, if you're 40 you may very well miss a frequent age search consisting of 30-39 year olds. So, cut-offs compel people to lie about their age to increase their potential matches.
Most sites have photo limits, only allowing a small number, if even more than one. So, attempting to find just THE photo that optimally captures your present appearance is, at best difficult. Additionally, there are size limitations on these pictures, so it can be frustrating to find one that clearly displays your features.
There are inherent constraints and restraints (I.e rules and terms of service) in the communication environment constructed by the dating organizations. There are limitations in text formatting, language, and website design that have a profound impact not only on what can actually be communicated, but can also manufacture miscommunication. Some sites have emoticons for use, others do not. So, having the interaction take place in a contrived and restricted environment disallows a very accurate depiction of oneself.
Finally, a significant number of people are afraid to include too much personal information on any public forum. It's prudent to be careful after all. Internet stalkers are a real threat. Disclosing too much has the potential to set oneself up for being victimized. Women are particularly aware of these dangers, and many chose to provide as little information as possible to avoid being identified.
Have fun, but be careful out there!