Online Dating

On-Line Dating

This is one heck of an online dating profile and would spark curiosity of most men, but is it believable?  It seems that “telling lies on-line” is pretty common for online dating sites. The fictitious profile seems a little far-fetched, but is it? It’s inherent in us to present ourselves in the best light possible and there is a difference to how we view ourselves and how others view us.

As studies have shown exaggeration is common for both sexes as a way to attract the opposite sex. Men, for the most part, will exaggerate about their wealth and status attracting more women to their profile sites and women will exaggerate about their physical attractiveness (or body image) attracting more men for the same reason.  Based on the study Separating Fact From Fiction: An Examination of Deceptive Self-Presentation in Online Dating Profiles people believe the majority of online profiles are not 100% truthful, when it relates to the information supplied. The good news is, the exaggerations are minor and not usually deal breakers.

How we present ourselves in profiles for online dating sites are similar to how we present ourselves on any social media sites.  Facebook is filled with photos of people looking and sounding their best. When someone takes a “selfie” chances are they’ve taken several pictures and only post the one that creates the image they want the world to see.  The same holds true for comments posted;  generally they don’t mention bad grades, bloated bodies, or face breakouts. We tend to only post things that make us look good, funny or smart.  The same can be said for all social media sites including Twitter, MySpace or Tumblr.  We seek positive feedback; we want comments back that say cute, awesome or right on. Generally these exaggerations are harmless, but in some cases they’re destructive.

We’ve all heard the Catfish tales, where people have carried out “relationships” for years with fictitious men and women.  Entire fabricated characters are created for the sole purpose of subterfuge.  This type of deception can only be achieved online and it would be impossible to accomplish in person.  The biggest headline-grabbing example of this is the Manti Te’o story. He believed himself in a long-term relationship with a woman he met on-line; until it was discovered that she never existed.  Ultimately he confessed to having never met the woman. The reality for Manti was his girlfriend was nothing but a hoax.

What’s thought provoking is why people would post fake personas to online dating or social media sites.  In an article posted by Time Entertainment they delve into the psychology on why some people feel compelled to go to extremes to create these non-existent personas. Based on their data the most common reasons are revenge, homophobia, addicted to attention, sexual identity anxiety, and low self-esteem.

Have you ever posted anything on-line to a dating site or any other social media site that was exaggerated? If so, how big was the exaggeration?


Have you experienced deception from others, via a dating site or any other social media site? If so, how big of a deception was it?


Will the Real Online Identity Please Stand Up?

Online identity differs from “in person” identity in the sense that people can show you what they want you to see online. Social media users have the option to post the best versions of themselves, which isn’t always possible in everyday life.  I mean typically, no one posts photos of when they have a booger hanging out of their nose or when they’re having a bad hair day. You don’t see people bragging on social media about how they wet the bed last night or that they secretly love Justin Bieber. It’s all about showcasing the best photos, the best statuses, and the best interests.

People online even have the option to select who sees those posts and who doesn’t, creating different identities for different audiences. For example, I know so many people who have more than one Facebook, creating a more cleaned up or professional looking Facebook for work or strictly for family. Those profiles tend to leave out the swearing and drunk pictures from the night before. That’s saved for their Facebook meant for friends.

Identity online is created for an audience, and that audience varies from place to place, just like with my differing Facebook example from the paragraph above. That is why there is so much variation in the way one chooses to represent themselves online.

Another aspect of varying identities online is about following the community norms. As in “real life,” the variations in the differing cultures of social media create variations in what behaviors are acceptable and what behaviors are unacceptable:

 “The desire to be cool on MySpace is part of the more general desire to be validated by one’s peers. For example, it’s cool to have Friends on MySpace but if you have too many Friends, you are seen as a MySpace whore. These markers of cool are rooted in the social culture of MySpace.” (Why Youth (Heart) Social Network Sites: The Role of Networked Publics in Teenage Social Life by Boyd)

While MySpace isn’t used much anymore, the idea of norms and unwritten of rules of social media remain the same. For example, it’s okay to post to Twitter five times or more in under an hour, but to do so on Facebook is seen as excessive and annoying.

Some questions for discussion:

 With this variation of identity from environment to environment, do you think anyone is ever fully themselves on social media sites? Do you think people are more themselves in person or online?

 What kind of norms and unwritten rules of social media do you see?