I love the Internet. The amount of things you can do on it is unbelievable! I mean you can have access to news, keep in touch with friends, find information on just about anything, do research, participate in discussions and even chat online. The “information highway” makes possible unprecedented forms of communications. Never before have there been means of communication which have provided so many individuals with the ease and ability to engage in instantaneous, interactive communications with such a broad and diverse public.
Previously unimaginable, millions of individuals are increasingly interacting across time and space, and forming mutual bonds with others, most of whom they neither have met nor will ever meet face-to-face. Or will they?
A striking characteristic of these new interactive encounters is the general potential for anonymity. In face-to-face dialogue, individuals must confront one another and generally reveal their identities, or at least some of their identity such as their appearances. On the telephone, people can hear one another’s voices which often reveal for example gender, accent, and maybe age. Through the phone, one can somehow detect emotions, such as fear, rage, or delight. Online, however, participants in discussions have substantially more control over their self-presentations. If they desire, speakers can be neither seen, nor heard, nor touched. They can easily send and receive instantaneous messages that bear minimal imprint of their social identities. While one may argue that the content of the messages reveals much about the nature of the speakers, nonetheless, the messages tend to stand alone, allowing the potential for identity confusion and deception.
The Internet has become the hot new place for smart, eligible people to find romance, and those looking for love are swarming into cyberspace. As a result, many individuals have begun relationships online with people they have not met and know little about. While this can be convenient, especially in a society like ours where meeting suitable partners can be difficult, there are real, actual dangers out there. I know it’s hard to understand that you might actually be in danger if you’re sitting in front of your computer, talking to people in a chat room, because you think you’re anonymous but you start revealing information about yourself and what happens all too often is that your curiosity gets the better of you and you want to meet that person.
What a lot of people don’t understand is that even the smallest bit of personal information, casually given away in the most off-hand manner, can be very dangerous. With so many people communicating via the Net and deciding to date virtual strangers, it is important to be safe and be smart. Common sense can go a long way to keep you safe. Here are some guidelines for playing it safe:
- Watch out for someone who seems too good to be true.
- Begin by first communicating solely by email or online chat. Be vigilant in noticing odd behaviour or inconsistencies. If someone is evasive, this is a red flag. “Listen” to your correspondent’s words. The person at the other end may not be who or what he/she says. Trust your instincts. If anything makes you uncomfortable, walk away for your own safety and protection.
- Don’t rush into anything.
- Meeting someone online and then arranging a date in a relatively short time can be dangerous. Take time to find out who this person really is. If someone is pressuring you to get together before you are ready, this is another warning sign. If anything feels strange as you get to know this person, then it is time to back away and look for another match.
If you decide to meet for a date, proceed with caution. Set the conditions for your date and do not let the other person change them. Remember, you really do not know someone until you spend time with them in person.
- Always tell someone where you are going with your date and when you will return.
- Always meet in a public place that you are familiar with on your first date. Stay near other people in a lighted area. Getting together for coffee is a pleasant, casual way to get to know someone.
- Never allow yourself to be picked up from your house. Giving your address out to a stranger is not safe. Arrange your own transportation so that you can leave if there is any sign of trouble.
- Pay attention to everything that this person has told you about him or herself. If you find out that your date has lied about anything, this is another red flag.
When you meet someone online, that person can seem too good to be true. They are not! No one is. It is not to say that romance which begins in cyberspace doesn’t work, I know people who initially met online and are now happily married or engaged. What we need to remember is not put our hopes too high in finding that perfect person, just because we have a new method of meeting them.