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Thursday, January 12, 2012

You Look Nothing Like Your Online Dating Photo

Posted By on Thu, Jan 12, 2012 at 8:30 AM


Should you ever confront a person who looks nothing like their online dating pictures or who has otherwise distorted the kind of person they are? This has happened to me twice on recent dates, and both times I've cut the date short and never talked to them again. Is it ever okay to tell them why? I don't want to be mean, but I also don't want to lie if they ask why I'm suddenly not interested in them.

Everyone lies on their dating profiles. We all want to appear like the hottest, most charming, well-read versions of ourselves, even if that includes using a photo that's a few years old or claiming to be 5'9'' when we're really 5'7''. Usually such self-editing is harmless. Who cares if I don't really read The New Yorker as much as I say I do? Who cares if I say I'm interested in yoga when I haven't gone to a class since Y2K happened? But when it comes to photos, you can't really fudge that. Eventually (presumably) the goal is to meet people IRL (aka in real life, aka barf), and if you've gone all Edward Scissorhands with the Photoshop, it's going to be immediately obvious.

I don't think confrontation is really necessary, however. Unless the person in question is committing fraud or something, I think they probably already know what they're doing, and there's no need to drink the Haterade. I can see why you might have the impulse to be brutally honesty -- they did waste your time, after all, and it's much easier to be mean online than it is in person -- but such is the gamble of dating online. Telling someone they're unattractive or dull when they can't do anything to really change that is in poor taste. As my friend Devon succinctly put it, "I imagine the disappointment of being met is confrontation enough."

It's not like by telling someone they're less attractive than their photos is doing the world any great service. What I would suggest, and this is by no means foolproof, is to better scrutinize a person's photos, and look for telltale signs they might be distorting their image -- for instance, if their profile has all close-cropped head shots, or if photos are blurry or taken from 50 feet away. "That orange dot on the mountain is me! I love mountains, you see. And mounting things. Hey, where are you going?"

Or, um, are you this guy?

Suspicions should be raised as well if photo backdrops and accoutrements clearly reveal they were taken in a previous decade -- I'll never forget the day my dreams of dating a man with a perm were thwarted due to my wanton inattention to detail!

Actually, true story, one time I was on the fence about writing to this 30-year-old guy, until I noticed that three out of four of his photos took place in what appeared to be a dorm room, complete with a bunk bed, and a rather gratuitous ab-revealing shirt raise. Unless he was a way late bloomer, those pics were most likely taken a decade prior. How could I trust his abs now? In short, I couldn't. I was forced to ab-stain from meeting him.

Long story short, don't be a dick if you don't have to, pay attention to the details, and try not to take it too personally if you meet a few duds on your path to everlasting boning.

Social-media mistress Anna Pulley likes to give advice about how to play well with others on the internets. If you have a question about etiquette involving technology, shoot her a question at 

Follow us on Twitter: @annapulley and @ExhibitionistSF or Facebook
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