The highly respected United States reference resource, the Merriam-Webster Collegiate® Dictionary, has added new words for 2014, including catfish … “a term that refers to a person who sets up a false social networking profile for deceptive purposes”. To be included in the dictionary’s annually announced new content, a word must be used and understood by a significant number of people.
I wrote a post a few days ago that highlighted some of the dangers and disadvantages of “online dating.” The two major negative points were: 1) the extensive presence of downright “scammers” and 2) users that misrepresented themselves in their profiles or email exchanges, e.g. marital status, physical attributes, age, income, etc.
Now, it’s pretty hard to catch an online liar right off, especially if you can’t see them or research their claims and self-descriptions. However, Elizabeth Bernstein’s recent Wall Street Journal article on “How to Tell If Someone Is Lying to You in an Email,” provides a number of tips to give you an at least a fighting chance to detect when an online acquaintance is being less than honest. Things to look for include the omission of personal pronouns and references, hedging or changes in subject when asked something and changing tenses in the middle of an exchange. There are many more, but for that you should read the article.
Online dating is very popular these days. In fact, if you believe the Pew Research report from February, 2014, (conducted in the United States, but the results probably reflect most developed countries) more than 20% of under-35 young adults have used an online dating service, with 6-8% of older adults also saying they did.
That’s good news, right? Well, not necessarily. Before you put all your hopes in the online relationship sweepstakes, think about what’s good and bad in doing so.
The Good News
- There are MILLIONS of people who “appear” to be online, saying they’re looking (just like you) for a relationship. That’s a pretty big talent pool, even at the “older” end. Obviously, everyone on planet Earth who’s online is not going to be geographically of interest, but in the U.S. alone, research from StatisticBrain.com claims there are over 40 million who have tried online dating.
- You can meet total strangers, while you’re dressed in your underwear or less. Yep, that’s one of the good things about doing most anything online, from dating to shopping to…well, you know. No need to get dressed up, burn gas to meet or buy dinner. Just click your mouse.
- There is no Number 3 under “Good News,” so let’s get right to the “Not-So-Good News” about online dating.
The Not-So-Good or Downright BAD News
- Online dating is THE place for what are called “scammers.” And “scammers,” in this sense, definitely are not looking for a relationship. They only are looking to get something from you, and it is NOT love … money, sex, gifts, sympathy, etc. Dating online is the perfect place to work their scam. They don’t have to be truthful and can pretend they are someone they are not. Their victims many times are emotionally vulnerable, maybe lonely or recovering from a previous break up or loss.
- Although there are a lot of people registered with online dating services, there is a large segment of them who really aren’t seriously looking for a relationship, or may be just “playing around.” While not scammers, these people are just time-wasters. In fact that same Pew Research above says that 33% of those online have NEVER gone on a date with someone they met online. They may be married or seriously committed, and just like to play pretend-games anonymously after their husband or wife has gone to bed. Whatever the reason, there are a lot of them. They may chat back and forth online for an long time, but they never plan on meeting in person.
- Many online dating services show large numbers of members as active, but they’re not. They may have given up looking, found someone and gotten married or died. Whatever the reason and wherever they’ve gone, this practice keeps the dating service’s “total members” numbers high, but it’s very misleading. And once registered with a service, they can make it very hard to delete your account and profile. Personal note: I’ve been married over three years, tried (unsuccessfully) to delete two online accounts I had, and I STILL receive “interested ” queries from members seeing my (apparently still active ) profile.
- Inaccurate or downright false profiles/descriptions. Oh really, who would lie, fib, exaggerate (choose the verb you prefer) about their profile. Well, as it turns out …most everybody. Some are big lies, some are small ones, but everyone wants to present themselves in the most favorable light. Men lie most about their age, height, or income; women lie most about their weight, body type and age.
Well there you have some things to think about. Online dating is BIG and EASY. It can also be misleading, disappointing and, careful please, potentially dangerous (StatisticBrain: 10% of sex offenders use online dating to meet people).
Is there a better way to avoid some of this bad news and meet people who are real and sincerely interested in a long term, serious relationship? Yes there is, and we’ll tell you about it in some upcoming posts.
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