Anyhow, in many online situations, self-misrepresentation is totally harmless. Like, who cares if your Halo 3 avatar is taller than you are in real life? But in online dating, where the whole goal is to eventually meet other people in person, creating a false impression is a whole different deal. People do everything they can in their OkCupid profiles to make themselves seem awesome, and surely many of our users genuinely are.
People are two inches shorter in real life. This whole post was inspired by an amusing graph we stumbled across while trying to answer the question Do taller guys have more sex? But in this case what was more interesting than the sex was the supposed tallness of the guys. The male heights on OkCupid very nearly follow the expected normal distribution — except the whole thing is shifted to the right of where it should be.
You can see it better when we overlay the implied best fit below pardon the technical language: Almost universally guys like to add a couple inches. You can also see a more subtle vanity at work: This means that guys as they get closer to six feet round up a bit more than usual, stretching for that coveted psychological benchmark. When we looked into the data for women, we were surprised to see height exaggeration was just as widespread, though without the lurch towards a benchmark height: On a somewhat humbling personal note, I just went back and looked at my own profile, and apparently I list myself at 5' 11".
As for whether it even makes sense for people to make such an obvious and easily disproved exaggeration, the jury is out. But as far as messages go, shorter women actually seem to get more attention: The genders are plotted on different scales because of the eternal fact that men almost always make the first move, so women get many more unsolicited messages.
The data also raises the interesting possibility that these tall women are much more likely to sleep with a man who does approach them.
Compare the 6' 0" woman to her 5' 4" counterpart: Look at the graph to watch as people exaggerate more as they get older. As you can see, people advertise disproportionately high salaries for themselves. Here a breakdown by gender of the exaggeration rates: A woman may earn 76 cents on the dollar for the same work as a man, but she can fabricate, like, 85 cents no problem.
Unsurprisingly, we found that it matters a lot, particularly for men. This is a by-age messaging distribution: These bold colors contain a subtle message: The more attractive the picture, the more likely it is to be out-of-date. The above picture, for example, was over two years old when it was uploaded. How do we know? Most modern cameras append text tags to the jpgs they take.
These tags, called EXIF metadata, specify things like the exposure and f-stop settings, gps information if your camera has it, and, of course, the time and date the photo was taken. Analyzing this stuff, we found that most of the pictures on OkCupid were of recent vintage; site-wide the median photo age at upload was just 92 days. However, hotter photos were much more likely to be outdated than normal ones.
As you can see, over a third of the hottest photos on the site are a year old or more. It also turns out that older people also upload older photos: The upshot here is, if you see a good-looking picture of a man over 30, that photo is very likely to be out-of-date. Not to get personal again, but my own OkCupid photo shows a Burberry-dressed 27 year-old, strumming away on his guitar.
But when we looked into messaging trends by sexuality, we were very surprised at what we found. People who describe themselves as bisexual overwhelmingly message either one sex or the other, not both as you might expect. This suggests that bisexuality is often either a hedge for gay people or a label adopted by straights to appear more sexually adventurous to their straight matches. You can actually see these trends in action in the chart below. The swaths of red and blue that you see in these sexuality charts represent people who message only one gender.
The purple areas are people who send any messages, in whatever proportion, to both men and women. In this chart, throughout the teens and twenties, the male bisexual population is mostly observably gay men. By the mid-thirties, it seems, most of these men are more comfortable self-identifying as gay and have left the bi population. By the end of our chart, 3 of every 4 bi males on OkCupid are observably straight. Meanwhile, the proportion of men who message both women and other men holds fairly steady.
The proportions for women are more consistent over time: However, as you can see above, only about 1 in 4 of those women is actually into both guys and girls at the same time. I know this will come as a big letdown to the straight male browsing population: Like bi men, most bi women are, for whatever reason, not observably bi. Until then, no lie: