Note: The author recognizes the heterosexual focus of this article.
The online dating community has recently made finding a partner more accessible but not necessarily easier. According to Cataline Toma and Jeffrey Hancock (2012), men typically exaggerate their height and women underreport their weight in addition to posting less accurate photographs.
Since online dating allows individuals to interact without being physically present, Toma and Hancock (2012) found that a) individuals are inaccurate at detecting prospective partners’ trustworthiness based on their online profile and that b) lengthier self-descriptions were perceived as more trustworthy. The latter finding is important because revealing too much too soon creates a false sense of intimacy (Breunlin, Schwartz, Mac Kune-Karrer, 1997) but is also a pre-requisite of developing trust.
In order to come across as attractive and trustworthy, individuals tend to avoid topics on which they were deceptive in their profile and compensate by emphasizing other more truthful aspects. In other words, individuals tend to build trust and intimacy through deception about their physical appearance (e.g. height and weight) and compensation of achievements (e.g. career) or vice versa. The results confirmed previous research that a) more deceptive profiles contained shorter self-descriptions and b) daters appeared capable of strategically using language in avoidance of terms related to specific profile deceptions such as an inaccurate photograph.
Toma and Hancock (2012) further note that individuals relied on specific cues to determine trustworthiness:
- Increased inclusiveness of audience.
- Large amount of information disclosed.
- Language concreteness.
- Language conciseness.
While constructing a deceptive online profile may increase response rates, it will ultimately lead to an unsatisfying relationship and a negative interaction cycle. Instead of relying on an online profile creation service, which is an inaccurate representation, the best policy is to a) post an accurate recent photograph that positively reflects the “about me” section of the profile and b) practice patience because pervasive cultural expectations of immediacy affect the online dating community. It is not impossible to have successful relationship after meeting online, but always remember to fall in love when you are ready and not when you are lonely.
Breunlin, D.C., Schwartz, R.C., & Mac Kune-Karrer, B. (1997). Metaframeworks: Transcending the models of family therapy. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass Publishers.
Toma, C. & Hancock, J. (2012). What lies beneath: The linguistic traces of deception in online dating profiles. Journal of Communication, 62(1), 78-97.