Disclaimer: The below is solely intended for informational purposes and in no way constitutes legal advice or specific recommendations.
Cyrano de Bergerac, the title character of Edmond Rostand’s 1897 stage play, may very well have been one of the first catfish. Cyrano is a gifted poet who could romance a woman with his words, but he isn’t easy on the eyes. He writes romantic letters to his love interest, Roxane, and sends a more attractive suitor to deliver them. Roxane falls in love with the messenger, not realizing that Cyrano is the man behind the words that wooed her.
The modern world of online dating has given way to a slight twist on the Cyrano situation: dating app ghostwriters. If you’re finding a potential partner very charming, witty, and intelligent over chat or text message, it’s possible that someone is putting words in their mouth.
For instance, dating coach and ghostwriter Meredith Golden helps her clients optimize their dating profile to attract ideal partners, and, after extensive interviews and information-gathering, even poses as her clients to chat with their matches to land a first date. It isn’t exactly catfishing because once a date is set, the ghostwriter sends in the client, and you’re with the person you thought you were talking to the whole time (if you’re curious, Golden shared her story with the New York Times about how the process works).
Dating app ghostwriters may not be commonplace just yet, but a much more likely scenario is that a person’s dating profile could be a bit heightened or exaggerated to make them more appealing. This is called kittenfishing, and it occurs when a person puts little white lies in their profile. It’s less egregious than outright catfishing, but still slightly deceptive nonetheless.
Signs That Someone’s Dating Profile Might Be Exaggerated or Untruthful
Don’t want the wool pulled over your eyes by a potential partner? Look for these common signs that a person could potentially be exaggerating or being otherwise untruthful on their dating profile:
Sparse or vague information.
Some people are more private and prefer to share the personal details of their lives only when they feel a connection with someone. However, people who lie or exaggerate their online profiles may also keep personal details vague or limited for a reason: With little specific information in their profile, it’s less likely that a potential partner will find immediate points of contradiction when they’re chatting privately.
Bragging about their lifestyle.
On the flip side, grandiose claims of a high-profile job, expensive trips, luxury purchases, and other instances of overt bragging are usually indicators of someone who is trying too hard to impress potential partners. It’s possible that all the claims are true, but it’s more likely that the person is exaggerating to appear more successful than they really are.
A single selfie or generic-looking photos.
Dating apps like Tinder allow you to share multiple photos on your profile, so many users choose to show themselves in different settings to give a better idea of who they are. If you connect with a potential dating partner and only see a single picture of their face, it could be that that’s the only photo they like of themselves — or, they could be trying to hide something. Alternatively, you may spot some very generic photos with no people in it, like a sunset over a beach or a nice-looking car. In this case, you might want to run a reverse-image search on Google to see if this person has ripped off some stock photos for their profile.
It “feels off.”
A person’s story could sound plausible and their photos may back up their claims. However, if your gut is giving you a bad feeling about this person, you may want to heed that feeling and move on.
If you’re feeling a bit skeptical about a new date, you can always run a background check to try to confirm some of their claims — or, at the very least, try to rule out a case of catfishing.