“If it is not right, do not do it; if it is not true, do not say it.”
— Marcus Aurelius, Roman emperor, AD 121-180
There’s a new TV show on The Brand New One channel called “elove,” which — for those of you still living largely off the Internet — refers to the phenomenon of online dating.
I received a news release about the show the other day, which noted, “Couples in elove are crazy about each other before they’ve even met.”
Not necessarily, but there are benefits to striking up a relationship online — you can get to know someone by exchanging messages or talking on the phone and then decide if you want to meet face to face. It’s a more gradual way for romance to bloom and less awkward than going on a blind date.
And there’s an added plus — technology lets you cast your net much further than you ever could in person, if you are open to meeting someone who lives in another province, country or continent.
We’ve all heard of people who met their soul mate online — two people who, somehow, from within the depths of the cosmos, found each other in an e-connection that clicked and lasted.
Such stories warm the heart.
But there are chilling ones, too. Because while there are genuine people out there looking for an honest, loving relationship, there are liars, as well, of both sexes.
My friend — we’ll call her Donna — has learned that the hard way.
A warm and forthright 40-something, she’s been divorced for a decade and is ready to meet someone new. Not the type to hang out in bars and make the first move, she’s turned to PlentyofFish.com. She makes it clear in her profile information who she is and who she is not.
“It’s so hard to meet people,” she said. “I’m an old-fashioned girl. I can’t stand (being) online, but probably the last five relationships I’ve had have started online.”
Things usually begin with an email exchange, then a swap of cellphone numbers, then home phone numbers and several conversations before agreeing to meet in person — usually for coffee in a neutral place.
Sometimes they aren’t who they made themselves out to be.
“They often end up looking just not at all like you expected,” she said. “But the worse nightmares are the ones who get you believing what they’re saying and it’s not real. Almost all of my negative experiences have come from untruthful first impressions online and were not about someone’s looks.”
Donna met one guy online from Ontario who seemed great. When he eventually came for a visit, they clicked and she felt sure enough to introduce him to her parents — something she doesn’t do lightly.
“When he was here, there was nothing he didn’t do,” she recalls. “He moved my fence. He did landscaping in my backyard. He bought me a lilac tree and planted it. He took me to the dentist and was in the waiting room afterwards with flowers for me. He bought my father fresh fish. I thought, this must be Prince Charming I’m with. Then he went back to Ontario, and nothing. And I’m left thinking, what the hell was that?”
Donna suspects he was seeing someone in Ontario and used her as a pleasant diversion during his Newfoundland vacation.
Another man she met was not at all as advertised. His profile said he had no children, but he did. His actual profession was much different than his online job description. A professed
non-smoker, he had a pack-a-day habit. He’d misrepresented what his hobbies were.
By the time Donna discovered these things, it was too late. She was smitten.
She realizes now there were red flags.
“It was like one of those fireworks things,” she said of when they met. “Before I knew it, I considered him my boyfriend. But I was always thinking, why are we both still on PlentyofFish? I knew within a month his profile had lies in it. Tiny lies are a sign of character. He eventually met someone else on PlentyofFish and I was the last to know. I was devastated.”
Donna said one sure sign someone may be lying to you is if they haven’t posted a photo of themselves on the dating site. And women are just as capable as men of misrepresenting themselves.
“If they don’t have a picture, be wary,” she said. “It means they can be anonymous. A lot of (the men) are married men, looking for sex. They can be tapping away at their keyboards as their wife is probably in the background cooking their supper. … And if you’re in a serious relationship with someone and they don’t delete their online profile, there’s probably a reason. … I was too slack and I didn’t bring it up. I would now.”
Despite being burned, Donna is still optimistic that she’ll find the kind of mature, well-mannered guy she’s looking for.
“Tread lightly,” she says of looking for love in cyberspace.
“I’ve been hurt online. Don’t believe everything they tell you. It hurts me to say that, but it’s true.”
Still, she says, “I know what I’m looking for. I’m a hopeless romantic and I still think something good will happen for me. I guess it’s just the wild world of online dating.”
Hopefully Donna’s Prince Charming is out there somewhere, and he’s listening.
Have you had a good or bad cyber dating experience you’d like to share?