TSL: Online Dating: There’s plenty of phish in the sea!

You remember when they told you there were plenty more fish in the sea?

Apparently they were right. Forty million fish, according to the calculations done this year by StatisticBrain. And, for an average cost of something like $239 a year, you too can fish for one of the 40 million American singles that are currently trying online dating services, like one of 20 million at eHarmony or one of 15 million on Match.com. According to StatisticBrain, this year this ocean will reach a worth of something like $2 billion. The only thing these sites can’t promise? What kind of fish you’re going to catch.
Don’t think you’ll ever navigate the waters?
Even if you have no plans to register at an online dating site, chances are pretty good that you’ll check out a prospective date on social media. And even if you don’t, chances are pretty good that they’ll still be checking you out. What’s a fish to do?

First, don’t leave without filling your tackle box.

What better bait than that of eHarmony’s own “unofficial” blog? eHarmony confides their secret recipe for success: on average, the people that get the most “matches” are those who want kids, are Caucasian, Christian, have a bachelor’s degree, and make at least $40,000 a year. Good thing, too, because those guys have an awful time finding a date. If you don’t fit any of these, you can also move to Denver, Colorado, the city with the highest density of online daters in the U.S.

Still not getting enough matches?

eHarmony also suggests that you retake the personality profile questionnaire and lower your compatibility requirement settings. (This is eHarmony’s way of telling you to get off your high horse.) If you’re a man, eHarmony says to describe yourself as affectionate, honest, funny, confident, and easy to talk to. If you’re a woman, avoid everyone who describes himself as affectionate, honest, funny, confident, and easy to talk to.

It turns out that it might be better not to describe yourself at all. Jeanna Bryner, journalist for Live Science, worked with scientists at MIT who systematically showed the participants the traits of potential online dating partners. The study found that the more of the traits that participants were shown, the less likely they were to be attracted to them. Bryner makes this suggestion: “The next time you log onto a dating site, you might want to add mysterious to your list of desired traits, because the less you know about a potential mate the better.”

The one thing they do want to know?

According to studies done by both MIT and the University of Chicago, you are at least twice as likely to make a connection online if your dating site profile has a picture of your face. StatisticBrain even says that 48% of online dating site users rank appearance higher in importance than personality.

Are online dating site users really this shallow? Ask John Millward, the dating blogger who did a four-month experiment in which he created ten false profiles with identical information. Five were female, five were male, and every profile described an identical personality. After only 24 hours, Millward had received a total of 90 unsolicited messages. Women received 88 of the messages, while one man received the other two. Each woman received at least one message, but the women that Millward had intended to be the most attractive amassed almost six times that of the other eight accounts—combined. So brush up those pearly whites (or at least those Photoshop skills).

The second most important thing to know about online dating?

Know when to toss ‘em back.

Here it is: the good, the bad, and the fishy. Surveys report that as much as 53% of online dating service users have dated more than one person at once, and 10% of sex offenders have reported using online dating services. Online sites are also notoriously used by men and women whom are already married. MSNBC did an expose  that revealed that 83% of married people with profiles dating sites did not consider themselves to be cheating. And it gets worse. According to the blog Love Is In the Air, around 10% of profiles are spammers, scam artists, or internet phishing cons who will use your information to get your money—or worse. As a result, some states such as Illinois, New Jersey, and New York have required online dating sites to publish safety tips.

eHarmony offers the following signs that something is fishy.

  • Claims that your introduction was destiny or fate
  • Reports of a sudden personal crisis
  • Claims to be from the U.S. but working abroad
  • Offers to send you a gift (conveniently needing your home address)
  • Insistence on a specific meeting time
  • Claims of being recently widowed
  • Job offers

If you’re a man on vacation looking to hire a secretary but you have a tight schedule, a dead wife, a fat wallet, and a sudden personal crisis, you might want to wait until the second date to tell her how you believe in fate.

Whether they’re a shark, a phish, or a plain old boot, here’s a way to boost your lie detector by 15%: The University of Wisconsin-Madison and Cornell University did a study on liars, not an easy thing to do. First they were able to determine that 80% of users lie on their profiles. They then found that an average person could only identify about 50% of the lies. Most lies were about weight, twenty percent changed their age, and half changed their height. The study found that liars had shorter descriptions, presumably because they are easier to remember. Liars also had a strong tendency to avoid using the pronoun “I.” Psychologists say that this subconsciously distances them emotionally from their statements. Liars will also use a technique called “negation.” For example, they would say not married instead of single or not a psychopathic serial killer instead of friendly. Luckily, once given these simple guidelines, users were able to correctly identified liars 65% of the time, 15% more than the average user.

Are these lies harmless?

Dr. Jeff Gavin, psychology lecturer at the University of Bath, researches the nuances between face-to-face and online dating. Gavin likens most of these kinds of lies to “making an effort before going to a nightclub”: “It may not be the way you look first thing in the morning, but it’s not dishonest.”

And if you don’t like what you find, you know what they say



4 thoughts on “TSL: Online Dating: There’s plenty of phish in the sea!

  1. Another great article…you always make us laugh while giving great information tedbelle! Keep up the good work! I can’t believe you haven’t done a cat article yet!

    Posted by llyne84 | October 8, 2012, 9:26 am
  2. Another great and insightful post. I’ve had a lot of friends do this to varying outcomes. I LOVED the research and studies you used to back up your point. Well done!

    Posted by Joey Strawn | October 8, 2012, 3:23 pm
    • After hearing from some of my readers, I’d love to hear from people who have been through the ringer on this one. I temporarily set up an eHarmony account myself to experience what it was like. Personally, I found the experience very overwhelming–especially my curiosity!

      Posted by tedbelle | October 29, 2012, 1:07 pm

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