Internet dating sites have been around for a while now, and there’s no denying their popularity. Who among us hasn’t done at least a little ‘site-seeing’ and considered the possibility of meeting a potential soul mate online? And who among us hasn’t at least considered what personal information we would divulge in a public dating profile?
These sites haven’t just appealed to singles, of course. As a family lawyer, I’ve heard stories time and time again of one spouse finding the other while surfing, if not actually searching, online for their next great love.
But for the most part, at least in the early days, there was an innocence about it all. Little did we know that the days of clear and relatively transparent online dating profiles were actually the age of Internet innocence.
THE NEXT CHAPTER
Little by little, a trend has emerged where online profiles are being ‘polished’ by professionals, with ‘trending’ terms being added to what used to be fairly straightforward descriptions of people looking for love. Entire dating profile services have emerged, devoted to helping make one’s profile not just more appealing but easier to find online.
Marketing one’s self has become the name of the dating game. Recently I read about a ‘scientific approach’ applied by a woman to online dating who posed as a man to see what responses other men liked. She studied the male response patterns so that she herself could then go back and customize her description as a SWF to conform to what most men wanted to see.
Her strategy and efforts made a certain amount of sense – if you suspended everything else you knew about trust, honesty and truth in relationships.
THE FUTURE IS NOW
It seems we have now moved into a true twilight zone online. The Notre Dame star linebacker, Manti Te’o, has become Twitter talk and newsworthy due to the alleged death of his imaginary girlfriend. Was he the victim of a hoax or at least, in part, the perpetrator of one?
One thing this story underscores is the often sad fact that people think they are falling in love when, in reality, they’ve fallen head over heels in love over keystrokes. The person they think they love may be non-existent or at least a fraud.
There are elaborate hoaxes being created online to attract lonely hearts of both sexes, leading to the possibility of real heartbreak. Some of these imposters are simply lonely and looking for love they could never find in the real world, and others are quite vicious. The imposters range from brunettes posing as blondes to heavy-set women posing as model-slim to boys posing as girls (and vice versa) to paupers posing as millionaires and everything in-between.
BACK TO THE FUTURE
So, who DO you trust in this 2013 Internet matchmaking odyssey? Well, you need a good defense as much as a solid offense. Oddly enough, the defenses to this kind of dating game-playing are not unlike the defenses our parents used and preached to us.
(1) If something or someone seems too good to be true, probably is. Exercise extreme caution.
(2) Do your homework, and use the same technology that is ensnaring your heart to search Facebook/search engines to try to verify the facts about the person.
(3) If you haven’t actually met someone, looked deeply into their eyes and surveyed the reality of their lives, remind yourself repeatedly they may not exist as pictured and portrayed online.
(4) Guard your heart and your online confidences with at least the same amount of care you guard pin numbers and passwords. When emotions are involved, there’s a lot at stake!
We all know many happy endings for couples who have met online. The way to share their success is to never trust technology too much and to trust your own instincts always.
Photo: Flicker Ed Yourdon