The unfortunate truth is that sometimes people lie. A made up story can have many purposes – said in hopes of making the other person like you (you love The Office, I do too), said as a form of self-protection (I said it because I would be embarrassed if she knew the truth), or unfortunately, said for a more malicious purpose.
When we meet someone for the first time, we absorb as much information as we can from them trying to understand who the person is and what they are like. We consider the person’s choice of words, the accent, the body language, their clothes – anything we can see, hear, touch, or smell. The more we know and understand about the other person, the more help we have in deciding whether to trust the other person and pursue a relationship with him or her.
When meeting someone for the first time online, there is limited information available. And in some situations, like online dating sites, most of the information you get is provided by that other person. How do you know whether you can trust that information? Although not a background check, services like eHarmony’s RelyID help to verify that the person is who he/she says they are. And while there are no 100% guarantees, there may be a few other things you may do to get a little added peace of mind.
A recent study found that online daters used a number of strategies “to verify what people said in their profiles” (Gibbs, Ellison, & Lai, 2011). Strategies included things like:
1. Asking specific follow-up questions – if he states in his profile that he loves college basketball, follow-up about the recent NCAA championship
2. Keeping an eye out for discrepancies – there should be some amount of consistency between their photos, their profile, and from one conversation to the next
3. Searching public databases – online tools can provide added information, including public records, Google, or Facebook
4. Checking references – the world can be small, sometimes knowing someone who knows someone who knows your match can help
5. If in doubt, just asking – sometimes the most direct approach is the best – maybe ask for a recent picture holding something specific (like a piece of paper with your name on it)
According to the study, people who were more likely to engage in these kinds of behaviors were also more concerned about their personal security online and felt less confident about being able to pick out a good match online. But it wasn’t that people just needed more information. People who engaged in these behaviors, and presumably found the information they were looking for, also tended to reveal more information about themselves too.
With limited information, taking the steps to get to know someone can be difficult at first, but a little careful investigation may help put some pieces together. Remember to take your time and trust your instincts. Processes like eHarmony’s guided communication can help you get to know your match one step at a time. For more advice on how to have a safe experience on eHarmony, click here.
Gibbs, J., Ellison, N., & Lai, C. (2010). First Comes Love, Then Comes Google: An Investigation of Uncertainty Reduction Strategies and Self-Disclosure in Online Dating Communication Research, 38 (1), 70-100 DOI: 10.1177/0093650210377091
For more articles from eHarmony Labs, click here.