How Much Lying Is Acceptable Online?

How much lying is acceptable online

Hi Evan,

I’m fairly new to your site, and to dating in general – back on the market after a long marriage – so, at this point, I’m mainly trying to figure out how things work, and what the unwritten rules and policies of the dating game are. I’ve had an account on a dating site for the last two months. I’ve had a decent number of peoplecontact me, and we mostly click fairly well when we meet in person. However, one thing that I notice puzzles me – it seems like no one bothers to list accurate information about themselves on their profile. I’m OK with people withholding, but I see things on men’s profiles that turn out to be downright misleading.

Don’t get me wrong. I wouldn’t get too upset if a guy’s profile picture is five years old, or if he’s really 5’8″ and not 5’10.” What I keep finding out, though, are things like “some college” means “no education past high school,” or that “work in research” means “factory worker at a plant whose clients are R&D companies,” and a white-collar technical profession listed on a profile really means “been out of work for some years.”

And “divorced” means “separated with no court date in sight!”  And these are the nicer ones…

My problem with misleading pieces of information like these is that I don’t know what else to expect. Can this person even be trusted? What else is he lying to me about? How can I tell if he just posted a little white lie on his profile, so he can get a first date and show me what a nice person he really is, or if he’s a con man through and through? Lastly, where do I draw the line? At what point does it stop being cute and start being a big deal? After all, here I am, meeting with total strangers from the Internet, and, like it or not, I have my personal safety to worry about. I did a search on your blog before I sat down to write this letter, and found a blog article where you say that it is okay to stretch the truth a little, just to get your foot in the door. Which I more or less agree with, but my question is, how can I tell between “a little” and “a lot?”

In the online dating world, how much lying is okay, and how much is considered too much? What are the red flags? Hope you can advise. Thanks!

Timely letter.

I just got back from a week-long vacation and discovered in my inbox a link to this eye-opening article posted by the fine folks at OkCupid, entitled “The Big Lies People Tell in Online Dating.” However, for all of the dating site’s advanced metrics and data, the subtitle of the piece could simply have been, “Duh.”

OkCupid merely confirmed what you and me –and everyone else who has ever dated online has seen ourselves – there is no detail small enough to resist exaggerating. The only things you may find surprising are that women lie about their height and income just as much as men do. Seriously. So no more self-righteous emails about men, okay?

Lying isn’t something that only others do. Like speeding and getting “creative” on your taxes, lying online is something that “we” do as a form of semi-accepted rule-breaking.

What I found fascinating was that the older you are, the more likely you are to lie.

Older people lie because they need to lie to get attention from the most desirable people.

You may conclude that people over the age of 35 are simply less ethical. That they’re more jaded. Less comfortable around computers. Perhaps life has burned them too many times. Maybe the civics courses in the 70’s were less effective because of Watergate. Really, I could spin any number of cockamamie theories, but the truth is much simpler.

Older people lie because they need to lie to get attention from the most desirable people.

A 22-year-old guy can make $24,000/yr as a waiter and not need to exaggerate. That simply won’t fly if he’s 35.

A 24-year-old woman can post a photo and watch responses roll in like the tide. A 44-year-old woman virtually drops off the face of the earth in comparison.

So when the market gets more and more competitive – and you recognize the realities of the situation, you’re forced into a tough decision:

Most women say to themselves: “There are hundreds of women on here who are younger and thinner than I am. They’re getting all of the attention of the men that I want to meet. So if I change my age from 44 to 39, or post a picture that was taken 5 years and 25lbs ago, it will give me a greater chance to get in the door. If I tell the truth – that I’m middle aged and slightly overweight – the only people who will pay attention to me are homely and desperate 60-year-old men.”

Needless to say, it works the exact same way for men. So 5’8” becomes 5’10”. $75,000 becomes $100,000 and 55 becomes 49. Not to mention the highly creative indulgences cited in the original email.

Ironically, the man who lies online sees himself as insecure, not untrustworthy.

Listen, I’ve been on the CBS Early Show defending women lying about their age. It’s certainly not an easy task. After all, anyone can decry someone who lies: what ELSE are they hiding? But given the pervasiveness of online lying, I came to the conclusion that lying, while not morally defensible, is at least UNDERSTANDABLE from a practical standpoint. People, for the most part, don’t lie because they’re bad folks who can’t tell the difference between right and wrong; they’re just insecure that telling the truth will eliminate them from contention before they ever get a chance to meet you.

If you have nothing to hide, then this has never occurred to you. I’m a 38-year-old guy with a decent job, a solid education, and good income. There’s no real incentive to lie, unless I want to make myself a bit taller than 5’9’’.

But the guy who has been separated for 18 months and his wife won’t sign the divorce papers, the guy who lost his prestigious job and hasn’t quite landed on his feet yet, the guy who was never formally educated but is wise from life experience – he knows that you will NOT give him a chance if he tells the truth.

And since you won’t give him a chance, HE’s going to give himself a chance.

Obviously, this plan backfires 90% of the time, but to the people who are lying, they see it as the only means to get in front of you. Because the truth is: you WON’T go out with the 5’6” guy, the guy in the wheelchair, or the guy who makes less than you. Don’t deny it. The evidence to support my assertion is overwhelming.

So, to answer your question after all, while I don’t know where the line is between the acceptable white lie and the unacceptable whopper – I will say this: ironically, the man who lies online sees himself as insecure, not untrustworthy; if he  doesn’t trust anything, it’s that you will actually give him a shot, in spite of his flaws.

And I have to say that, from what I’m observed, he’s right.

Is he wasting his time (and yours) by misrepresenting himself? Absolutely.

Would he have the chance to meet you if he didn’t misrepresent himself? Absolutely not.

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Comments:

  1. 91
    N

    Starthrower68,

    No one is mocking the not so easy on the eyes women. That’s your thought process. Besides, attractiveness is subjective IMO.

    Jim M.,

    As you stated physical attraction is fundamental. But compatibility cannot be undermined. At the end of the day, hot and attractive gets old.

    1. 91.1
      starthrower68

      Perhaps you are right, N. I did grow up with acceptance being based on my performance. It’s easy to translate some of these things as “not measuring up” and “unworthy” not because of what is said but sometimes the way it’s said.

  2. 92
    starthrower68

    What’s telling is, I said nothing about anyone having to date fat, unattractive people and right out of the gate the response is, “the only men who go for fat women blah blah blah”. Fascinating.

  3. 93
    Al

    A man adding a couple of inches to his height might not matter to shorter women but I’m 5’8″ barefoot, which is emphasized on my profile. In my boots I’m 5’10 so I WILL notice the discrepancy. If a man who’s 5’9 fabricates his height “up” two inches (they do fairly frequently) I will be taller than he is when we meet. And I HAVE noticed that there seems to be a very wide variety of what 5’11 measures up to. I get that people want to lie about their height, age and photos to get their foot in the door. They think that, once you meet them you’ll be so impressed with their (dishonest) personality that you’ll overlook those little fibs. For me it’s a deal breaker. All it does is prove that you’re a liar. Is that any way to start off a potential relationship? No second date. You’re a waste of my time. I think it’s really sad that the bar has been lowered to such a degree people are surprised when you’re legit. I’ve routinely seen the shocked expression on men’s faces when I actually look like my photos in real life. Everyone comments on it right away and one even had the decency to be ashamed he’d tricked me with HIS fake photos. Seriously, what is wrong with people???

  4. 94
    Al

    Oh, and as far as lying about age. I’m a very fit 45 year old woman. I’d FAR rather tell the truth and see the pleasantly surprised look on a man’s face when we meet, followed by “Wow. You look at least a decade younger!” then lie and see suspicion or disappointment in their eyes. If you really do look 10 years younger that’s great! No need to lie about it. Your dates will be so very pleased when they meet you. Trust me, I know! 😉

  5. 95
    Kath

    I lie about my age online to be seen first. I list 49 but Im in my mid 50s. I did that because I found if I listed my real age I seem to no longer exist online. All my pics posted are taken within the last few months and they are good quality.

    I don’t claim to look younger (as most of the men do), but I am in great physical shape and Im attractive enough get a lot of mail. I write in the body of my profile that Im actually 294 years old and I only date younger ( as a joke).

    This works for me and because I get so much interest I can afford it. The down side is getting contact from guys over 50 who write how stunning I look, whom I find have written in their profile that they absolutely don’t want to hear from women over 50.

    The guys Ive met and dated could care less about my age. I lie about my age because Ive found it effective in the online world for me.

  6. 96
    Corian

    Oh the lies people tell. . .
    I recently met a woman online. We had dinner, then went to her house and danced and drank wine until around 1 AM. It was divine, and we were having a blast. Two days later we took a day trip up the coast that ended up becoming a three day date, complete with sleepovers. The following weekend, we spent every minute together and had more fun than either of us could remember, however (and here it comes) there was something that didn’t seem to add up. She seemed a little nervous at times; you know that look that someone gets when they are concealing something from you, and they aren’t sure whether that moment is the right time to drop the bomb on you. I saw that more on Friday, and she seemed a little distant.

    When I received the first email from her a few days prior, the email address was appended with a year that was four years younger than she said she was on her profile. I assumed (correctly) that she had lied about her age. She looked about ten years younger than she actually was, and was everything I had always wanted in a woman, so I stuffed that thought way down in a place that wouldn’t bubble up and upset the proverbial apple cart. I didn’t take, ultimately.

    This also happened to me four years ago. 52 is the new 42? That is the stupidest thing I have ever heard, so please stop with that malarkey already people! At least that liar told me about it the day after our first date, along with the three divorces and two children I was also unaware of, but I do digress . . .

    The new girl and I were literally falling madly in love with each other. Friday at her house, then Saturday afternoon while driving to lunch, I turned the radio off and looked straight at her and said: “were you born in 1973 or 1969?” She said plainly “Uhh, yes”. I was beside myself because I had mentioned how cool I thought it was that we were the same age and graduated high school the same year. By the way, I mentioned this three times to her in the 8 days between our first date and the “moment of truth”; she therefore had no less than three opportunities to come clean about the age lie. Let me add that I would not have cared if the 52 year-old would have been honest upfront, she was hot and we got along great. Same thing with this one – I could care less about age; I am more interested in the chemistry and the connection. Did I mention that her bio mentioned that honesty was important to her? How about how mine said that I was seeking “. . . sincerity, honesty, and sweetness”?

    She said she knew I would be upset, but at that moment I said I didn’t care, and I just stuffed it way down there, right on top of the repressed email feelings. We had big dinner plans (meaning really expensive/fancy/etc.) later that night that had been in the works all week. She had her stuff at my house for the weekend already. Was I supposed to get mad at her, then have a crappy lunch, and dinner, and drop her off at home a day early? I just wanted to forget about it. She joked that she thought I was going to ditch her at the restaurant, and at that moment it didn’t seem like a bad idea (more on that soon.) She asked what I thought about “it”, and I said “If you are lying about that, then what else are your lying about?” She got a little miffed and stated that she is “not a liar”, and that everyone online lies about their age.” Umm, sorry honey, that is not how it works, and yes you are a liar. She said it was eating at her and felt relieved to finally have me know, but you see – she didn’t tell me, I had to ask, so who knows how long she could have carried the lie.

    Now, this is trend, for example: date two-coast trip – I told her about another date I had the prior evening – the day after our first date. We had a laugh about it, but I didn’t mention the lie that day, but I did at the moment-of-truth-lunch. I explained how that one lied about her age and I called her on it at dinner, if only accidentally. She said “Oh, please don’t be mad throughout the dinner that I lied about my age.” I was roundly pissed, and couldn’t wait to run out of there, and at that moment I was so happy that my new-and-soon-to-be-GF was not lying about her age to me, right? Wrong!

    At lunch, moment of ‘truth': She said how a friend had asked her when she was going to tell me. She said “he had a few women lie to him before, and he was very unhappy about it”. The problem I have is that I brought it up several times, and she just went right along without telling me. The problem after finding out about it, she lost a little bit of luster in my eyes. No, not because she was older, but because she lied, and that is an unforgivable offense in my book of life.

    We made it through a wonderful Saturday evening and all-day Sunday together, and I dropped her off at home. About ten minutes later on the drive home, it all sunk in on me and I phoned her. She didn’t answer or call me back. An hour later I sent her a text indicating my strong unhappiness about the perpetuated lie. She was stunned and replied the next morning that maybe we shouldn’t continue. Uhh, you are giving up that easily? Then there must be something else you probably don’t want me to know. I figured we would cool down for a few days and talk about it, hoping she would at least apologize, which never happened. Then a day later she sent me a vitriolic-laden text, to which my only reply was that any chance of righting the ship just sank and that was that.

    I miss her so much, and I wish she would have been honest with me, but once a liar – always a liar. I don’t care if you want to call something a noble lie, a little white lie, or whatever. A lie, is a lie, is a lie – period. I have a good feeling she and her ex, who was still in the (ahem, bedroom) picture apparently when we met (she did come clean about that and said she put an end to their shenanigans, and I believe her – or do I?) So there’s that, and probably more. Get the picture people?

    1. 96.1
      Evan Marc Katz

      Yes, we get the picture. You dated a bad woman, ignored your feelings at your own expense, and you both handled the situation poorly. There’s really nothing for anyone to learn apart from that. Unless you think every man or woman who has ever lowered his/her age on a dating site is the exact same as the woman you described above.

  7. 97
    deedee

    I so agree with this article.  Woman of 75 who don’t look over 60 and have a recent photo

    everyone agrees looks just like her and says on a website she is 60 is ostracized.  Besides

    that anyone she does connect with can look her up BEFORE he meets her and then

    she’s doomed.  It happened to me – we really connected for 2 weeks on the phone and

    were ready to meet but I was a little evasive about some things, he became suspicious and

    made a really big deal about the lie.  He is 70 years old himself.  What was the big deal.

    It is very unfair for older women now a days to have their age plastered all over the internet.

    That didn’t happen to attractive women years ago.  I am so despondent over this you have no idea.  It’s like I have no life.  I am very vivacious and fun but if I can’t get to that first date I’m sunk.

    1. 97.1
      Karmic Equation

      Some men who wrote to me online had their ages as 50, but they looked 55-60 to me. They could very well have been great looking 65 year olds who looked great for 65. but didn’t look quite as young as they thought they did, and in fact, looked like very “0ld” 50 year olds. Had they put their age only 5 years off at 60, they would have looked like great 60 yo’s.

       

      I don’t think you should lie about your age to more than 5 years. That’s because there is a big difference between a 60 yo and a 75 yo. One isn’t even old enough to retire yet and the the other is close to 80. I know that hurts. I’m sorry.

       

      If you’re vivacious and fun in person, you should try to meet men via hobbies and activities and use OLD as a back up, not as a primary way of meeting men.

  8. 98
    Julie

    I have unfortunately found that the biggest indicator that a man is lying in some substantial way is that he feels the need to tell you, either in his profile, his screen name, or or profile header (or 2 or 3 of 3!) how ‘honest’ he is. I guarantee you, it always means he’s NOT being honest.  I’d rather be shown how honest you are than told. Words are cheap.

    Also you’d be surprised what you can verify with very little information. Phone #s can be Googled and lead to a name and/or address, which can be searched. Always Google someone’s screen name since many people use them for multiple things/sites. Once you have a full name and/or address, a check of online property records at the county prothonotary’s office can tell you if your date shares a deed with a spouse, and often has marriage license info too (if he/she married in their current county). If not find out where he/she is from and search there.

    Search their name on social media too. A guy who claims to be unattached yet has tons of photos with the same woman hanging on him in his Facebook, Instagram and Twitter photos is probably tied down. Also there are many sites who will verify ages, related family members, employer and/or industry … and most of this is FREE. A little legwork using your computer can give you a lot of peace of mind.

    This is how i know that a LOT of married men are on OLD dating sites pretending to be single or divorced and think none of us will ever know. Since I don’t like being taken for a fool and having my time wasted, I always check. It’s sad that in this day and age one needs to do that but I’ve learned you can’t be too careful.  Also lots of men equate being separated with being divorced and available and free from entanglements. They’ll argue that ‘we live in the same house but on separate floors’ or yes we are still technically married but it’s been over for a long time we just haven’t caught the paperwork up yet’. And I know a ton of separated people in real life who get back together, too, so if you proceed with one of those guys, don’t be surprised if one day he figures out the grass wasn’t greener anywhere else and goes back.

     

     

     

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