Gone are the days of writing a lonely hears ad, or to a newspaper to reach out to your ‘Rush Hour Crush’. Apps such as Tinder, Grindr and Happn are leading the way in today’s dating world. Blurring the line between the real and the online, we are able to locate matches in real time based on GPS locations, and speedily swipe through the faces of potential matches to choose who we would like to talk to, or hook up with. Increased immediacy is bringing people closer together, but is our digital deception pushing us further away from ourselves?
Initiating relationships online involves important editing and decisions on self disclosure, and Goffman suggests that this is an important part of social interaction. In a study by Catalina Toma, Jeffrey Hancock and Nicole Ellison entitled ‘An Examination of Deceptive Self-Presentation in Online Dating Profiles’ their surveys report that men lied more about their height, and women lied more about their weight (pg 1023). Since the invention of the internet, the computer has become an extension of our bodies. We are being connected in increasingly intimate ways. With mobile devices constantly at our fingertips, Jeffery Hancock questions whether this is making us a deceptive species.
He discusses the fact that we, as a species have been communicating linguistically for approximately 50,000-100,000 years but have only been writing for 5ooo years. He says that we have evolved to talk in a way where there is no record, so we have evolved to communicate without leaving a trace.
‘We’ve evolved to speak in a way in which our words disappear, but we’re in an environment where we’re recording everything’
We are constantly leaving a digital trace, and the majority of our communications are recorded in outboxes or message threads, so it is now so possible to retrace and analyse our lies.
In regards to online dating, Sean Rad, Cofounder and CEO of Tinder said that they ‘designed Tinder to emulate the way people meet in the real world’. With over 26 million matches per day, it’s one of the most used social applications in the world, monopolising our visibility. And it’s the same with the new application Happn. Didier Rappaport, the CEO and co-founder of the app created it as he thought other existing apps were ‘too virtual’ and so he ‘wanted to bring back the real world into the dating space’. The app connects you with people that you cross paths with, in real life and real time, therefore encouraging you to communicate with real people.
After speaking to two of my girl friends (a couple who are both bisexual, but currently together) they said they have seen girls in public then seen them on the apps, like Happn. They have also seen girls in real life then looked on an app to see if they could hunt them down. They predict that there will soon be apps that scan your face and match you with someone that’s based on your attractiveness and location. (I asked how an algorithm could judge an individual’s level of attractiveness, but they weren’t too sure) These apps are superficial and wholly based on appearance and first impressions.
We select the best parts of ourselves that we want people to know about first, to exaggerate our best features and identity. These will be signals to show how attractive we are.
‘For adults as well as children, computers, reactive and interactive, offer companionship without the mutuality and complexity of a human relationship. They seduce because they provide a chance to be in complete control, with building one’s own private world’
Sherry Turkle suggests that the Internet is a place where the user can be in control, and this definitely applies to internet dating. The individual constructs the ideal version of themselves and moulds it to how they want to be perceived, and I am guilty of doing this too. I matched with my current boyfriend on tinder before we met (although we met through friends, we never spoke through the app) and looking back I suppose I had subconsciously edited my tinder profile too. I carefully selected my photos, and put little information in my bio, and I suppose this mirrored how I wanted to appear.
‘The pattern of the deceptions, frequent but slight, suggest that deception in online dating profiles is strategic. Participants balanced the tension between appearing as attractive as possible while also being perceived as honest’
-Hancock, J.T., Toma, C. and Ellison, N. (2007)
Although Hancock’s research found that ‘the widespread concern regarding the pervasiveness of deception in online dating is only partly justified’ (from The Truth About Lying In Online Dating Profiles) I still believe that if a study was conducted of young adults in London the results would be very different!
Bloomberg (2013) Is The Tinder App For More Than Hook-Ups? Available at: http://search.alexanderstreet.com.arts.idm.oclc.org/view/work/2366318 (Accessed: 10.03.16)
Bloomberg (2013) Breaking up? There’s An App For That Available at: http://search.alexanderstreet.com/view/work/2370426 (Accessed: 10/03/16)
Ellison, N., Heino, R. and Gibbs, J. (2006) Managing impressions online: Self‐presentation processes in the online dating environment. Journal of Computer‐Mediated Communication, 11(2),
Gibbs, J. L., Ellison, N. B., & Heino, R. D. (2006). Self-presentation in online personals: The role of anticipated future interaction, self- disclosure, and perceived success in Internet dating. Communication Research, 33, 1-26
Hancock, J.T., Toma, C. and Ellison, N., 2007, April. The truth about lying in online dating profiles. In Proceedings of the SIGCHI conference on Human factors in computing systems (pp. 449-452). ACM.
‘The Secret World Of Tinder’ (2015) Episode 1, Channel 4, Thursday 14th May, 2015. Available at: http://www.channel4.com/programmes/the-secret-world-of-tinder (Accessed: 07/03/16).Sigee, R. (2016) ‘Rise and grind; Trends Catwalk shows, pop star hook-ups and fashion adverts are turning Grindr into a major digital player’, The Evening Standard (Edition 1) 11th February, Pg. 37, 38.
Turkle, S. (2005) The second self: Computers and the human spirit. Mit Press.