Digital Manners: Your Online Dating Photo Is Deceptive

Navigating the intersection of etiquette and technology.
Dec. 13 2011 2:52 PM

I Thought You Had a Better Body (Transcript)

Farhad Manjoo and Emily Yoffe debate the question: Should you tell your Internet date that his/her profile photo is deceptive?

Farhad Manjoo:  Hi, are you Amy? Oh, you don’t really look like your photo on Match.com, so if you don’t mind, I think I’m going to go.

Emily Yoffe:  I’m Emily Yoffe, Slate’s Dear Prudence advice columnist.

Farhad:  I’m Slate’s technology columnist, Farhad Manjoo. And this is Manners for the Digital Age.

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Emily:  Today’s question is from a listener who says he feels deceived by outdated pictures on online dating sites. He writes, “Dear Farhad and Emily, I’ve been online dating for just a short time and have run into this sticky situation twice now. The other person has misrepresented their body in the photos. In one case, she just provided headshots and used group photos to hide her body. In another, it was a cut-and-dried case of lying. She included pictures of her entire body, but must have used pictures that were very old. I know how shallow this sounds, but of course a person’s physical appearance factors into my perceived compatibility with someone. I always complete the date thinking I’m being a gentleman, but then I never call or respond to them again. What’s ruder, to point out this situation and advise them to be honest or to simply never contact them again? The only option I can think of is to preemptively confirm the accuracy of their photos by asking. But I think that would ensure I’ll never get another date.” Signed, Duped and Disappointed.

Okay, Farhad, you have been more recently single than I have. Did you use online dating? Did you run into this?

Farhad:  No, I did not run into this problem, but I’ve heard that this is a common problem and I can see why it would pop up on online dating sites. His only solution he can think of is to just ask them to confirm their photo, which seems like a really bad idea. So I think he shouldn’t do that.

And he also seems to be going about it the wrong way. He’s talking about noticing this problem on the date. The guideline is for online dating that your first date should be a very low commitment affair, like a coffee or something – nothing that has to last longer than a half an hour or an hour or so.

So if he goes to meet that person and she doesn’t look at all like what he expected, he can stick it out for an hour and then never talk to her again.

Emily:  Well, I’m kind of sympathetic with the idea of misrepresenting your body, because who wouldn’t want to misrepresent their body? I wish I could do it right now.

On the other hand, it does not make sense to stick your head on Gisele Bündchen’s body and put this on Match site, because you’re going to have to show up. It’s just crazy to do that. I do kind of like the person who’s hiding behind other people. “Where’s Waldo?” That’s my head.

This guy should get a clue. If it’s just her head and she’s in the back row behind a bunch of elephants, you’re not going to be happy when she shows up.

Farhad:  I think that’s the advice, actually, for women to put a picture of your whole body on there because if you put a picture just of your face, then men are going to know that there’s something fishy going on, that you’re trying to misrepresent yourself.

Emily:  Okay. So only headshots.

Farhad:  Don’t go out with only headshots.

Emily:  Don’t follow up. Now, as Dear Prudence, I had a letter about this very dilemma that was a guy like this who was looking for someone slender, and she had a very pretty face. She shows up; she’s a great deal bigger than he expected. He was a gentleman; he completed the date. He really liked her, and he asked her out again.

So he wrote to me he had seen her several times. He thought she was great. He really connected with her, but he said, “She’s just bigger than anyone I’ve ever gone out with, anyone I imagine going out with. I don’t know what to do.”

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