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Be Cautious with Cyber Relationships

Dear Dating Doctor:

What are your feelings about internet relationships and do you have any advice for those of us seeking love on the Web?

- Looking for Cyber Love


Dear Cyber Lover

From my experience, talking about people you have "Met on the Net" is a surefire way to distance yourself from your friends and family as most will not understand how you can learn enough about someone, without meeting them in person, to consider engaging in a relationship with them.

People who search for love on-line must keep a grip on reality, an open mind and not allow unrealistic expectations to surface. It is vitally important to realize that you truly have no idea whom you are actually communicating with, whether they are alone as they correspond, if they are who and what they say they are, or if they have become an "expert" at Cyber affairs.

For many Americans the net has become a cheap form of psychiatry and risqué entertainment. They see it as a place where they can act out their fantasies, pretend to be someone they are not, or reveal themselves to unknown entities scattered around the globe. Call it reverse-voyeurism. Men often have a one track mind, and many women appear quite similar, guarded, and commonly describe Superman as the type of guy they would most like to meet. If Superman is out there, he won't be surfing the net as he will have been snagged by SuperWoman.

There is some good news. Chat rooms do serve a purpose in that they allow you to meet people that you would normally never come in contact with. Not only from across the world but within the United States as well. People are often more willing to talk about themselves over the screen, than they are in person. Because words are often all that can be seen, the feelings and thoughts expressed are open to the interpretation of the recipient. How a person receives a message might be at odds with the intent in which it was written. We have a tendency to read into messages what we were hoping to find -- whether it was actually said or not.

What's missing from the interpretation phase are intonation patterns. A simple statement such as, "that's right" has many possible pronunciations and the way it was implied is not always the way it will be interpreted. Depending on where the emphasis is placed it may be a simple statement, a polite rebuff or somewhere in between. Many people use symbols (such as , or !) or short phrases (ha, ha or boo hoo) to express their emotional intent.

Be extremely careful regarding how much personal information (your address, phone number, work location) you disperse as you never know how this could be used to your disadvantage, plus, you forever lose your anonymity. If you decide to meet in person, do so in a very public place at an active time of day and take along a friend.

If you use the net with common sense and see it as a means to an end, not an end unto itself, it just might help you meet someone special.



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This article is copyright © 1998 David D. Coleman ("The Dating Doctor")
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