Comment: Hi Moxie,
I have a question that I have to imagine a lot of fellow online daters are wondering:
How can you avoid (or at least minimize) going out with people you meet online whom you’re then not attracted to in person?
I feel like I have posted completely truthful photos of myself and my body online (and I have asked friends of both sexes to verify this). I’m probably what’s considered conventionally attractive (thin, blonde, etc.). Thanks to that, I get a lot of messages (I’m on both OKC and Match). Since I signed up (1 year ago), I have gone out with 75 men (yeah, I kept count – it’s become practically a second job for me). That being said, I have easily gotten over 700 messages, so I’m not just going out with whoever messages me.
I do care a good amount about physical attractiveness – I want someone that I am attracted to physically. I was very attracted to the photos of every single man I went out with; however, in person, over 90% of them looked really different. I felt completely deceived in half of the cases – the person looked so different I was shocked and not even sure if it was him. I’m not just talking about adding an inch or two to height (which I’m fine with). I’m talking like it could have been someone else when I saw them. The photos many of these guys seem to post are the most attractive photos ever, taken from the best angles and in the best lighting (and possibly even retouched – who knows) – they look very little like this in real life.
I know my photos are truthful since almost every single one of these 75 men has wanted a second date, and many have actually remarked that I looked far better than my photos in real life (perhaps because they were just expecting photo attractiveness inflation on my end as well!).
So, I have 2 questions really:
(1) How do I avoid this in the future? Do I just do more due diligence? Ask them to add me on facebook so I can see more photos? Ask for their full name so I can google them? Most of these guys had at least 4 photos posted anyway, though.
(2) If I arrive to a date and the man clearly really, really misrepresented himself physically, what should I do? So far, I’ve just been being polite – having a quick drink with him and saying I have to leave in an hour. I don’t want to be rude, but is it ever acceptable to just show up, and say sorry, I have to go (with or without an explanation) upon seeing him if he’s drastically physically different compared to his photos?
I know you might think this isn’t that big of a deal – so, what – I waste an hour of my time with someone I’m not attracted to. But it’s getting exhausting to keep showing up and feeling deceived by the other person. I work a lot, and my time is valuable, and while I understand everyone exaggerates a little in online dating, I want to stop being so wildly deceived.
Thanks a lot.
City: New York City
The unfortunate truth is that deception has become an integral part of dating. Not just online dating, either. By deception I mean stretching of the truth or lies of omission. An inch here, a few years there. We shave, we add, we spin. All of us do it. Those who swear up and down that they’re “totally honest” in their profile are all kind of precious. They’re also the ones who don’t date much or enjoy sitting behind their laptop and moralizing. Good for them.
So the first thing you need to do is expect that someone will not be exactly how they seem. There’s probably going to be something about them that is inconsistent with how they have presented themselves. Also acknowledge that we have a tendency to formulate images in our head of who this person is, compounding the inevitable disappointment.
Some people flat out lie. Others, and I think these people make up the other half of the segment, genuinely believe that they look the way their photos make them look. In preparation for my photo shoot, I read up on how to pose and how lighting and angles play a part in the captured image. I also learned that our brains play a big part in how we see ourselves. So someone might have their picture taken and think they look exactly like the person in the photo. The problem is that that is a one dimensional image that was snapped under a specific kind of light and catching us in a certain moment. We might resemble that person somewhat, but in regular light and normal circumstances, we look different. So a profile photo should never be taken at face value. There will be similarities, hopefully. But there will be differences.
Now that we’ve gotten the realities of this topic out of the way, let’s talk about ways we can gauge or get an idea of how someone will look in person.
First, if the person posts only one photo, you can expect they’ll look nothing like it in person. They’re posting only one because it is the most flattering of them and because they can’t find any others that match it.
Next, if their photos are taken at angles or never show them face on, you can also assume they’ll show up looking like a Picasso. This is why I tell clients that they MUST include one picture of their face taken from a straight on angle. No profile shots, no lighting tricks. You want to see them in normal, every day circumstances, like at a bar or outside or in someone’s home. None of this fancy schmancy early morning sunrise or sunset pics in front of soft light.
Also, you need to be able to see a noticeable similarity between all of their photos. They don’t have to look exactly the same in every shot, but you should be able to recognize them.
There’s a debate as to whether people should use photographs taken by professional photographers. Many photographers now offer a service where they take pictures for clients that look like regular candids. (The photographer from my shoot does this.) I will use two of the pictures I posted here last week, but I’ll have at least 3 regular pictures taken by friends so that people could compare and contrast. I would not use a set of professional photos for your profile without including shots of you that were snapped by friends.
Wearing sunglasses in more than a couple photos should also be considered a red flag. Definitely if they’re wearing them in their primary photo.
The photos should be clear or even crisp. Fuzzy photos or ones with an orangeish tint or that are stretched typically mean that they were taken with outdated cameras. They are older photos and are now pixelated. As mobile phones continue to be improved, so does the clarity of the photos taken by the camera on that phone.
Those are the technical tips that I can pass along. Now for the ones that require a little critical thinking.
So you come across a hottie on OKCupid or Match. The first thing you need to ask yourself is why someone that objectively good looking is using a dating site. I’m talking about the people who are really, really ridiculously good looking. Why are they there? They could be on that site for the same reason you are. They don’t have to be lying. But you should still have that thought in your head as you read their profile. No red flags? Okay. Proceed.
Next up is how eager or available they make themselves to meet. If they appear to be dragging their feet, it’s quite possible that they know – because it has happened before – that their date will be disappointed. They’re aware of their deception and are nervous about meeting.
Finally, ask yourself this: are you wildly shallow? Yes, attraction is important. You’ll get no argument for me on that one. But if your primary reason for meeting someone is their looks, then you’re contributing to the outcome. Because, see, that’s exactly what those people are hoping for. That’s why they’re posting such incredibly flattering photos.
To be honest, I don’t understand how you could have so many instances of there being a great disparity between how someone looks in a photo versus in person. It happens once or twice and you learn pretty quickly how to spot those people. If these guys are all posting recent photos and putting up 3-5 and they look reasonably similar in each, something is off with your story. You don’t appear to be learning the tricks. Either that or you’re ignoring your experiences strictly because they’re very attractive.
700 messages across two sites in a year isn’t all that impressive. I’m 44. I get the same amount. We are women on an online dating site.You’re presenting yourself as selective, but are you? Because it sounds to me like you’re overlooking obvious red flags strictly because a guy is really attractive. That’s the number one reason why people end up on the dates you describe.