Contrary to the stereotype, there’s little evidence that internet dating is the last resort of social misfits or weirdos. Internet daters are more likely to be sociable, have high self-esteem and be low in dating anxiety (Kim et al., 2009; Valkenburg, 2007).
Somewhere between one-third and three-quarters of single people with internet access have used it to try and meet someone new.
But, over the years, we’ve heard conflicting stories about how successful it is.
Believe the internet dating companies and it’s all sweetness and light, with wedding bells ringing in the distance; believe the media scare stories and it’s all lying, cheating, perverted social misfits. Fortunately, now there’s enough research to suggest what’s really going on.
So, here are my 10 favourite psychological insights on internet dating.
When this data was compared with their profiles, it showed that nine out of ten had lied on at least one of the attributes measured, but the lies were only small ones.
The most frequent offender was weight, with daters either adding or shaving off an average of 5%.
Daters were more truthful about their age (1.5% deviation) and height (1.1% deviation).
As expected women tended to shave off the pounds, while men gave themselves a boost in height.
These lies make little difference in the real world because the vast majority of fibbing would have been difficult to detect in person.
Most people want to meet up eventually so they know big lies are going to be caught. Even without Photoshop to iron out the wrinkles, camera angles and lighting can easily change perceived attractiveness.
People instinctively understand this when choosing their profile photo so Toma and Hancock (2010) took photographs of internet daters, then judges compared these to the real profile photos.