Should there be laws to prosecute lying on a dating app?
Ah, online dating. A place where everyone is honest, up front, and nothing bad ever happens. A place where every dating experience leads to the best sex of your lives, deep feelings of love, long-term committed relationships and adorable babies.
*record scratch noise; freeze frame*
The Chicago Tribute recently reported that 80% of people lie on their dating site profiles, be it Tinder, Bumble, RSVP, Grindr… (plus the others reserved for Christians, conservatives, Jews, sports fans, lepers, cross-country bus drivers etc). Now, the idea of lying on a dating site is a curious one. It’s all very nice to get attention and to have people chat with you, and perhaps even agree to meet you for a date. But any subterfuge is only going to last so long. Is your profile picture 15 years old? Unless you’ve not aged in any way since 2003, that’s going to make things awkward from the second you shake hands. If you lied on your profile and you are, in fact, ambivalent at best about “quiet nights at home with a glass of wine”, that too is going to come out in the wash.
Did you say you’re 6’1” with an athletic build, but in real life you look more like Danny DeVito? Again, that first drink is going to be totes awkes. While there should be an expectation of due diligence when it comes to making any kind of commitment to an online transaction (why would a Nigerian prince lie?), when it comes to more personal encounters, sometimes the heart wants what it wants, and you could wind up being the victim of an online hoaxer, Lothario, or worse.
Should there be a law over whether or not you can lie on your Tinder profile? With the rise in online scammers and the risks associated with meeting people on the Internet, some law professors are suggesting that laws should change to minimise the risk of lying on Tinder. Irina D Manta, a professor at the Maurice A Deane School of Law at Hofstra University in the US, recently published an op-ed in The Washington Post where she questioned that since there are laws which punish low-level crimes such as shoplifting, as well as the laws in place to prosecute false or misleading advertising, should there not be actionable consequences for committing fraud on a more personal level? The penalties for shoplifting and false advertising are more harsh than those there are for sexual deception, despite the suffering and harm to one’s dignity it brings.
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“For a woman in her late thirties or early forties who wants to marry and have children, the ‘opportunity cost} of a fraudulent relationship can add another dimension to the pain in the form of diminished fertility,” Manta wrote.
She went on to describe how such a case could be made for successful prosecution. According to Manta, one way to measure dating app fraud would be to look for information that was a) misleading and b) involved one or more material facts about a person that c) a reasonable person could have used to decide whether to engage in sexual intercourse.
“While such legal intervention wouldn’t capture every possible form of sexual fraud (think of lies that originated in a bar rather than on an app), these measures would make a real dent in addressing some of the large-scale problems in today’s dating marketplace,” she wrote.
It’s food for thought when you take the personal toll into mind. And then there’s the actual cost. The US-based Better Business Bureau reported in February this year that somewhere in the vicinity of 82,000 dating site users in the US have been scammed out of an estimated $1 billion.
Lying to get dates is nothing new, but the ability to do it at a mass level online is growing. It remains a practical consideration: do you want to go to all the trouble of lying to someone, leading them on, in all likelihood hurting them, just to feed your ego and your base instincts? Odds are you’re going to cause a world of grief, and depending on how small a town or city you live in, you’re going to get caught out eventually. Also, not for nothing, but the karmic debt you’re clocking up isn’t something you should ignore. Plus, there’s lawyers on the case strategising the legal blueprint to find your way to the dock.
Maybe save yourself some trouble, and save your would-be victims the trauma while you’re at it. Be honest. At the end of the day, people are suckers for the truth, and the truth finds its way into the open eventually.