In an article for Scientific American, researcher Robert Epstein talks about his experience with online marketing. Online dating site marketing. When he met a woman who’s photo he had seen online, he was surprised that she looked nothing like the photo. She happily used photos of other women as a way of drawing traffic. And apparently offered no excuse or apology for the tactic.
So how common is lying on online dating sites? Epstein spills the beans in: The Truth about Online Dating.
[Surveys show] that about 20 percent of online daters admit to deception. If you ask them how many other people are lying, however–an interviewing tactic that probably gets closer to the truth–that number jumps to 90 percent.
And in what’s commonly known as the Lake Wogegon effect, apparently nobody has just average looks on these sites. Only 1 percent of participants in one study rated their appearance as “less than average.”
Online height is exaggerated by only an inch or so for both men and women but that women appear to understate their weight more and more as they get older: by five pounds when they are in their 20s, 17 pounds in their 30s and 19 pounds in their 40s.
For men, the major areas of deception are educational level, income, height, age and marital status; at least 13 percent of online male suitors are thought to be married. For women, the major areas of deception are weight, physical appearance and age.
Why so much deception? Because On the Internet, Nobody Knows you’re a Dog.
Because people typically use screen names rather than real ones, their ramblings are anonymous and hence not subject to social norms. There are also no physical cues or consequences–no visible communication gestures, raised eyebrows, grimaces, and so on–to keep people’s behavior in check. As a result, online daters tend to construct […] an “ideal self” rather than a real one. A study published recently by Ellison and her colleagues even suggests that online daters often regret it when they do tell the truth, feeling that too much honesty, especially about negative attributes, creates a bad impression.
So your mom was wrong all this time. Honesty creates a bad impression.
But there’s more. Many of the online dating services advertise that their “scientific” approach leads to happy marriages. But there haven’t been any reliable tests of that claim.
In 2004 eHarmony personnel did present a paper at a national convention claiming that married couples who met through eHarmony were happier than couples who met by other means. Typically such a paper would then be submitted for possible publication in a peer-reviewed journal. But this paper has still not been published, possibly because of its obvious flaws–the most problematic being that the eHarmony couples in the study were newlyweds (married an average of six months), whereas the couples in the control group (who had met by other means) were way past the honeymoon period (married an average of 2.1 years).
In 2005, using eHarmony’s own published statistics, a team of credible authorities […] concluded in an online white paper: “When eHarmony recommends someone as a compatible match, there is a 1 in 500 chance that you’ll marry this person…. Given that eHarmony delivers about 1.5 matches a month, if you went on a date with all of them, it would take 346 dates and 19 years to reach [a] 50% chance of getting married.” The team also made the sweeping observation that “there is no evidence that … scientific psychology is able to pair individuals who will enjoy happy, lasting marriages.”
Good grief! You have to stay on a dating site for 19 years? You’d be old and gray by the time you find anyone!
The only good thing is that you never have update your age or photo in all that time.