There are millions of Americans seeking love on the Internet. Little do they know that teams of scientists are eagerly watching them trying to find it.
A recent New York Times article titled “Love, Lies and What They Learned,” indicates that collectively, the major dating sites had more than 593 million visits in the United States last month.
Research involving more than one million online dating profiles was partly financed by a grant from the National Science Foundation.
The in-depth studies found that about 81 percent of people misrepresent their height, weight or age in their profiles. On average, the women described themselves as 8.5 pounds thinner in their profiles than they really were. Men fibbed by 2 pounds, although they lied about their height, rounding up a half inch. Another study found that women’s profile photographs were on average a year and a half old. Men’s were on average six months old.
According to the studies, liars tend to use fewer first-person pronouns. Professor Catalina L. Toma, an assistant professor in the department of communication arts at the University of Wisconsin-Madison said this is an indication of psychological distancing: “You’re feeling guilty or anxious or nervous.” Liars use more negative words like “not” and “never,” yet another way of putting up a buffer. Liars use fewer negative emotion words like “sad” and “upset,” and they write shorter online personal essays. (It’s easier not to get caught if you say less.)
“I was personally really shocked,” said Professor Rose McDermott, a professor of political science at Brown University whose study was published this year in the journal Evolution and Human Behavior. “People were much more likely to say ‘I’m fat’ than ‘I’m a conservative.’ ”
Personally, none of this is surprising if you’ve dated online. You may find it exasperating, but I just think it’s human nature. WE are insecure. We know that online dating presents a lot of choices. We know that men are looking for younger and thinner and women are looking for taller and wealthier. We know that if we tell the truth – I’m 5’8?, not 5’10”, I’m 55, not 49, we’re all but eliminated from the search of the most desirable candidates. So we fib a little to “get in the door” and hope that we don’t seem too different from our descriptions.
Given that 81% of people lie, I think it’s time to stop getting so bent out of shape when they do, and simply assume that everyone is fudging a little bit – some, more than others. At the end of the day, it’s better to be pleasantly surprised when someone does tell the truth than bitterly disappointed when he doesn’t. It’s just too predictable to get angry about.