Is free online dating catfish central?

26/365: A tribute to nosy aunties and aunty-like uncles...

I listened to Radio 4’s women and mens hour special about online dating. It wasn’t too bad, but it wasn’t great either. Anyhow I kind of got into a discussion/debate with C_T_S to do with her (I would suggest) somewhat unique experience of talking maybe dating a person who was a catfish.

Now to be fair we have a small twitter history of disagreement. But when I put the idea of never paying for online dating sites out there, she responded with…

As a victim of an emotional fraudster on a free website, I’m totally the opposite.

The best dates I had were from paid sites, without question.

Fair enough thats her experience, but I still feel from my experience and others paid for online dating is a bigger con, as the panoroma documentary revealed recently. I do have friends who have met up via match.com and others paid for dating sites but I have many more who met via free dating sites and the likes of Facebook. I also have never had someone catfished me as such. I’ve had some timewasters but generally I’ve spotted the signs of any kind of scamming.

So the question comes into focus…

Is free online dating inherently more prone to catfishers than the paid for dating sites?

On the face of it, it would seem more likely, however it also seems likely that people willing to pay will be more serious about there dating? In my experience this isn’t necessarily true. I’ve been thinking about this and one such reason is because of the focus on time the sites add to the equation. A lot of people pay month by month (wish I could find the survey which talked about this). Knowing in the back of there minds that the month is coming to an end, the mentality could be to speed things along a little more. While on the free dating sites, you can sit back and relax. Take it all in and decide to go full on or not when it suits you.

So theres a slight paradox… Could there be a slight paradox around catfishing on free sites too?

But how do/can you judge sites for their catfishing potential? Of course none of the sites are going to shout about there catfishing…

I guess you could look at the way they monitor their users, usage policies, etc… But this is data which we just don’t have. Its interesting that OKCupid resorts to crowdsourcing. While others seem to resort to alerting the likes of eharmony via the spam/abuse buttons. Looking a little further theres quite a lot of stuff about this catfishing from online dating sites. Reddit has a dedicated OkCupid subreddit, with some very interesting related threads. On the Match.com front theres some stories in the subreddit relationships but not a dedicated subreddit, however theres relevant court cases and views.

I would suggest its still undecided due to the lack of data available…

The big problem with most online dating conclusions and results. I would also include the fact most men are willing to put up with some crazy issues. Maybe someone should do some research how men and women react to being catfished?

So much to research, so little data…

Author: Ianforrester

Senior firestarter at BBC R&D, emergent technology expert and serial social geek event organiser.