The Truth About Being Truthful in Online Dating

Dating advice has had a long, spotty history of not working as often as it does. Socialization is a fundamental aspect of the human species. We all need validation, acceptance, and want to belong to a group or a community, even just a very small one, and that requires reaching out and being reasonably social and talkative. But how do these relationships begin? Mutual understanding? Establishing security and trust? Being approachable?

Well, you could always just lie.

Studies show that more than half of dating app users lie about something and feel that it’s okay. It “levels the playing field” or more commonly, “it’s just what people do.” Some lies are innocent, small things. Lying about interests to appeal to more people, lying about previous relationships to seem more committed. Then there are the more provable lies, about age or appearance, height and weight and other factors that fall apart when meeting in real life.

Why lie? Even a white lie can cause a schism in a developing relationship. If you were lying about something that small it must mean there are bigger lies hiding around every corner! Or maybe not. The reason most people lie about themselves has more to do with their own self image.

Not all lies are made to deceive others. Some lies are ones we tell ourselves. Some are comforting lies, ones about our health or attitude. You wouldn’t describe yourself as easily angered, would you? No, you’re “passionate” or “competitive”. It’s not exactly the right word to describe a problem, so you use clever words to make it more of a “quirk.” Turning obvious negatives into neutrals or positives is a common form of self-lie.

Some other people judge themselves too harshly. They might not see themselves the way others do. In fact, that’s 100% the case for everyone. There is specific psychology that goes into how our eyes perceive our own bodies in mirrors and in our mental image of who we are. Describing yourself strictly from memory will carry a number of little inconsistencies, but those are more “incorrect assumptions” than outright lies.

It’s the provable lies that are the most dangerous. Basically, if you know that something is wrong – not in a subjective way, not an opinion, but a fact that is not being represented correctly – don’t do it. Being caught in such a lie is a major red flag and a dealbreaker for the vast majority of people using online dating.

The more extreme version of lying on dating apps is referred to as “catfishing”. The term basically means luring someone in with a fictional persona that they fall for, only for the truth to come out at the last minute. Excessive photoshop touch-ups can lead to a false perception of the potential partner, but more often than that scammers use photos of totally different people, which is borderline identity theft. It’s all wrong, and unfortunately, still happens because people continue to fall for it.

Lying about things that aren’t physically or easily proven might be tempting. What date is going to open the night with an organized quiz on the movies you both claim to love? Will that really be the deal breaker? Yes. Sometimes it can be. Some people are interested in hobbies and want to bond through them. If they find out they don’t have the connection they thought was there because of a little lie to “spice up” a profile, they’ll feel disappointed.

Online dating is all about adhering to principles. Each app and website has its own terms, and its own layers of security that prevent as much deception as possible. They offer quizzes (which can be manipulated for desirable answers) and connect to past social media accounts (which can be edited to give the best possible appearance with none of the drawbacks) to vet all information as true. Scammers will always find a way to scam, though.

In any early relationship, communication is key. The obvious first step to being honest online is to just not lie. The second is to start talking and feel it out. If someone is way too defensive about key facts that should be obvious, or will be obvious when you meet in person, chances are they’re lying. And you have to wonder why it was okay to lie about that.

And for those who think lying is fine, because in the end we all do it and it’s part of “the game”, before you commit to any potential falsehood ask yourself this: Would you be okay with dating someone who lied about the exact same thing? If you found out that their age was wrong, their height, their appearance, or their past was all a lie, would you still be happy? Would they be happy with you? 

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