Online dating profiles showcase our impossibly awesome personalities, photos from 5 years and 10 kilograms ago, rounded-down ages, rounded-up heights and our declared love of naked spear fishing in shark infested waters. Not really a true reflection of reality, and borne out of our fear of showing our “true selves”.
We fear that by showing our true selves to potential partners we will not be seen as loveable enough to attract and keep those partners. Instead, we present ourselves as we wish we were.
Not every guy’s online profile, though, right?
Well … maybe. A 1998 study by Rowatt, Cunningham and Druen found a staggering 90% of participants admitted to being willing to tell a lie to a prospective date.
And, since we tend to lie more freely to strangers than those with whom we have a close relationship, the study found we lie relatively often during the early stages of our relationships.
40% indicated they had actually told a lie in order to initiate a date with an attractive member of the opposite sex.
In a 2011 survey of 512 USA males and females (who had or were currently using an online dating website) 60% said they believed people up-sell / exaggerate their appearance and assets to appear more appealing than they are in real life.
39.6% reported that after having met in person with people they had met online, they felt the person had misrepresented themselves in their profile.
A handy acronym for remembering the most commonly ‘enhanced’ profile attributes of men’s online profiles is this:
Height, employment status, earnings and physique.
In the abovementioned 2011 survey, 22.2% of the males admitted to having lied about their height (compared to only 9.5% of the women). It turns out us guys like to add around 2 inches to our heights. We especially tend to stretch the truth more the closer our actual height is to 6 feet.
10.3% of males admitted to overstating their seniority (compared to 5.5% of women).
18.4% of males admitted to having exaggerated their salary (compared to 7% of women). And, of this 18.4% of males, the highest prevalence was in the 25 to 34 age group. The reality is, we earn about 20% less than what we tend to report.
19.5% of males admitted to having lied about their physique (compared to 14.4% of women). Expect that the most attractive images of him are from a time when he was closer to his prime.
Go into the game with your wits about you and look for signs of it being ‘too good to be true’. Remind yourself of the strong drive to show our best side and, as we’ve discovered, misrepresent ourselves in the hope of attracting “the right one”. Be aware of your own motivations. Is it possible you’re just seeing what you want to see?
Manage your expectations. Expect that there’s going to be some degree of up-selling in his profile, but know your deal breakers. Even though he claims to be just a ‘social smoker’ – if smoking is a definite deal breaker for you, consider the possibility he is downplaying this lifestyle choice in order to maximise his attractiveness.
If he fits your perfect profile, i.e., says he’s 6 feet tall with an athletic build, 39 years old, divorced, non smoker, no kids, ‘involved in hedge fund management’ and addicted to kite surfing and hang gliding, you’re probably going to have a bad day when and if you finally go on your first date with him.
How About You?
Have you been disappointed by the HEEP effect? How did you deal with the situation? What other things were you deceived about?
Whatever horror stories you have, you’re not alone. Logan Sachon has compiled a cringe-worthy list of dating horror stories right here.
And here’s a short but funny article from theonion.com about a guy appalled that his date had lied slightly more than him on her dating profile.
Cracked have put together this hilarious parody of online dating profiles for our viewing pleasure:
Show Your True Self
From the outset, protect yourself by being clear in your communication with potential partners you meet through online dating sites. It’s very hard to tell the truth from fiction in online profiles. Tell him you expect truthfulness and transparency, and start by demonstrating your willingness to represent your true self, too.
By setting these ground rules up front, you’re directly addressing the propensity (the 40% propensity!) of deceptive HEEP (and other) profile details. Be clear with him about what’s important to you, and ask that he do the same. A relationship built on trust and honesty stands a much better chance than one initiated by suspicion and deception.