The rules of dating apps

The rules of dating apps

Online dating has created a little world of its own, with different rules to how we would normally interact. After swiping hundreds of profiles, you might start to notice some trends. Puppies are popular, as are travel shots. Three day conversations are easy, but getting to a real-life date is hard.

Another little habit most of us have picked up when online dating is telling the odd white lie — after all, what are the chances of you actually meeting in real life? And if you do meet up, what are the chances of you actually striking up a relationship? More often than not, they’re never really going to find out that you don’t have your helicopter license.

..But what if they do?

In this article, we hear from some brave veterans of online dating to get their opinion about telling white lies, as well as two sex and relationship experts about what you should really be doing.

Why do we lie on dating apps?

Tom* has been using dating apps off and on for four years, and has had two serious relationships from them. He says that he only lied to people in the beginning, before deciding that he’d be better off just being himself.

“I would exaggerate things, for sure,” says Tom. “But after a few dates of trying to keep up appearances, it was too hard. Just being myself made dating so much easier.”

Maddie* spent two years on Tinder and Bumble, and says that it’s easy to get carried away with little white lies.

“When you just start out and are really desperate to impress people, your average stories can blow out into really spectacular tales,” she says. “Which is all great, unless you forget which lie you told to who...and get busted.”

According to Josh*, being ‘behind a screen’ can also give you confidence you might not have in the real world. He’s been using Tinder for a year now.

“I couldn’t lie in real life to save myself!” he says. “But I guess when you’re in a text conversation, and you haven’t even met yet, it’s pretty easy to make stuff up.”

MORE: How dating apps can affect your confidence.

Why is it damaging to lie on dating apps?

Starting off any kind of relationship on this kind of rocky territory is going to create difficulties from the start. “How can you expect to connect with anyone if you’re lying about who you are?” Jackson* asks.

Not only are you going to be constantly wondering if you’ve slipped up on a lie, you won’t have connected on genuine, authentic parts of your true self. And no matter how hard you try, it’s unsustainable to pretend to be someone else.

Maddie says that lying about yourself only serves to highlight what you’re unhappy with in your own life. And no one needs to be reminded constantly of their own shortcomings.

“I used to talk up my work, and social life, and even my apartment” says Maddie. “But giving off this impression of a perfect life made me really down because my real life seemed so boring in comparison.”

This alone start could start to create feelings of jealousy, unhappiness, and questioning your self worth. We’re all able to daydream about the things we aspire to — but once we start using our ‘aspirational self’ as a smokescreen, internal conflicts arise. The important thing is to be proud of who you are, and give someone the chance to like you, too.

A little white lie might seem fairly innocuous to you, but it could turn out to be a glaring problem in the eyes of your date. Having to backtrack and explain why you lied isn’t a good look for any man — so just avoid doing it in the first place, and you can start with a clean slate.

MORE: What the science says about how to have better sex.

Why might we lie on dating apps, but not in real life?

The stress around how strangers are going to judge our lives is a real thing for all people looking to date. We look at ourselves with a critical eye, and try to imagine what they’ll see. The truth is, however, we’re usually not the best judges of ourselves. Keep in mind that your date is probably feeling the same insecurities that you are, and isn’t paying all that much attention to your job title or the extra couple of pounds you’re carrying around.

Because of how many people are now using dating apps, it can be tempting to create an ‘ultra’ version of yourself in order to stand out. Talia* has been single for five years, and suggests that people lie because of how competitive online dating can be.

“Online dating is a dog eat dog world and it’s hard to stand out and keep somebody’s attention,” says Talia. “Maybe some people feel the need to lie because they don’t think their lives are interesting enough?”

The problem with comparing yourself against the competition is that you don’t know what your ideal match is looking for. They might be turned off by your hyped-up profile, when really, they were looking for the real you. Be yourself, and you’ll find yourself pairing up with your true matches.

What do the experts say?


Vanessa says that dating doesn’t have to be about being perfect. We all have shortcomings, she says, but rather than lie about them, why not be honest in a light-hearted way?

For example, if you’re feeling insecure about your weight, try making a joke about how there’s more of you to love. Not only will this lighten the mood a bit, we can guarantee there’s almost nothing sexier than confidence and a sense of humour.

Vanessa says that it’s hard to define a white lie, in relation to an actual lie. We all tend to see white lies as fairly innocent, something that’s normal and acceptable. But how is it any less damaging than any other untruth? At the end of the day, you’re misleading something to think you’re something you’re not.

“If you can’t define a ‘white lie’ it’s best not to engage.” says Vanessa. She says that rather than lying about something to make yourself feel better, or appear superior, leave that topic to come up organically in conversation. That way, your response can be a surprise rather than a lie. For example, if you’re worried about your age — don’t lie about it. Wait until they ask, and be honest. By that stage you’ll already have snagged their interest."


Megan says that the biggest problem with lying to a prospective date is how it makes them feel.

“Lying on dating apps sets up an unrealistic expectations of who you are, or what you look like,” says Megan. “Nobody likes being lied to.”

Dating is a game of trust. It can be disheartening to go on date after date when things aren’t working out, so it’s especially disappointing to find someone you like, only to realise their profile was a lie.

Dating should be fun, light-hearted, and about discovering a great connection — not dodging the minefield of lies you created for yourself. Being distracted from the moment by worrying about what kind of untruths you established means you are missing out on a seriously good time. If you go in 100% authentic, then it makes a great connection all the more special.

Face to face, few of us would lie on a date. Not only is it much more difficult in person it also doesn’t really make sense. If someone is on a date with you, then they probably already know a bit about you (and think you’re pretty great).

Try and apply the same attitude to online dating. Stay as close to your authentic self as possible, and you’ll know their reaction is real - if they like you, it’s for the real you. And if they don’t like you? Their loss.

*Real names were not used in this article

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