A University of Wisconsin study estimates that 81% of online daters lie about their height, weight, or age in their profile.
Since almost everyone else is doing it, does that mean you should too?
Maybe. And I’ll explain why slightly bending the truth can be a good idea in a minute…
But before you go off on a creative writing spree and invent The New You, remember this:
Online dating is just a means to an end.
The goal is to actually meet someone, whether it's your soulmate or the next Ms. Right Now. And sooner rather than later, you're going to have to meet her face to face.
So if your displayed height implies you look LeBron James right in the eye, but you show up to the bar looking more like Peter Dinklage, you'd better be one of the world’s finest at digging yourself out of holes.
The last thing you want is to waste hours and hours of your time crafting a new online persona that comes crashing down like a flimsy pile of cards the minute you meet her face to face.
Tell “Exaggerations”… Not Big Lies.
Don't tell big lies. Ever. Not only is it stressful to keep up the charade, but the bigger the lie, the more difficulty you’ll have down the road.
One question I’ve heard a lot about this topic is “When is the right time to come clean?”
There’s no hard and fast rule for when to come clean… but the bigger the lie, the longer you’re going to need to wait.
Let’s say you subtract 9 years off your age and right after the cups of coffee arrive, you say “Hey, by the way, I’m actually 49, not 40.” What do you think will happen?
The answer: Nothing. Your chances of getting a second date are slim to none.
If you want her to stick around, you’re going to want to wait until you’re damn sure she’s really into you (or – ideally – in love with you), and that number is something she’s willing to look past.
But even then, it’s risky business because you’ve already invested so much.
Imagine telling her several months down the road, after you’ve put a lot of time and energy into the relationship. You’re super into each other, but when you come clean about your age, it doesn’t go like you hope.
Why get yourself into that predicament in the first place?
Seriously – no one likes a big liar. Remember the disappointment you felt when your date from Match.com looked nothing like her photos? That goes both ways.
That’s why you never want to take it too far. Stick to “exaggerations” rather than massive lies.
For example, studies show women are more comfortable with round numbers, so they're much more likely to search ages 30-40 than 32-42. Sometimes it makes sense to adjust your age accordingly.
If you’re 42, consider putting 40 on your dating profile. Since women are already thinking in round numbers, that 32 year old has probably made up her mind that she’s not open to dating men over 40. So when you message her and she sees you’re 42, she immediately thinks “too old” and moves on.
Women have a checklist in mind when it comes to their ideal man, and if you don’t check the boxes, you can be immediately dismissed. She’s getting a ton of messages every day, so she doesn’t have time to think about the merits of making an exception in your case.
You can also “tweak” your height in your favor. According to data analysis by OkCupid, men add an average of two inches.
If you look at the graph to the right, you’ll see how the bell curve representing OkCupid users is shifted two inches to the right of U.S. men curve (based on US Census data).
Here's what Christian Rudder, OkCupid co-founder, had to say on the subject of height:
“The male heights on OkCupid very nearly follow the expected normal distribution—except the whole thing is shifted to the right of where it should be. You can see it better when we overlay the implied best fit below (pardon the technical language):
Almost universally guys like to add a couple inches. You can also see a more subtle vanity at work: starting at roughly 5′ 8″, the top of the dotted curve tilts even further rightward. This means that guys as they get closer to six feet round up a bit more than usual, stretching for that coveted psychological benchmark.”
And if that graph accurately portrays how online daters skew their true height, then it directly affects you.
Think about it – if you list your real height, and everyone else adds two inches, then online you’re actually shorter than you are in real life. By not lying, you’re at a competitive disadvantage!
Here’s another reason to exaggerate – a UK study showed 6’ (1.83 m) is the ideal height for maximum response. But be realistic – if you're 6 inches shy of that benchmark, just add an inch.
Those researchers found that every inch increase in a man’s height directly correlated with the likelihood of a woman messaging him, and taller men were much more likely to be contacted than shorter men.
It’s highly unlikely that you’ll ever get called out for exaggerating your height by an inch online. If she’s the same height you claim to be and she’s not wearing heels, it could happen. But still, it won’t happen often. However, if you add 2 or more inches, proceed at your own risk.
Similarly, men might err on the side of thinness when it comes to describing their body type. But again, be realistic – and remember how it feels to go out on a date with someone who obviously misrepresented themselves.
Don't be that guy. That guy goes home alone every time.
Fibbing About Where You Live
Dating sites ask for your zip code so they can find matches that are nearby. Your answer is confidential, although your city will be displayed on your profile.
But your zip code can become a problem if you live on the outskirts of a large metro area. Believe me when I tell you we’ve had clients in Manhattan who weren’t interested in meeting anyone just across the bridge in Brooklyn.
The bigger the city, the more this matters. When she checks out your profile after you message her, living 20 miles away from that city girl could very well blow your chances.
Women, especially attractive ones, already have messages from an abundance of interesting local options crowding their inbox. If you’re a 45-minute drive away, she’s much less likely to be interested in you.
So if you're up for the commute, think about using a zip code a bit closer to the city center.
Speaking of commutes, if you happen to work in the city but live in the suburbs, consider using your work zip code when you set up your dating profile. You probably spend more of your waking hours at work anyway, so the discrepancy is much easier to explain later than it would be if you just randomly picked a more central zip code.
Exaggerating About Your Income
OkCupid data shows men systematically exaggerate their income by 20%. But depending on what your salary is, bending the truth here could be setting you up for problems down the line – especially when it comes to dating expectations.
If your profile lists $85,000 as your salary, she's only going to put up with sharing an entree at Applebees for so long.
Our data here at VIDA shows it's better to dodge the income question altogether, unless you make over $150K a year.
Anything Else I Should Lie About?
Nope – slightly altering your height, age, income and zip code in order to show up in more search results is one thing. But when you change other things, you need to be sure you’re not taking it too far and setting yourself up for failure in the end.
And believe me – it is a fine line, and it’s difficult to do it successfully. But luckily for you, VIDA’s staff of dating experts can help you get it right.
We know when it’s okay to bend the truth, but even more importantly, we know how to make the real you shine with a magnetic profile that will leave attractive women wanting to get to know you better.