Personality plagiarism rife on internet dating sites

When you present yourself to potential suitors in an online dating profile, you are, in the terminology of psychology, ‘constructing the self’. Perhaps it’s not surprising then, that the most attractive profiles are being ripped off and plagiarised by lazy daters wanting to freeload on the most creative members’ personalities.

The Wall Street Journal has an article which looks on how this practice has developed and uncovers several cases where romantic lines, funny descriptions and personal reflections are copied over and over again.

Psychologist Sherry Turkle’s ground-breaking book Life on the Screen looked at the online construction of the self during the days of text based communication, MOOs and MUDs.

As we become increasingly tied to our online profiles, owing to the popularity of sites like MySpace, Facebook and numerous dating services, it’s not surprising that they become more intimately associated with our own ideas about who we are.

They are also more easily copied than offline ways of expressing ourselves, leading to the situation where daters wanting to get lucky can just remix other people’s personalities to maximise their chances of success.

Link to WSJ article ‘The Cut-and-Paste Personality’.

One Comment

  1. Jennifer R. Ewing
    Posted February 20, 2008 at 4:00 am | Permalink

    Over and over, I keep seeing letters in the Dear Abby column about “help! I told my dream man that I’m a beautiful, statuesque blonde, and in reality I’m 300 pounds with brown hair. What do I do?” The answer is, of course, to be honest from the start. I met my husband through match.com, and as part of my profile I specifically mentioned that I have neurological disabilities, can’t drive, and sometimes use a cane when I walk. I also mentioned that I would soon be facing a hysterectomy. I knew it would cut down on the overall number of responses I would get; I also knew that the men who would respond would more likely be someone I really wanted to meet. Well, after match.com introduced us, my husband and I corresponded via personal email/ICQ, and we also spoke on the phone several times. Our first face to face meeting took place when I was in the hospital recovering from the hysterectomy. I had the surgery 1/14, he came to visit me on the 17th, and our first official date was my 32nd bday, 1/23. We became unofficially engaged on Valentine’s day, and we’re about to celebrate our third wedding anniversary on 3/12.
    The point is, he knew all my major shortcomings before we ever met face to face, yet he chose to visit me in the hospital, and to stay with me through two more surgeries six months later. There’s an old computer science term, “garbage in, garbage out”. If you invent a totally different online persona than who you are IRL (in real life), don’t act stunned/surprised when the people you lied to become angry.
    Although, “inventing a persona” can work in positive ways as well. I grew up in a very dysfunctional household with a very domineering, emotionally unstable mother, so I grew up almost literally afraid of my own shadow, terrified of trying to make friends lest they find out what a “failure” I was (at least in my mother’s eyes). After I grew up, got my own apartment, and got internet access, it was like a whole new world had opened up for me. I could speak freely to my online friends, because they didn’t know what I was “really” like–and over time, that “online persona” eventually became my real one. I’m much more assertive now, and I’m no longer afraid of my mother’s reactions to the decisions I choose to make.
    Getting online, becoming involved in the Hydrocephalus Association (which I discovered through a websearch), and meeting my husband are the three best things that have ever happened to me. The online experience can be as positive or negative as the user chooses to make it–but deception will, eventually, come back to bite you in the ass.


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