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“One of the reasons people are so optimistic when they read these things is because everybody kind of shades their profile a little bit more positive then maybe it should be,” Norton said.
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More evidence Two additional experiments backed up this finding.
In one, scientists asked each of 190 students to complete a Web-based survey in which they were shown 10 traits, one at a time.
The scores given to pre-dates were much higher than those for post-dates.
And the perceived degree of similarity between participants and dates also took a dive after face-to-face encounters. Online profiles inherently provide limited pictures of people, a level of vagueness that is fuel, Norton said, for love-seeking imaginations.
“Once you start this process of saying, ‘Ah, it’s not going well,’ it’s like an avalanche basically,” Norton said.
The other subjects answered questions about a past date.
These results also showed that getting to know a person is a real downer for romance.
Though it’s nowhere near an in-person encounter, Norton said you can get a feel for whether the person is funny or a good listener.
“People also will use their avatars to flirt so you can go a little closer or a little farther away,” Norton said.
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Women put more stock in the virtual dating world because they seek a soul mate, he said, whereas men are typically after a more casual relationship.