With a quarter of young Americans now finding romance through online dating and mobile apps, you have to wonder: How much do people lie in these situations?
Not as much as you might think, researchers at Stanford's Social Media Lab have discovered.
"We know a lot about online dating profiles already. Men overstate their height, women understate their weight, men tend to fudge a bit about their occupation, women tend to overstate their looks," said David Markowitz, the study's lead author.
"I think most people may suggest that people are lying all the time on mobile dating apps, but that's really not the case," Markowitz said.
That's why he focused on the so-called "discovery" phase of online dating, when users begin exchanging information and e-mails.
Markowitz, who studies how deception affects language, analyzes how people lead others to believe the false statements they utter and what motivates them to stretch the truth in the first place. In following potential daters who were moving beyond the dating profile, he wanted to know how often people lie in the messages they send to one another.
The conversation between the match and in-person meeting is a high-stakes game. The next few messages are make or break, carefully calculated down to the last emoji.
"It's a time when getting to know someone can really influence whether you're going to take that leap and meet the person," Markowitz said.
For the study, researchers recruited 200 anonymous volunteers to turn over 3,000 of their "discovery phase" messages. They were on apps such as Bumble, OkCupid, Grindr and MeetMe, but the vast majority were on Tinder.
Participants were asked to rate each of their messages from 1, meaning "not deceptive at all," to 5, "extremely deceptive." They also were asked some background questions, including what motivated them to join the app and how much they trusted the matches.
Two-thirds of the study participants didn't tell a single lie in their attempts to snag a date. Overall, only 7 percent of the messages were deceptive.
Why they joined an app played a role in their level of honesty. People who joined seeking social approval, entertainment or casual sex had higher rates of lying. This was expected because these users aren't looking for long-term relationships. It's easy to get away with lying to a person you meet only once.
The lack of trust goes both ways. The more a participant lied to their matches, the more they thought their matches were lying, too.
When people did lie, it was for two reasons: The first was to control their availability, making up excuses to get out of meeting at a certain time or place.
The second brand of lie was aimed at making a good impression, such as discovering that your match loves dogs, so you say you do, too, even though you prefer cats.
But liars get caught, said Lucy Guo, who launched her own dating app, Apply to Date, in February.
"You can lie all you want, but you go on one date and the person's going to realize you're lying," she said.
That's why Alajha Hoppin thinks dating apps might help people be more honest than they might be, say, walking up to someone at a bar.
"With dating apps, it's essentially like you're talking to your phone," she said, where people tend to lay everything out on the table, which helps alleviate the inevitable awkwardness of that first meetup.
"People are comfortable with their phones," Hoppin said. "It feels safe to be honest about what you want."