There is a recognized paradox in online dating (books have been written about it!). Because it is not face to face, there is a sense of disconnect and anonymity. It just doesn’t seem quite as “real” as what is referred to as “organic” dating. This paradox results in two behaviors.
The first is euphemistically referred to as more “honest and open expression.” Pardon me while I gag on the PC interpretation! Ladies, here’s the stripped down truth: Online daters—by virtue of online dating’s anonymity and virtual reality—will engage in behavior they would never think to try with a person they have actually met. Think cock shots and dick pics to start. (And yes, they are frequent.) A picture may be worth a thousand words, but words, too, have their own power. Online daters often open up and/or type things in a text or email to an absolute stranger (seriously! they are strangers!) they would never consider revealing in person. Members of both genders also so frequently engage in “talk dirty to me” sexting and phone calls to same-said strangers, that the practice has become practically expected protocol. (Trust me. I know.)
Now comes the second part of the paradox. Despite being more “honest and open” and forthcoming, people online also lie more—or shade the truth. They present themselves as they want to be—not as they are. Doctored photos, old photos, “borrowed” from friends photos or photos lifted off google images are just the tip of the ice berg. In fact, 20% of women admit to using a younger and/or thinner photo. But it doesn’t stop with photos. Estimates are that between 53% and 80% of people lie on their dating profile! For example, 1/3 of online daters claiming to be single, are, in fact, married. Other examples of truth-bending: 40% of men lie about their job and/or income, their height and their age. (The prevailing estimate is that men shave off 10 years. Women, on the other hand, shave off 10 pounds.) In addition to their weight, women also most typically lie about their body type and age. Online neither gender skates in the misrepresentation department. Mr. Big and But Fit with a full head of red hair in his photo turns out to be bald and 400lbs, while Tall Slim Brunette shows up in the flesh 5ft tall and 4ft wide. (True stories! B&BF was using a 10-year-old photo. But props for it being his! TSB was using a friend’s—who knew nothing about it! I haven’t decided if that’s better or worse than the 50+ year-old woman using her 30-something-year-old daughter’s . . .)
Ladies, forewarned is fore prepared. The adage “honesty is the best policy” is as likely to occur in online dating as a snow day in Hell.
Currently there is a credit card company running a series of ads based upon the tagline: Wouldn’t it be great if everyone said what they meant?” Different spots feature a nosy neighbor, a dishonest contractor and a couple out on a blind date. I’d love to sell them my first face to face online date. I think it would be a perfect addition:
A man and a woman driving in a car, crossing a bridge. Through the back window of the obviously dirty, dated vehicle the lights of a large city recede in the distance. In the passenger seat she makes polite small talk, to which the driver appropriately responds . . .
“I can’t get used to how different it is to live here. The traffic, the weather. I really do love the four seasons,” she says.
“I guess it would be pretty different from living in Phoenix.”
“It is,” she agrees.
Silence descends for several moments. Both appear to be looking for something to say, to fill the awkward quiet.
She speaks again. “The weather was perfect tonight, such a change from Arizona. It’s been in the 100s there all week.”
“But it’s a dry heat,” he rejoins.
“So they say.”
Another moment of silence ensues. Then she speaks again.
“This is my street.” She gestures to the right.
“I can’t believe I missed it earlier.” He laughs. “I need to write things down.”
He pulls into the driveway and then heads for the parking spot in the back.
“What are you doing?” she asks, a tinge of panic in her voice.
“I’m going to walk you to your door so I can pretend I am a gentleman. When in reality, I am going to grope you in a fake hug and then press my too soft, too wet lips to your overly lipsticked ones.”
“Oh, ok. Just make it quick though. And be sure to tell me what a fabulous first date it was. I’ll then ignore the remark, rather than lie in agreement.”
“I will. And don’t forget to thank me for the $100 dinner I shelled out for nothing, because you’re never going out with me again.”
“Of course. And I’ll also tell you to drive home safely—like I actually give a f**k.”
Cue narrator: Yes, wouldn’t it be nice if everyone said what they meant . . .
Or was what they claimed?
In 2007 Brad Paisley co-wrote a hit song “I’m So Much Cooler Online.” We all are, Brad. We all are.