Online Dating Profiles: Fact or Fiction






By Lindsay Larson

Aaah the internet…that magical land where group Facebook pictures and event invites seem to wipe away all insecurities. People can present themselves however they see fit, or so it would seem. However, according to a recent study about managing impressions online, individuals on online dating sites don’t seem to misrepresent themselves quite as much as the general population currently believes.

While 86% of daters felt others misrepresented their physical appearance, the same was not true of their presentation of core values. Rather, most people engage in “self-enhancement” when they come into contact with a stranger and simply try to present the best version of themselves. They do not intentionally lie or try to present a false persona if they intend to engage in face-to-face contact later on.

Higgins (1987) describes the self as having three domains: the actual self (attributes an individual possesses), the ideal self (attributes an individual would ideally possess), and the ought self (attributes an individual ought to possess). Understandably, discrepancies between the actual and ideal self are linked to feelings of dejection.

Intimacy is linked to feeling understood by one’s partner. Therefore, if participants aspire to an intimate relationship, their desire to feel understood by their potential mates will motivate self-disclosures that are open and honest as opposed to deceptive.

But how can we know for sure? Online self-presentation is more malleable and subject to self-censorship than face-to-face self-presentation. This is because verbal and linguistic cues are emphasized over less controllable nonverbal communication cues such as body language.

In a recent psychological study, 349 subscribers to a popular online-dating website were asked the following free response questions:

1. How did you decide what to say about yourself in your profile?

2. If you showed your profile to close friends what would their response be?

3. Are there personal characteristics that you avoided mentioning or tried to deemphasize?

One male subject from Los Angeles, CA responded, “I became aware of how I had to present myself. Also […] that I had to be very brief. More often than not, when I would write a long response, I wouldn’t get a response. I think it implied that I was too desperate for conversation, that I was a hermit.”

The results indicated that stylistic aspects of online correspondence such as timing, length, and grammar appear equally important as the content of the message itself. These results are consistent with findings that a lack of nonverbal cues increases the salience of all remaining cues.

Let’s just take a moment to reflect on this data. While poor grammar could simply be the product of hasty writing, more often than not, it correlates with the writer’s intelligence. Similarly, the time it takes the other party to respond back to your message indicates their level of eagerness as well as their amount of free time.

So…the moral of the story is this, if your skepticism is the only thing holding you back from online dating, then you might as well give it a shot; you might find your new partner, best friend, or fellow sports enthusiast.

The possibilities are endless. Just make sure to attend to the subtle cues given off by yourself and prospective suitors to expedite the selection process.

About the Author

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Would you mind posting a link to the research article you’re referencing, or e-mail it to me? I would love to read the primary source document.

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