They imagine that online forums are filled with sexual predators and people using false identities. Assessing the relative honesty of online vs. Online interactions vary in terms of two major questions: To address the first issue, there are many ways to meet people online—dating sites, chat rooms or forums, or social networking sites.
When we might be especially honest Surprisingly, people can sometimes be more authentic online than offline in the way they express their personality. Research has shown that when we chat online, even briefly, these normally hidden traits become more cognitively accessible to us and we actually do succeed in expressing them to others Bargh et al.
The idea that people could be, in some ways, more genuine online than off strikes them as counterintuitive. How much do we lie and how severe are the lies? In general, people are likely to be pretty honest online; most online deception does not involve the creation of false identities. So the lies we tell online have the potential to be far more all-encompassing than anything we could get away with in person.
In addition, the average subject only lied about once per interaction, even with this loose definition of lying. What about online dating? Of all online contexts, dating appears the most prone to dishonesty. In general, no matter the setting, people are more likely to lie when looking for a date than in other social situations Rowatt et al. However, research suggests that while slight misrepresentations on online dating sites are quite common, major lies are actually rare.
One survey of over 5, users of online dating sites asked them to rate, on a point scale, how likely they were to misrepresent themselves in areas such as appearance and job information Hall et al. The average rating on these items was about 2, indicating a relatively low level of deception overall. So what are online daters lying about? They're especially likely to be dishonest in how they describe their physical appearance. A survey of 84 online daters found that almost 60 percent misrepresented their weight and 48 percent their height, often using photos that helped obscure the truth Toma et al.
It is also somewhat common for online daters to stretch the truth about their age, with about 19 percent lying about it Toma et al. Online daters tend to be most honest about their relationship history, religious and political beliefs, education—and hair and eye color Toma et al. What about social media? Social networking sites like Facebook also provide a major source of online interactions with others.
How authentic are we in these profiles? Their offline close friends also rated their personality. These ratings were then compared to personality ratings made by strangers who only viewed the subjects' Facebook pages.
Because the social network is large and includes dozens of people who already know you offline, if you lie about your age, occupation, or other such information, these people will know. In addition, as I mentioned earlier, online communication with individuals that we know offline is marked by less lying than in-person communication, and the Facebook social network to a large extent involves presenting information to those in our offline social network. Who is more likely to lie online?
Some people are more prone to deceptive behavior online than others, such as those high in sensation-seeking , and those who show addictive behavior toward the Internet Lu, Sensation-seekers are also more likely to be dishonest offline. Research on online dating sites has shown that men tend to lie more than women, with the exception being that women are more likely than men to lie about their weight Hall et al.
In addition, those high in the trait of self-monitoring are more likely to be dishonest on these sites. In all aspects of their social lives, self-monitors are concerned with outward appearance and adapt their behavior to match the social situation. Thus, they also tend to be more deceptive in their attempts to attract dates both offline Rowatt et al.
Those who are conscientious —reliable, organized, and practical—tend to be more honest in their online dating profiles. Finally, people who are agreeable—cooperative and warm—tend to be more honest when they date online Hall et al. Who can you trust? Earlier, I asked you to consider two factors in assessing online honesty: Extroversion , neuroticism , and Internet interaction.
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