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Deception: Five reasons why people misrepresent themselves in online dating

Wanting to put your best self forward can result in purposeful deception.
Wanting to put your best self forward can result in purposeful deception.
Bartek Ambrozik,

Most of us are looking for the same thing when we complete an online dating profile. We’re usually looking for someone who is caring, dependable, smart, and personable. But how many of us have met an online match for the first time and discovered that the person in front of us looks nothing like the person with whom we thought we were communicating? Or, that he/she has as much personality as a lukewarm glass of tap water? The experience may leave you wondering why people aren’t more honest about who they are/ what they are looking for. Here are five reasons why people might be less than truthful in the world of online dating:

We all want to make a good impression
The concept of “self-presentation” might help explain why people feel the need to exaggerate their personal qualities and accomplishments when dating online. Self-presentation refers to the tendency we all have to want to shape how others see us. We engage in self-presentation when we want to accomplish a strategic goal, like attracting the attention of a member of the opposite sex. Men use self-presentation more often than women, but both genders use it for different purposes. Men are more likely to use it to make themselves seem to be kinder, more macho, and more inventive than they really are. Women use self-presentation to make themselves seem more physically attractive than they really are. It’s in our nature to want to become the person that will capture your attention, even if it’s just for a little while.

Online social interactions are anonymous
People can be pretend to be anyone they want to be online. There is also less pressure to be accountable for your actions if you are deceiving someone that you have never met before. And the virtual environment makes it easier for people to see you as not being a “real” person who has real feelings. It is also more difficult to detect when someone is being dishonest with you online because there are no nonverbal cues to look for that might signal to you that someone is lying.

Online dating experiences encourage people to misrepresent themselves
Men tend to lie about their social status and height, while women tend to lie about their weight and physical attractiveness. In research studies, men who have profiles listing a high salary and women who are the most physically attractive garner the most attention from online daters, while women who are overweight and men who are short routinely get ignored. It’s not a stretch to think that people who are being ignored might have the greatest incentive to lie about their appearance if they thought that it would gain them a competitive advantage in scoring a date.

People tend to be more deceptive if they believe that there is not a chance of meeting you
In one study, men were found to be more likely to lie about their personality traits and physical appearance when they were told that they would be meeting a potential date in-person. They exaggerated even more when they were told that they would simply be emailing a potential date. If you’ve been communicating with someone online for quite a while and they’ve continuously made excuses about why they cannot meet you in person, then odds are they’re being dishonest with you.

Men and women tend to practice deception for self-serving reasons
Men tend to lie to make themselves look good, and women tend to lie to spare someone else’s feelings. When it comes to dating, where women have the final say in whether or not to start a relationship with a man, men have more incentive to exaggerate about their personal characteristics than women.

Don’t let one bad online dating experience ruin your chances of finding love in cyberspace. Sometimes it might be better to find someone to date in another online forum where there’s less pressure to deceive other people, such as chat rooms, online gaming venues, and other areas where people gather to connect with each other.

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