Lies on online dating profiles

Seven's On Call with Dr. Jay Adlersberg
February 14, 2008 9:00:00 PM PST
Dating has its ups and downs, and online dating, well, it has its own challenges. First and foremost, how to know if someone you haven't met is lying?One doctor has research to set things straight.

Seven is On Call this Valentine's Day with Dr. Jay Adlersberg.

Everyone wants a valentine, especially this week. And more and more people are going online to find them. Most people probably know of relationships that started on the web. But the anonymous nature of the online world means truth is sometimes mixed in with lies.

Ross Felix has looked for relationships online. He's had about 200 dates that way. It's part of life on the internet. But living with romance on the net means living with lies.

"I, for example, did not know that Westchester was part of the Upper West Side," Felix said. "I also didn't know that if you have less than two children, it's as if you don't have any at all."

Psychologist Dr. Jeff Hancock does studies about lying online, especially on dating sites. There, his research finds, many people don't see it as wrong to lie. It's more like putting your best foot forward.

"In online dating profiles, people tended to lie frequently but by small amounts," he said. "So a little bit about your height, a little about your weight, and a little about your age."

Age as seen in a photo? Dr. Hancock says that women on average use photos 18 months old, while men use shots done eight months ago. And they often use the glamour shots.

If you go to these sites to find a valentine, remember some tips. People tend to avoid the first person, I or me. And they are wordy, almost trying to convince you of who they are.

Ross says you have to be truthful to build an honest relationship, but you can lie a little. For example...

"What your age is? It is fine putting 35," he said. "But when you start to describe yourself, say 'I'm actually 38, but I feel 35.'"

Kind of a lie with a footnote. Dr. Hancock says it's rare to find a big lie online. But those itsy-bitsy lies?

"In online dating, you need to lie enough to get to coffee, but not so much that you don't get to bed," Dr. Hancock said.

And I don't think he means to curl up with a good book. He also says that people will find more lying on anonymous site such as chat rooms, and much more honesty on support sites such as those for cancer survivors.