Blind dates can be both exciting and nerve-racking, especially if you met your date online. But what happens when you finally meet that special someone face-to-face, and your date looks nothing like his or her profile picture?
In this "What Would You Do?" social experiment, ABC News worked with Justin Dubler and Carrie Goldstein, who are both single, living in Manhattan and looking for love on the Internet. The attractive young professionals both wrote user profiles with details about their character, lifestyle and relationship goals, and, of course, they included a picture, perhaps the most important part of all.
"The second they see your picture and they like it, then they'll look at your profile," Goldstein said. "The first thing I look at is the picture to see if I have any sexual attraction to them, then I dig a little deeper to see what they're all about."
With so much riding on the personal profile, it is easy to imagine people embellishing physical characteristics. Some online daters use photos from earlier years, thinner days, or simply photos that make them look more attractive than they truly are.
As Dubler searched through scores of profiles, he said, "I don't know if their pictures are for real or what. Sometimes it's easy to tell that these are the best pictures they've ever taken of themselves."
For our "What Would You Do?" experiment, Dubler and Goldstein each arranged five dates with potential love interests. They agreed to meet at Via Emilia, a chic restaurant in New York City. Then we switched things up.
Instead of meeting the person they met online, Dubler's dates met Charlie, an actor hired by ABC, and Goldstein's dates met Sabrina, also an actor. It was nearly impossible for their dates not to notice the actors were impostors, especially because Charlie was seven inches shorter than Dubler and Sabrina nine inches taller than Goldstein. The actors were also about 10 years older than Dubler and Goldstein.
'I Wasn't Gonna Say Anything'
Our experiment took place over the course of two days; first, we explored the girls' reactions to Dubler's impostor and then we saw how differently the guys reacted to Goldstein's impostor.
The girls arrived at hour-and-a-half intervals under the impression they were to meet Dubler, 22 years old and 6 feet tall, with a disarming smile. Instead, they met our actor Charlie, who greeted each woman with a long-stemmed rose. His first date, Caren, was sweet and cheerful, telling him, "you look a little different. But other than that, you seem like a nice guy."
Charlie's next lucky date, Danielle, was unusually cordial. When asked if he looked like his profile picture, Danielle insisted that he did and even when he confessed to being much shorter than he claimed to be on his profile, she assured him, "It's OK." To see just how interested she was in him, Charlie requested a second date with Danielle, which she agreed to, as well.
Was Danielle really falling for Charlie or was she just trying to spare his feelings? We were beginning to think we were witnessing a love connection, because Charlie and Danielle seemed to be hitting it off so well. It was time to find out whether Danielle was just faking it.
When ABC News correspondent John Quinoñes introduced himself to Danielle and explained that she had been part of our social experiment, the truth finally came out.
"I didn't think he looked like the picture but I wasn't gonna say anything," she confessed. "That could be insulting to someone. So, I just kept it to myself and went along with it." And, no, she later told us, she really wouldn't go on a second date with our actor.
But not everyone even gave the actor a chance. Blake, a woman Dubler had been corresponding with for awhile through an online dating site, hadn't even sat down at the bar before she accused our actor of lying. Even though he insisted that he was, in fact, Dubler, Blake continued to probe him, asking him to "swear to God" that he was Dubler.
The Guys' Turn
At that point, we decided to send in the real Dubler. He walked up to Blake, who assured him that "we have a lot to talk about now." She was not happy with her first date but we heard that her "real" date with the actual Dubler was a success.
We wondered what would happen if men were put in the same situation. We turned the tables and asked 24-year-old Goldstein to set up five dates at the same restaurant. This time we swapped 5-foot-tall Goldstein with Sabrina, an actress whose resemblance to Goldstein was questionable at best.
Adam, the first guy to arrive at the restaurant, barely even spoke to Sabrina throughout the course of their painfully awkward date. When we broke the scene to tell him about "What Would You Do?" and introduce him to Goldstein, the girl he had wanted to meet, he got angry and headed straight for the exit.
"I'll break your f---ing camera if you don't get out of my face," he said.
Although he wasn't happy, at least he came in the door. The next date to show up at the restaurant wouldn't even come in and instead, just hung out on the sidewalk. Goldstein had told Matt she would be wearing a green top, so when he saw our actress Sabrina sitting at the bar in a green top, he was noticeably confused. After pacing back and forth in front of the restaurant's windows for nearly 10 minutes, he finally took off.
He later sent Goldstein the following text message: "Have to reschedule, family emergency with my brother-in-law. Sorry."
Finally, Danny arrived. He was the first date to greet Sabrina with a hug and kiss on the cheek, starting the date off on a flirtatious note. Danny didn't seem to notice any difference between the actress and Goldstein. The conversation, the laughs, and the wine were all flowing, as Danny and Sabrina continued to hit it off and learn more about each other.
The date was going so well that we wondered what would happen if the real Goldstein crashed the party. We sent her to the bar to sit right next to Danny and, to get his attention, she asked what kind of wine he was drinking.
A Long-Lasting Experiment
He answered her question but immediately turned back around to face Sabrina and continue their animated conversation.
Seeing that he was committed to his date, they sat together for an hour before we brought out ABC correspondent John Quiñones with a camera crew to inform Danny that he had been a part of a "What Would You Do?" social experiment. This was no surprise to him, however, as he confessed to knowing that the real Goldstein was sitting next to him.
Even after our cameras were gone and the truth was out, Danny and Sabrina were still talking with each other at the bar, apparently not quite ready to end their date just yet.