Sunday, October 18, 2009

Sing It, Billy …

The other day I started doing some clinical research regarding online dating. To be frank, it isn’t that complicated and I won’t be getting any grants for it. I simply set up a bare bones profile (no photo, no commentary) so that I could search both Match and JDate freely and I was off to search to my heart’s content (Yahoo Personals, Plenty of Fish, The Right Stuff, etc. will be next in the research project).

Initially, I was going to read “x” amount of profiles (300, 400, etc.) so I could ascertain certain statistics regarding (1) what people were writing about themselves (e.g. how many men write “I work hard and play hard”
[1] or how many women write my other favorite “I am as comfortable in jeans and a t-shirt as I am in a little black dress) and (2) what people are writing regarding their “ideal match” (e.g. the limits of age difference the majority of people are ok with, how many people are ok meeting a smoker, etc.).[2]

[Note to my loyal readers – while we all know people who have had great success with online dating and have even met their spouses, we also know many others have found it to be a tremendous waste of time. This particular blog is addressing solely the latter experiences.]

Back to my research. While I was perusing the profiles of various singles, I came across several profiles of guys who contacted me when I tried on-line dating five years ago. Of course, it’s not an indictment of their desirability that they were on the same sites again – it’s possible that several of them were in serious relationships between now and then and just got back on. Ok.

But what truly galled me and served to remind me why, after the minimal trial period, I was off Match and JDate faster than you can say “I want my $39.99 back” was the fact that these guys had the SAME photos up as they had FIVE years ago. Now, it could be that they have not aged one bit in the past five years and that they look exactly the same. It’s also possible that the parents of the kid in Colorado really thought he was in the balloon when it “accidentally” lifted off.

As would be expected, I came across profiles of a sizeable number of people I know (I hate to feel like a peeping tom, but when you put your profile online you know it is out there for the world to see). As I read their profiles, oftentimes I would mentally exclaim: “This is so right on! Well done, Joe!” or “I love Jane. She really describes herself perfectly.”

And other times I would come across profiles with “not accurate” information such as:

A guy saying he is 44 when I know he graduated from high school the same year as my friend … who is 48.

A woman saying she is 34 on Match when she is at least 39 (on JDate she is 37) (Note to online daters: if you’re gonna lie, try to keep it consistent or it might blow your cover. Many people are on both JDate and Match).

A guy writing extensively about how he loves his job in private equity and has little spare time when I know that he was, unfortunately, laid off seven months ago (and has not yet found a new job).

A woman describing herself as petite when she is significantly overweight.

A guy writing that he lives in NYC when he no longer does (perhaps he has just forgotten to update his profile – is that the same as a lie?).

A woman listing that she speaks a language that I know she does not (so that she can meet someone who does).

A guy listing that he has a certain level of education that he does not (something people would not typically question because he is quite
successful financially).

Non-truths small and large. And for the sake of all the NYC online daters out there, I am going to “out” these twisters of the truth right here:

On Match, Greeneyes35 really has brown eyes.
On JDate, Fun4You is really very dull.

Just kidding.

But seriously, after reading all of these profiles, I couldn’t help but think of the lyrics to Billy Joel’s “Honesty” … The online dating anthem.

If people actually wrote the truth in their online profiles, what a wonderful thing online dating would truly be.
[4] The answer to all single people’s prayers. I think I’ll just order up a great looking, smart, successful 38 year old, with dark hair and a keen sense of humor who is athletic and toned, has a passion for art and loves boating.

But as anyone who has tried online dating knows, when “great looking, smart, successful 38 year old, with dark hair and a keen sense of humor who is athletic and toned, has a passion for art and loves boating” shows up he is in fact 44, with virtually no hair, a decent belly, has not been to a museum in 10 years and has been boating once in his life … but he did love it.

While a good number of people who are online state that they are looking for a relationship when, in fact, they are really looking to simply go on countless dates/hook up, the following questions are directed at those who are truly looking for the “One” - i.e. for the person they want to spend the rest of their lives with and share all that life has to offer (the tragedies, the bliss, the mundane). Why are they not being honest in their profiles and instead presenting themselves to their potential future spouses with information that is just not true?
[5] What do they think they have to gain?

As can be expected, the most common complaint I hear by far from men about on-line dating is that women just do not describe their physique accurately and that they do not post accurate photos. I simply don’t understand why if you’re a woman who is overweight and the guy states clearly he is looking for a slender/thin woman you would want to be deceptive in your description of yourself and/or your photos? Do these women think that once they get the chance to meet the guy he will suddenly change what he is attracted to? Ultimately, what is more likely to happen is that he is going to meet you in person, be annoyed that you weren’t honest and wasted his time and not contact you again. I’m sorry, this is just the truth.

There are plenty of guys who will like the real description/photos you post – and when you meet for your date they are going to think you look even better in person! And that is always a great thing. In fact, I know of one woman with a lovely J-Lo booty who got tired of seeing men’s crestfallen faces when they arrived on their online generated dates. She then decided to put up a picture of herself in a wetsuit and … you guessed it – she met her now husband online (true story).

And men, if you’re annoyed at the women for not being honest about their weight, it’s high time you stop showing photos of yourself when you were in college with a full head of hair when you know you now look more like Samson after he lost to the Philistines. It’s not to say that she won’t like you if you’re balding a little (or a lot) – it may very well be fine by her. But what’s not ok is showing a picture you know is inaccurate (oh, and also lying about your height) and thinking it’s irrelevant. And, by the way – if you do “tweak” the truth on the height, hair, etc., then you really have no right to be annoyed when she fails to meet the “active and in shape” description you thought you had made very clear was a requirement.

Ok, the age issue. What I came to see in my research is that both men and women lie about this. I understand that if you are above a certain age you may get bypassed simply because the age group you are looking to meet is putting a cap that leaves you out in the cold. And I know that some people think that this is just an innocent "white lie" to get them in the door and then they will come clean. But I know for myself that if I learned that someone lied to me about his age (in person or in a profile) I would not go out with him again no matter how much I originally liked him. Readers? Bueller? Bueller?

It’s hard to think that people can have a solid relationship when it starts off with some level of dishonesty. The odd thing is, a good number of people who feel comfortable tweaking the truth online are otherwise generally honest people in real life. After enough online dates (or enough research) you come to understand that many online profiles are not so much a reflection of what people really are, but rather what they aspire to be.

[1] This would also include its cousin “I work hard and play harder.”

[2] I actually really enjoyed reading through the profiles. Many times I wanted to email someone with a comment regarding something I loved about their profile or something they could improve. But I resisted the temptation – reminding myself that these people are not my clients and after all they didn’t ask my opinion.

[3] I actually wrote to one friend that I made from JDate and shared with him that I was doing some research and came across his profile and that he might want to post some new photos as they were the same as when I met him five years ago (and even then they were not current). He wrote me back saying that he is virtually never on JDate and we thereafter engaged in lighthearted email conversation. When I moved to doing my research on Match (and saw the same photos of him there) it showed that he had been on within the past 24 hours (JDate does not provide this information). I really don’t understand his reluctance to add current photos as he still a very nice looking guy (though he most definitely looks older than in the photos on display).

[4] When I ventured to try online dating, I was honest to a fault. And I know I am not the only one who believes in truth in advertising. In my research I also came across a good number of online profiles of friends and acquaintances that were totally honest (as far as I could tell). But more than half the profiles I read had something that, empirically, was not true in them.

[5] Now, someone saying that they are “the best catch” on Match (men and women beware – the people who need to assure you of this are typically the people who make you want to ask for the check the minute your waiter arrives to take your order), or that they "love to travel" but never go anywhere, or that they are considered good looking by all of their friends (I never understood the need to say this, I think the pictures speak for themselves, no?) cannot be considering to be lying per se. We are discussing empirically false statements here.


  1. I could not agree more with you Marni! I don't understand why would someone lie about their age, size, occupation online - Do they think that the other person will never find out? What is the purpose of starting a relationship based on lies and dishonesty! Not to mention that when you meet them in person, they have a completely different ... Read Morepersonality than they pretend to be on their profile. I truly believe that online dating is a mere waste of time - it is meant for people who are not sure of who they are or what they are looking for.

    p.s: I'm sure there are some nice guys out there online but the probability of running across their profile is very low. Not only it is hard to filter them from the psychos but also it is hard to be trusting of them.

  2. I guess I’ve been fortunate in that the women I met were mostly honest about themselves. Having said that, the deception is often about their personalities too. A woman who said she was religious and that her religion's morals played a heavy role in her ethics and values turned out to be a conniving, selfish, and arrogant brat. And let’s face it, as can be gleaned from your blog, these liars twist themselves because they are not secure enough to believe that others will like them for the real them.

    As for: “It’s hard to think that people can have a solid relationship when it starts off with some level of dishonesty.” Common sense, yes, but some lack it.

    A good friend of mine met a nice and attractive woman on Match. I met her, and liked her. But 3 months into the relationship, over a few too many drinks, she told my friend she’d lied about having a bachelor’s degree. She never finished school due to cutting classes and had staged her graduation. In fact, she had deceived her entire family. She is a foreigner who has been her since her mid-20s and only after she relocated to the NY area for schooling did her own parents find out about the deception – and they were understandably livid. And they only found out because her university’s offices called her home. My friend was completely stunned and turned off, and understandably, he ended the relationship very soon afterwards.

    - Ex-Syosset Brave, Class of '91

  3. Marni, I also agree with what Anon said above. The thing about online dating is that it's hard to filter the one's that are looking to take the natural progression of getting to know a person from the one's that are thinking that the first date is the end of dating. The amount of expectations that people put towards one date is exhausting and completely unrealistic. They are basically asking to fail. It's hard to be the person on the other side of the table and try to be yourself when you know you're being judged. Not to say that we all don't do it. It's just an odd concept to wrap around- meeting a complete stranger, try to be yourself, all the while knowing they are thinking to themselves "this could be the mother of my children". How are you supposed to carry on a normal conversation with that type of expectation looming like a dark cloud over you?

    I think your post says it all!

  4. I absolutely love these comments - so well written and spot on.

    Regarding Ex Syosset Brave's comment about the woman who wrote about her strong moral and religious ethics but turned out to be quite the opposite of what she described, that goes to the other misleading aspect of online dating - people proclaiming that they are all sorts of things but how they see themselves is often so far from reality.

  5. I love coming to this site, and reading all the good stuff. LOL :) I love it!!!

    mandie reed

  6. Suggested next blog- "Online dating-Minding your Manners." As hard as it is to believe, I've gotta SEVERAL rude messages on Match criticizing my integrity, sincerity, and even MY LOOKS b/c I didn't respond to a message within their expected response rate (about 3 days). The perceived anonimity of online dating does NOT give one the right to be a complete asshole if they're "rejected"!

  7. Thanks for your comment, Mandie! So glad you enjoy it!

  8. Thank you Anon re: the suggestion for the next blog about Minding Your Manners.

    You raise an excellent point. The perceived anonimity of on-line dating gives some people carte blanche to write things they would never dare say to someone in person (nor should they say these things).

    During my brief time on-line, I could not believe the rude emails I received from people when I took the time (as I did in the beginning) to politely say that I didn't think we were a match but thanking them for their message. And if I didn't respond, I sometimes got numerous messages to the point where I had to block some people. At first, I was very disturbed by some of the rudeness and aggressive behavior and then I just reminded myself that when you put yourself online you are putting yourself in a position for every jerk or weirdo out there to contact you. This is definitely a topic for another blog!