The publicity around the Manti Te’o “catfishing” fiasco shines new light on online dating scams and the complexity of online dating. As a way to meet others, the practice is certainly here to stay. Social sites can connect people in a way that just can’t be replicated in the offline world. In fact, for many time-constrained professionals, online dating is the preferred way to meet a variety of potential partners, especially in contrast to the social challenges of the traditional bar or club scene. While many have successfully found their true loves online, many others have been disappointed. Here are a few thoughts on how to best maneuver the online dating experience.
First, a few facts. According to statiscticbrain.com there are 54 million singles in the US, 40 million of whom have tried online dating. Over $1 billion in revenue is generated annually by online dating and 17% of all marriages last year were of couples who first met on a dating site. So, it is definitely safe to say that online dating is a major factor in contemporary relationships and is here to stay!
The overriding counsel around online dating is to “trust but verify”. You remember the principle that President Reagan popularized with the Soviets; to negotiate optimistically, but to also diligently verify facts as you proceed. In online dating you won’t be successful if you approach the process with fear and anxiety. You’ve got to be open to sharing and interacting with others, but at the same time it’s just smart to also be discerning – maybe even a bit cynical at first – in considering what you read/hear until you can verify things with your own eyes.
Let’s put all of this in a bit of perspective. The vast majority of online dating indiscretions are minor. It’s people posting a flattering picture from a few years and pounds ago, or inflating their resume or interests a bit. This can mislead, but is not generally malicious. That said, there are people who intend to scam others trolling online dating sites – just like they do in the offline world. Here are some tips on how to get the most from the experience while protecting yourself from the knuckleheads:
1) Trust your gut. You know the saying, “if it seems too good to be true, it probably is”. That is definitely the case in online dating. Be sensitive to red flags. If someone seems to be trying too hard, or “forgets” to mention that the divorce won’t be final for a couple of months, or after you meet you find out they hardly resemble the profile picture then this may indicate a level of dishonesty that perhaps you shouldn’t be comfortable with. It raises the question of what else they might be being less than honest about. Listen to your gut on matters like this!
2) Control your communications. Create a separate email address for online dating from a free provider like Gmail or Yahoo. This, simply, allows you to control how close people can get to you. You can completely ignore people you have no interest in remaining in contact with whenever you want – whether as a result of them being undesirable or you finding the love of your life. It gives you an important sense of control that you should seize.
3) Use the tools at your disposal. Since you’re already online, it probably makes sense to take advantage of the technology at your fingertips – if you have questions/doubts – to learn more and protect yourself. Whether it’s simply “Googling” the other person to gain greater insight into publically available information or paying the $20 or so to dive deeper into their background from a site like beenverified.com – the time and money spent can be great investments toward your peace of mind.
Also, apps like RingShuffle that provide temporary phone numbers can make a lot of sense. A temporary number lets you connect with someone via phone without compromising your real number.
4) Embrace common sense. You’re heading out to meet someone you’ve been successfully interacting with on the site and via phone. You’re naturally wondering if this is ‘The One’. The energy is palpable. When you meet for the first time though, don’t let this excitement temporarily relieve you of your senses. Drive to your date yourself so you keep your home address private and control when you arrive and leave. Meet in a public place, and let friends know where you are. It just makes sense.
5) Be thoughtful about your profile. Sure you want to put your best foot forward, but you can do that while also being smart about withholding some personal information. For example, you can get the message across that you are a successful professional by your job title and other things you include in your profile. Is it really necessary to include salary information that might more overtly attract someone looking to take advantage of you?
6) First things first. If you think you like someone based upon positive email or site interaction, then move to chat. If that goes well, then move to the phone. If that works, then schedule a face-to-face meeting. At each step, as rationally as you can, assess whether the things you’ve learned about the person in previous interactions still seem to be true. You don’t want to waste lots of time on someone who ultimately isn’t worth yours, so move as quickly as you are comfortable at each level. It may sound cold, and feel uncomfortable, but if you’ve decided that someone isn’t a long-term fit – then you’ve got to move on. Don’t waste time, even if the attention is flattering.
7) Online dating can be addictive. Proceed with caution. If you’ve not been on a date, or had much interaction with a potential partner in a while, online dating can become addicting. It’s very easy to get sucked into going to your inbox every few minutes to check for messages. Understand that this may happen and do your best to control it. Put the time in to make sure you have an effective profile, but then it may make sense for some to allot a specific amount of time a day to their online dating efforts. Figure out what works for you and try to stick to it.
8) Don’t be afraid to get in the mix! The other side of the addictive online dating coin is people who put up a meager profile, never reach out to anyone or respond to messages, and then complain that online dating doesn’t work. While being smart about your efforts, you really do have to jump in and invest the time to make it work. Again, if almost 20% of marriages last year started online – then it’s value is really not in question any more. Find the right site, get the right photos, author an effective profile – and then reach out to people whose profiles you are drawn to.
Get the online dating help you need by contacting Karla Moore via firstname.lastname@example.org.
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