Cyberdating: Safety in Meeting Someone Online

He’s the perfect guy. He’s understanding, a great listener, everything you’ve ever wanted. You spend hours chatting together, both online and on the phone. You’ve met the perfect woman. She loves football and baseball. The photo she e-mailed you shows a beautiful, sexy body. She lives thousands of miles away. Should you try to meet her? Is she "the One?"

Millions of people across the world are meeting people on the Internet. Using such tools as AOL Instant Messenger, ICQ, and other chat programs, thousands of people are making friends and finding romance online. But is the Internet the right way to meet people?

John and Rachel met on America Online™. They started chatting and realized that they had a great deal in common. They’d grown up in the same town, knew the same people, in fact, John’s best friend had even dated Rachel’s best friend in high school. John decided to ask Rachel out to dinner. Six months later, they were married. Rachel recalls how quickly things came to pass. "At first, I didn’t think he was the one. We were just having a good time, enjoying ourselves. But, one day we were talking about our future and I couldn’t see it without him. He soon proposed and we were married a month later."

"We are in love," John says smiling. "My first marriage didn’t work out, but Rachel is the one. At first we were hesitant telling people how we met, but now its kind of unique."

Tammy hasn’t found such success in on-line relationships. She’s met and dated about a dozen guys over the last two years on the Internet. She’s been very careful about safety before meeting any of the men, but hasn’t yet experienced a long-lasting relationship come from any of these dates. "Most [of the men] are immature or lie when they tell me about themselves. It’s hard to date someone you can’t trust."

For every John and Rachel, there are a hundred Tammy’s. In today’s society, the Internet is becoming a common medium in which to meet new people.

How can you make "cyberdating" a safer and more rewarding experience?

Protect Your Identity

Most people would not tell their name, phone number, address, and other personal information to a complete stranger. Yet many people naively reveal these details to strangers online. In a large chatroom, you may be giving your personal information to hundreds of onlookers. Sharing this information in a private chat is no safer; you’re simply giving it to one person you don’t know. Protecting your identity is the best move you can make when chatting online. If you decide to take chatting one step further and call someone on the phone, use caller ID blocking. Reverse phone number lookups are easy online and making certain the person you talk to is trustworthy is the first step to remaining safe.

Don’t Believe Everything You Read

The second rule of meeting people on the Internet is actually just plain common sense: if something looks too good to be true, generally it is! Do not believe everything people tell you about themselves. Unfortunately, there are a lot of people online who lie about themselves. They may not do so maliciously; they may just be trying to give a better impression of themselves. (Would you tell someone online every terrible thing you’ve ever done or that you’re 15 pounds overweight? Probably not.) Others lie to protect their privacy. And, sadly, there are those rare few that lie out of deceit. Someone may tell you blonde when they’re really brunette, 25 when they’re really 40, single when they’re really married, or even female when they’re really male.

A picture can’t always be trusted either; the person may have taken someone else’s photo or found one somewhere. Janet thought she had met the perfect guy, he sent her a picture and they talked for weeks before meeting in person. She was 38 and thought she was going to meet a forty-year-old. He even talked about how weird he felt to be turning 40!

He turned out to be 23, just out of college, and was leading her on in a bet with some friends. "I was devastated, he seemed so perfect, I thought he was just a young-looking forty in his picture, but when I met him, I knew he was much younger." Janet was so hurt by this encounter that she’s since stopped chatting with people online.

Take Your Time

Probably the number one rule with Internet dating is to take thing slowly. After chatting online you may feel like you’ve known the person forever, creating a false sense of foundation. It is easy to proceed to quickly, with oftentimes heartbreaking consequences. Tom recalls meeting Debbie in person for the first time after chatting for months. "We had so much in common, both from broken homes, both coming off of bad relationships. The first time we met, we went too far, it’s been on mind ever since, I feel so guilty." Their relationship ended badly and Tom is in another relationship with someone he met online – this time they have been taking things very slowly.

Cyberdating has become increasingly popular in today’s society. The Internet makes it possible to form friendships with people around the world and reduces barriers like race and class. However, this form of meeting people also carries potential dangers. Educate yourself about these risks and enjoy the online dating experience…safely.

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