Identity-checking experts 192.com have measured the anxieties of online dating, the lies being spun in cyberspace and how spelling mistakes and emoticons can make you look shifty. 

A nationally representative poll of 1,500 found people lying about their age, address, job and marital status when online. The survey also uncovered a widespread back-ground checking culture, and fear of meeting people on Facebook.  

Key findings:

  • 57 per cent rarely or never feel safe dating online
  • 13 per cent never feel safe meeting people on Facebook
  • 1 in 5 lie about their marital status when online
  • 17 per cent change their age when dating online, 22 per cent will lie about their job

Robin Kramer, Evolutionary Psychologist at Bangor University says: "With many of us living in relative anonymity, reliable first-hand reputations are scarce. The temptation to be less than truthful to gain a dating advantage becomes greater, particularly in cyberspace."  

The largest proportion who rarely felt safe dating online were aged 35-44, (44 per cent of the affirmative answers) and the highest proportion of those who said they rarely or never felt safe on Facebook were aged over 65.

Asked what would make someone mistrust a date online, over half of the survey said if the prospective partner didn’t have any online images of themselves, and 20 per cent if there wasn’t a reference to them anywhere on the internet. 

"We’ve evolved to carry out face to face interactions and put value in viewing and responding," explains Kramer. 

"With an image, the more that is displayed the more information is signalled, so a full-body colour image is preferable."

Age is just a number

  • When lying about their age 50 per cent of the survey said they subtract a year off their age, three years being the average reduction across all age groups
  • However of the respondents who said they increase their age, 71 per cent were aged 25-34

Kramer says: "It’s likely that men will actually increase their age when lying because they want to display their ability to provide paternal investment and more resources."

Emoticons make you look untrustworthy ;-)

  • 27 per cent percent said they are less likely to trust an online date if their emails or IM messages are mostly emoticons
  • Over half were suspicious of poor spelling and grammar
  • One in five said they wouldn’t trust someone if they were slow to respond to emails or IM messages

Kramer says: "Poor spelling and grammar may be misconstrued as lower intelligence or laziness. Due to the ‘halo effect’ people tend to group positive or negative perceptions together. If you judge someone to be attractive you might also assume they are friendly. Conversely if we assume someone is stupid or lazy we might also assume they’re untrustworthy."

Who will people background check?

Asked who they might carry out back ground checks on, 47 per cent of the survey said someone they’ve met online or 37 per cent said a new date and 12 per cent said a new in-law.

Robin Kramer says: "Our default position is to trust people as it leads to better co-operation, however we have also evolved to attempt to spot people who shouldn’t be trusted and to remember prior interactions. Therefore if we initially trust someone and it backfires, we’re unlikely to make the same mistake twice."

Where people background check

  • 40 per cent check people out on Google, as did 66 per cent of the 25-34 year-olds in the poll
  • 34 per cent of the survey use Facebook
  • Background checking on Facebook was mostly preferred by the 18-24 year olds, with over 80 per cent percent opting for it
  • 11 per cent use Linked In and 13 per cent use 192.com. Linked In was more popular choice for 25-34 year olds, with older age groups opting for 192.com
  • Five percent of the survey used Twitter for checking someone’s ID
  • Thirty-four percent said they didn’t know how to check out someone’s ID online, with over half of the 55-65 year-olds not knowing how.

What your date wants to know about you

Asked what people want to know when carrying out a background check on a new partner:

  • 67 per cent wanted to know their marital status
  • 52 per cent their occupation
  • 66 per cent their age
  • 47 per cent where they live

Dominic Blackburn, Product Director of 192.com said: "Online dating is a lottery and you never know who you’re talking too. 192.com’s access to the edited electoral roll, births deaths and marriage data, director records and the land registry will give you a clearer picture of your love interest. Our guide to background checking your online date should help."

  • Check out your E-Romeo’s marital status by discovering who they live with: a name search on 192.com shows where somebody lives, who with, and for how long they’ve lived with them
  • Is age just a number? 192.com has age estimates for 20 million people in the UK
  • Kissed a frog or a prince? 192.com’s access to land registry records will reveal the value of their property – useful information if you’re a material girl (or boy). 192.com’s four million director reports can also tell you if your date’s chariot will become a pumpkin.
  • Use 192.com’s free directory enquires to match a name with an address and to tell you where ‘my place for a coffee’ really means

For those dating offline..

Feigning popularity

  • 19 per cent of survey said they discuss their friends to appear more attractive on a date
  • 10 per cent will feign indifference, checking their mobile phone to appear in demand: this is particularly used amongst 18-24 year olds, with 26 per cent of this age group doing this
  • One in 10 of all the age groups said they would keep their dates interest by flirting with other people in the room, and the same proportion would choose a dating-venue with dim lighting to appear more attractive

Romance is a confidence game

  • 46 per cent pretend to understand what their date says to them, even if they don’t
  • 62 per cent of the survey said they smile on a date even when they’re feeling uncomfortable
  • Eighteen to twenty year-olds are more likely to act cocky; 54 per cent feigning understanding and with 70 per cent of the 18-24 year-olds flashing fake smiles

How to spot a fake by Robin Kramer

  • Smiles with wrinkles around the eyes are more likely to be genuine, as are slower smiles.
  • Nervous smiles tend to be larger, last longer and include more downward head movement, and are more likely to include an open mouth.
  • People may also try to hide the fact they don’t understand something by using hand gestures or nodding their head to signal agreement.
  • Humans feigning confidence will, like animals, aim try to appear larger by spreading their arms and their legs or clasping their hands behind their head.
  • Deception tends to occur alongside increased numbers of foot and leg movements, increased fidgeting and increased pupil size. You might also see less eye contact and more tension with more negative statements and fewer details.


About 192.com

192.com is the UK’s most awarded online directory, helping find people, businesses and places for  over 3 million users every month. On 192.com, users can search almost 700 million records including free directory enquiries, electoral roll information, local business listings, interactive mapping, aerial photography and property reports. Users can also background check people they've just met or people they're trading with online using our dedicated ID check tool.

Impression Management Survey
Conducted by One Poll, nationally representative online poll of 1,500 between July 23 and July 28 2010. Results were broken down by age and region. 

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