Why Do So Many People Lie In Online Dating?

There are millions of Americans seeking love on the Internet. Little do they know that teams of scientists are eagerly watching them trying to find it.

A recent New York Times article titled “Love, Lies and What They Learned,” indicates that collectively, the major dating sites had more than 593 million visits in the United States last month.

Research involving more than one million online dating profiles was partly financed by a grant from the National Science Foundation.

The in-depth studies found that about 81 percent of people misrepresent their height, weight or age in their profiles. On average, the women described themselves as 8.5 pounds thinner in their profiles than they really were. Men fibbed by 2 pounds, although they lied about their height, rounding up a half inch. Another study found that women’s profile photographs were on average a year and a half old. Men’s were on average six months old.

According to the studies, liars tend to use fewer first-person pronouns. Professor Catalina L. Toma, an assistant professor in the department of communication arts at the University of Wisconsin-Madison said this is an indication of psychological distancing: “You’re feeling guilty or anxious or nervous.” Liars use more negative words like “not” and “never,” yet another way of putting up a buffer. Liars use fewer negative emotion words like “sad” and “upset,” and they write shorter online personal essays. (It’s easier not to get caught if you say less.)

“I was personally really shocked,” said Professor Rose McDermott, a professor of political science at Brown University whose study was published this year in the journal Evolution and Human Behavior. “People were much more likely to say ‘I’m fat’ than ‘I’m a conservative.’ ”

Personally, none of this is surprising if you’ve dated online. You may find it exasperating, but I just think it’s human nature. WE are insecure. We know that online dating presents a lot of choices. We know that men are looking for younger and thinner and women are looking for taller and wealthier. We know that if we tell the truth – I’m 5’8″, not 5’10”, I’m 55, not 49, we’re all but eliminated from the search of the most desirable candidates. So we fib a little to “get in the door” and hope that we don’t seem too different from our descriptions.

Given that 81% of people lie, I think it’s time to stop getting so bent out of shape when they do, and simply assume that everyone is fudging a little bit – some, more than others. At the end of the day, it’s better to be pleasantly surprised when someone does tell the truth than bitterly disappointed when he doesn’t. It’s too predictable to get angry about.

Read the full article here and let me know your thoughts.

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  1. 61

    I do think it’s more common now for people to meet online.  I don’t know a ton of people, but I have at least three friends that I can think of off the top of my head that are married and met online.  I know a few others who are in relationships from it as well.  In my world it  still makes up about only 10-20% of couples I hear about getting engaged, so it’s limited, but catching on.  I hear of online pairings now more than I hear “we met in a bar or at a party”.  I’m 33 as well though so maybe that’s why.

  2. 62
    Saint Stephen

    I think JB would prefer no 4. Lol 

  3. 63

    I think it’s more common for those under 45 to meet online.  This is just based on my own observations among family/friends/acquaintances. 
    for those over 45 in my opinion you are not likely to meet anyone looking for committed relationship online.  You are more likely to find men like JB who are just looking for causual dating/sex.

  4. 64
    Saint Stephen


    JB didn’t say he wasn’t looking for a committed relationship. Ibelieve he just haven’t found the one yet.  

  5. 65

    You are kidding he lies about everything in order to get as many dates as possible this is not someone looking for a committed relationship. 

  6. 66

    For the record, I don’t “lie about everything to get as many dates as I can”….LOL
    I lie about certain things in my profile to make it more acceptable to a larger audience in my age range. For example, I know I would have more value to a lot of women if I had kids but I don’t and don’t lie about it. Like I said pics and how you “look” are still 95% of anyone’s profile and I look like mine and if people are happy with how you look and they like you that’s 99% of the battle.

    I’m not looking for “The One” either. I have no desire to be married but I can certainly be in a committed relationship and have for various lengths of time throughout my life.

    Despite whatever my profile says I’ve only averaged meeting about 7-10 women a year over the past 4 yrs where online dating has been the majority of my new “meets”. I always keep track of all this btw, out of those 10 maybe 2 make it to the 3rd date and/or “beyond” 😉 Mostly on my choice but occasionally theirs.

    Before 2008 I was lucky enough to have places in my area filled with 35-50 yr. olds 3-4 nights a week where it was so easy to meet new women the old fashioned way I didn’t even need the internet. Of course that was before the recession/no smoking law hit. Most establishments have since closed down. Back then I’d meet 80-90% of the women just going out and I’d be 100% honest and rarely had a problem. Now it’s 90% internet. A place where everyone can check off little boxes to qualify and disqualify you.

    @ Goldie….. when everyone my age was “in college” I was a full time musician opening for the biggest heavy metal bands in the world but I just say when I’m rarely asked that I was doing music while “going to school” etc….and make sure everything chronologically “flows”. You’d be surprised but not one has ever cross examined me and asked for details like I was on trial…LOL The conversation just moves on…… I think a lot more people at my age like to deal with the present that they are enjoying with me rather than the past especially 25-30 yrs ago. The bottom line is you’re right it could possibly “complicate” things at some point if it ever got THAT serious but it’s still a chance I’ll take that if I come clean she’ll still want to be with me if that’s what I want too. I might be over by then and I might not even want that myself so life would go on. It’s never happened but if it does I’ll let you know….LOL In the meantime………life goes on. Remember ladies….grill those men, run background checks, and ask lots of questions….unless of course he’s “hot” then none of it matters for a lot of women believe me. 🙂

  7. 67

    @ JB:
    “@ Goldie….. when everyone my age was “in college” I was a full time musician opening for the biggest heavy metal bands in the world but I just say when I’m rarely asked that I was doing music while “going to school” etc….and make sure everything chronologically “flows”.
    Why?? why? why do you need to make things up and “make sure they chronologically flow”, when you had this amazing thing going? why not tell the truth?? I do not get it.
    “I think a lot more people at my age like to deal with the present that they are enjoying with me rather than the past especially 25-30 yrs ago.”
    I think a lot of fun about dating at our age comes from the fact that everyone has had a full, interesting life, which has helped them become who they are today. Basically, we all have cool stories to tell. What do you and your dates talk about, if you avoid mentioning the past? what you ate for breakfast? Interesting. I guess it takes all kinds to make the world go round. Whatever works for you and your female friends!

  8. 68

    [email protected]

    My friends range in age from 20’s-50’s.  Half of my friends in the 20’s-30’s age range have never even done online dating.  The other half, like I mentioned, tried it for awhile when they were going through their divorces and shortly afterward… but then met their spouses offline at work (yea, I know… of all places!).

    I used to be very reluctant to date people I work with.  However, it appears now that those barriers have come down alot.  Depending on the size of the company… those who are looking for a committed relationship are not discouraged… and are even encouraged to pair up with someone they work with provided there are no direct ties to hiring/firing and pay decisions.    

  9. 69

    I’m kind of shocked by the need to create a whole chapter of your lifestory that is a lie.  And to justify it by more or less saying that it’s a stupid requirement.  

    I’ve run across profiles/people who list college grad but then admit that they went but didn’t finish, but even they usually admit that in the body of their profile.

    It’s a weird lie to tell, and it would be awkward if it came out after the fact, not to mention the fact that in many professional fields, it could impact your employability or re-employability.  Once upon a time, people could get nice white collar jobs with high school diplomas or some college.  But a lot of those people when laid off, cannot get similarly good jobs.  It would be awkward to have to explain that to a spouse I think.

    @J.B. Plenty of people who don’t have college degrees are married.  And fewer people your age have degrees, that is true.  I’m not sure why it’s so important to promote yourself to people who want you to meet that criteria if that isn’t what you are.  Why not date the women who don’t care instead of lying to the ones who do.   Is this one of those things where you think you “deserve” a certain type of woman and you can’t get one without pretending that you have a degree?

    I just don’t understand it.  You’ve explained why you don’t have a college degree and what, justify lying b/c you think it’s a stupid requirement?  Maybe, but it’s still a lie.

  10. 70

    I think there are many individuals like JB who have created this whole other persona that they use for OLD>  He even has a backstory for the past wow.
    the fact that he keeps track of all of his meets it’s  clearly a game to him.

    If you ever read the discussion forums on pof there are many like JB.  It seem he also suffers from the sense of entitlement that is epidemic in OLD 4s who think they are entitled to 10s. 

  11. 71

    @ Theresa, he’s a better person than I am — when I was out dating this year, I lost track! LOL
    Seriously, JB why don’t you just select Bachelors from the drop-down in your profile, and then explain further in your profile or in your first emails. I’ve dated both PhDs and people who never went to college. As long as the person is intelligent and fun enough, it works either way. The way you describe you do it sounds like too much work to me. Imagine if Bill Gates made up a story for Melinda about how he graduated from college when he hadn’t, and then kept making sure it chronologically flowed!

  12. 72
    ofw dating

    exact point. although its totally not right, on one end, you can’t really blame them. insecurities is one of the biggest struggles ever existed. on dating sites, you can see some real people who have really sexy bodies and all. and thinking that probability to get positive on online dating just means losing it if you don’t get a little competitive.

  13. 73

    @Theresa: I’ve never even had to tell my “back story” for the past because no one has ever asked me. That was just I would say IF it ever came up.

    I “keep track” of a lot of things in my life because I have a little OCD but in online dating or dating in general it helps to have notes etc…. because at “my age” my memory is going….LOL  I don’t “suffer” from anything. I’m not an “OLD 4”, I’m a middle aged “5” on a good day…lol and I’m perfectly happy dating my equals which for the most part is what I get. I have no delusional expectations. Everything in life is a “game”, didn’t you spin the little plastic wheel and play it when you were younger. The “game of life”.

    @Goldie: Seriously….relax you’ve made way more out of this than it deserves. I’ll be fine, let it go. Let’s just agree to disagree.

    @Nicole: “Why not date the ones who don’t care if I have a degree?”  Good luck finding those 3 gals.

    For the record, this thread and me being honest with you all on it has exhausted me more than my last 3 yrs of dating put together…..ha ha ha !!

    Obviously there’s no men on here to back me up as to what it’s like being an average guy trying to succeed in the online dating arena so I’ll just say this.
    Anytime I post honestly in any thread it’s to help everyone learn what they might be dealing with and what’s “going on out there” from a guys perspective since there’s so few of us on here. I don’t expect anyone to agree with me but at least maybe understand the reasons. I do have 35 yrs. dating experience and 14 yrs. online so THAT I do have a degree in. 😉

  14. 74

    Believe me JB I appreciate your posts just bolsters my decision not to do OLD.    You see dating as a “game” which I find repugnant to each his own.

    It’s funny that you find honesty exhausting to me dishonesty would be more exhausting.

  15. 75

    @JB, I think you can find men who will agree with you that women are superficial, despite the fact that on both sides, people love to rally behind what they want as being what is acceptable and what they deserve, while in the SAME post, criticizing the people whose standards they do not meet. I’m sure you have a list of dealbreakers that I hope you won’t list since I’m sure we’ve read them ALL before.  So keep them. And let the women who like degrees go with that but the lying is silly in my opinion.

    At any rate, I’m not sure how you’d expect to find anyone who would support the idea that you lie to everyone about your education.

    Like I said, plenty of women marry men who aren’t college grads, and who have never been to college.  But you clearly dont’ want those women.  “No one wants me” is usually complaints that the much younger, better looking, educated women who get hundreds of emails won’t reply to the middle-aged high school grad/college drop-out.

    And there is just the fact that while online dating helps you meet people you wouldn’t meet in real life, since it sets things up to be like a candy shop, people cherry pick people using certain features that they wouldn’t necessarily use when dealing with people in real life.  

    You might be perfectly charming and witty in person, and if someone who values true intelligence meets you, by the time she finds out that you didn’t go to college she won’t care.  But online, yeah, a lot of college-educated and beyond women don’t want to hear from you…it’s true for a LOT of people who aren’t “perfect” in any way.  Deal with it.   

    I mean, while it’s rare to have such a positive outcome, if Michael Dell or Bill Gates were online, they’d get passed over too since their looks wouldn’t cut it and they are both “college drop-outs.” Granted, most drop outs don’t do so well but it’s one more reason why it shouldn’t make you that upset…you have some good company in the no degree club, and yeah, people can look past it even if you aren’t a billionaire. 

  16. 76

    Be as clever as serpents and as gentle as doves is a piece of scripture that works well in the world of OLD.

  17. 77

    Online dating: higher propensity to chat with liars.
    Real world dating: lower propensity to lie to your date.
    Solution: give up the ridiculous idea that you’re going to find love online.  Most of what you’ll find are undereducated low class members of society looking for a way out of their miserable lives.  From man-haters, to pathological liars, serial daters and women with far too much time on their hands.  It’s a zoo of undateables.  Now, if you like those kind of women, knock yourself out.
    Really though, just do it the old fashioned way: tell people you’re single. Surely through six degrees of separation, you’ll find someone that’s a good fit.

    1. 77.1
      Evan Marc Katz

      Thanks for the insight, Namerequiredok.

      It takes a great amount of chutzpah to overlook the fact that 17% of all marriages in the past 3 years started from online dating, but you did it. I have hundreds of clients, a sister and a few close friends who’ve getting married from online dating. Pretty much blows your theory that it’s “ridiculous” and doesn’t work.

      Furthermore, everyone I know has dated online. I’m betting you have, too. And if that’s the case, we can’t be all “undatables”, can we?

  18. 78

    I’ve noticed lately that women have started blatantly lying about their income on their dating pages. Women stating like she has SOME COLLEGE but yet miraculously she makes 100k to 150k BS, there is no effin way and so obvious or they funny ones are the careers of Beauty/model yet they are “average” looking and they put down like 50 to 70k, righttttttttttttt ladies and then ladies accuse men of lying about their income. I think men are more honest then ladies these days regarding income ESPECIALLY in this economy. A lady in this economy that put she makes anywhere from 50 to 100 or 150k with like “some college” is full of sh*t. Men don’t take those women seriously with that BS income lie.    

    1. 78.1

      I just wanted to let you know that I make $125k+ and own my own business with only “some college”. Also, I own 2 homes and 2 cars all with sweat equity (not from divorce settlement or trust fund or anything). True story. So, it IS definitely possible, I’m living proof. College educated does not always = financially savvy and/or intelligent.

      I will add that because I don’t want my income to be a factor, this is blank on my profile.

  19. 79

    I dunno – I am a woman who makes 50k with some college.  Seems possible to me.  Graduation May 2013!!! 

  20. 80

    E #79
    One of my best friends doesn’t have a college degree, and makes around 90k (probably 100k with the bonuses she gets), so yes, it is possible, especially if someone has been in their field for many years, and has been regularly promoted. Don’t assume that women can’t earn a good living.

  21. 81

    E-79 – Sorry to disappoint you darling, but this lady DOES have that income.
    It is not bullshit at all.
    However, on dating sites, to protect my anonymity, I do not say what I do for a living, because this could attract idiots, and golddiggers.  
    Sometimes, I have posted a photograph (but usually do not) and usually what I say about myself is carefully vetted to avoid being contacted at work, for example (which I loathe) and by thus letting people know what my profession is.  I note that many people keep such private information private too – it’s so that they can practise their profession properly.
    Incidentally, many of my female colleagues earn more than the figure you quoted (:o)(:o)(:o) and so do the men. 
    It’s pretty great sometimes. 
    Direct lies for me are not a good idea – yes on a profile, my weight and height and eye colour were correct and no, I will not put my nationality, profession, or hobbies or political views.
    Because one of these days, I might just meet a guy who could be everything that I could have said I didn’t want, right?????

  22. 82

    Fibbing is one thing, lying seems another.  This has never happened to me before, but it is happening pretty much as I type this. I have fibbed. I put a year old pic cause i’m not that much different now than I was a year ago. I’ve told people I was a few years younger than I am (not on dating sites though cause I can’t figure out how). Tonight my phone died and I missed a date with someone from a website.  He gave me his fb so it wouldn’t happen again.  Well, he is much, much larger on there than his is on his dating profile. Not a 5’10 compared to a 5’8, not I’m 36 not 30, like, substantially larger. I don’t know what to do. I hate to cancel when I have agreed to the date and I am sure he will know when I see his much more representative pics. But what do I do when I get there, pretend the size he was when he was 19? This just seems to be setting yourself up for hurt.  I get fibbing a little and I bet most dates don’t even notice the difference between a 5’10 and a 5’8 or a 30 year old who is says she’s 27, but this kind of bait and switch just puts everyone in a bad position imo.

  23. 83

    hmmh recently started online datg and i lied a bit! i reduced my age by one year & upped my height by one inch! lol those lil changes are so pointless i dont even noe why i did it. guess i gotta admit, though i Think im qwite confident, that i have that insecurity! 🙁
    on the other hand, i used photos were i looked plainer than usual, just lite makeup, ponytail, and a coat .i took them on a trekking trip. 🙂 because i didnt wanna build up too high expectations. its only reading a blog online that i realised many people try to put up their very best photos.
    met a great guy who saed hes 5 ft 11 inch, but from my estimation, more lyke 5 ft 9, or 5 ft 10 max. i dont care if its a minor lie! o and he also looks much better than his pics!
    personally i try not to judge too much about small lies about online dating! i have sympathy, i noe if i was older i wud feel tempted to fudge the age by a few years! but anything more than 5 years, or 10 pounds, or 2 inches, those are BIG lies to me! how long can u fool some1 anyway?? i try to be open about my bad points early on. we all need more confidence & belief that sum1 will love us! 😉

  24. 84

    Nice to see that honesty and integrity have been thrown out the window; but then, what else can one expect, in an environment where anyone can pretend to be whoever and whatever they want? Hey, it’s all ok; it’s all about getting what we want, and if that means lying about age, height, body type, whatever; or posting old pics, or ones designed to hide that extra 40-50 pounds of blubber, (because someone is too lazy and/or undisciplined to simply lose it), so what?  Well, you can rationalize anything, if you want to, but as one of those one poster (male, with the women cheering him on) called  “old Boomer men, incapable of any self-awareness or introspection”, do excuse me if I remark that most of the succeeding generations (and too many of my own), have completely lost any moral scruples, honor, or even the pretense of a scintilla of personal integrity. Congratulations on turning OLD into a fiction-writing fest. Have  at it, liars of BOTH genders; you deserve each other, and I sincerely hope you find someone just like you. Any means to a desired end; but then, it’s ALL about YOU… isn’t it? Great way to start a relationship based on mutual trust…or does that even matter to you? If you want to talk “introspection”, how about you ALL  (you too, Evan, since you condone these tactics) go  take a good, long, hard look, at who that says you REALLY are. Yes, I know I’m an anachronism,  (and therefore completely worthless to any woman under 65 simply because I’m 66-nice strereotypical comments on older men in some threads here, BTW) but I think I’d rather stay that way. Carry on.

  25. 85

    I think it’s terribly sad that people have to be dishonest online. I am a recent victim of online dating- I dated a guy I met online for 3 months. We started a relationship and I found out 3 days ago that he lied about his age, name and the fact he is married. I’m a Christian and he has made an adulteress out of me.
    I’m glad he’s out of my life now but I will find it hard to trust again and I certainly won’t be dating online ever again.

    1. 85.1

      Jane, I’m sorry that happened to you, but u shouldn’t let that dissuade u from OL dating, which offers great opportunities to meet so many pple u otherwise never would.

      Yes u met a jerk online. But there are jerks everywhere. Last year a man approached me in public, very soon he was professing love to me, asking me to marry him etc. Well we broke up after some time, but he started pursuing me again this yr. I found out a few months ago that he was Married! He denied it at first, later he apologised profusely, offered to get a divorce and marry me blah blah, I was like  no thanks.

      So I know u’re hurting and cynical–I’m v lucky I never slept with him, and I bet u feel SO angry about the situation, as u should. But don’t give up on OL dating pls! And don’t stop trusting pple because there are lots of trustworthy pple around. Really. If you are negative and cynical, that will significantly reduce your chances of one day ending up with a great guy.

  26. 86

    I am 50 years old and that’s why my profile says. My height is accurate and although most would consider me “slender” my profile says “average” (this is subjective, so I prefer to err on the side of caution). There is absolutely nothing in my profile that is in accurate. Lying is lying and I don’t care what everyone else considers the norm, I will not let that influence my character. I want someone who is attracted to exactly who and what I am, so lying is pointless. If you’re not interested in a woman who is 50, guess what? I’m totally ok with that. Good luck in your search finding whomever it is that you seek.

    I have met men who have lied about their age (this seems to be the most common lie in my experience) and I don’t care if they look like Brad Pitt, they absolutely do not get a second date. Relationships are built on a foundation of trust and that starts with your profile stats. That’s one character trait I will not budge on. You surely don’t have to be Brad Pitt, but you do have to be honest. Lying on a profile screams of insecurity and as we all know, there are few things less attractive than insecurity.

  27. 87

    Lying online about things like your height is beyond stupid because eventually, you meet anyway and it’s obvious when you’ve been lied to. I’m a 5’9″ woman, and I once went on a date with a guy, who said he was 5’10” in his OKCupid profile, but when I met him, he was about 5’8″. “How much difference can an inch or two make?” you may ask. A lot because when you’re as sensitive to height as I am (I’m not asking for 6’4″ guys, but he has to be at least my height), you notice right away if you can see over the top of someone’s head. After that, I had no desire to go on a second date because to me it seemed so pathetic that he was saying “Hey, I’m so unpopular. Maybe people will like me more if I’m taller.”

  28. 88

    It’s gotten to the point now when I speak to a guy I have to ask questions. I ask if he is the height and age that he put in his profile.  I am tired of wasting my time going out to meet someone who is shorter and or older than stated. I  just discovered another question to ask, it’s about the children situation. A man on a date told me he had a teenager who lived with him. On his profile all his kids are on their own. I have learned from experience that if a man still has kids that are not grown, not out of the house and independent it will NOT work for me. I don’t lie about anything on my profiel I expect the same.

  29. 89

    If you lie about 1/2 of height of 5 pounds of weight who cares?   If your pictures is 6 months or even a year old as long as you still look like that I don’t care either!  But if it is a year old and you look nothing like that well that’s totally different. People can gain or lose lots of weight in that time.    My judge is this, if I cannot recognize you when we are meeting up on the first date by comparing your profile picture to finding you in a bar then we have serious issues.      Now there are certain circumstances where you may look better in person, and I have actually found with men that is the case. Many just don’t know how to pick the best photos and do not do themselves justice.     However I have heard from men it is quite the opposite women doctor their photos so much that it is no longer actually them.   Which explains why men usually want you to send them selfies, I mean beyond those just fishing for dirty pics.  I think many of them have gotten burned by the doctored pics.  It’s like send me a picture of you with the newspaper from today in front of it LOL.  But I get it   I find men and the height are a big problem and it is not 1/2 an inch.   It is men saying that they are 5’9 and showing up and being 5’5 that’s a big lie men I am sorry and no I am not going to look past that and no matter how much you wow me in person I am not going to forget that lie, sorry.  Just don’t do it.  And not only are you lying you are showing your lack of confidence. Yes there are a lot of women that will not date you because you are 5’5 but do you want that woman?  No you don’t and you don’t want any woman you have to lie to get.  Don’t waste our time please.  I don’t lie at all, not one bit on any subject.

  30. 90

    I decided to experiment this past week with my age.  Ever since I turned 65, the views and messages dropped to single digits.  So I posted in my stats that I was 55, then the first line in my profile said “I’m 65, just conducting an experiment.”  The results were crazy.  In less than a week, over 100 messages and many are viable ‘dates’.  No one bitched about my lying, since I came clean immediately.  Most were very nice about it, although one person was nasty.  My profile was “reported” to match for “inaccurate information” and Match changed my age back to 65.  And just like that – poof – the messages, winks, views disappeared.  It was fun while it lasted : – )

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