Is It Okay to Lie In Your Online Dating Profile?

I have believed, and written, that it’s best to be honest when putting together your online dating profile.

My thinking has been, if your primary online photo is ten years old, all you’re going to do is disappoint your date when you meet in person. Same thing if you’ve exaggerated or under-reported your height or weight. My belief has been that there’s no recovering from that initial deception.

But what if I’m wrong? As this article from the the New York Times explains, web executive Scott Birnbaum wasn’t having much luck with online dating, so he decided to get analytical, and then “creative.”

Noticing similarities in the majority of online profiles, Birnbaum decided he needed to stand out. He began experimenting with various profiles that accentuated different parts of his persona.

Nothing wrong with that — he was still playing it straight. But that didn’t increase his contacts or his dates.

Then he started thinking of the dating sites as search engines — what were people looking for, and why wasn’t he showing up?  Which led him to realize why he was being filtered out: he stands 5 feet 5 inches tall.

So what to do?


He gradually raised his height up to five-foot-eight, which brought him more page views and more dates.

A woman named Tracy Podell liked his profile, eventually reaching out to Birnbaum.  They corresponded, which led to a first date. Birnbaum was waiting on a bar stool when Podell walked in. When he stood up to greet her, she knew he was shorter than advertised. But she didn’t mind.

It probably helped that she’s four-foot-eleven.

Podell understood Birnbaum’s reasoning, and thought it was funny. She says it actually made him more attractive to her, because it was smart and it worked.

They were married this Valentine’s Day.

So, is there a lesson here?

I continue to think it’s better to be honest all around.

But, if you’re not having any luck online, perhaps the Birnbaum approach makes sense. Why aren’t you getting hits from the “search engine”? What “adjustments” could get you more? Take a shot — you’ve got nothing to lose.

Then, if you do get some hits, it probably makes sense to spend some extra time fostering the relation through texts, emails, and phone calls before actually meeting. The better the connection, the more likely your “exaggeration” won’t matter.

And, of course, it’s possible your date has stretched the truth a bit, too.

Bottom line, you never know until you actually meet up. As Birnbaum’s father says in the article, “You’ve got to get in the door to make the sale.”