Love is Blind (From 26.09.10)

Why do people join online dating services? To find love obviously. Most people have lost a partner, have become too old to find someone in a bar etc or simply are not confident enough to go out and find someone themselves.

Fair enough. I can see the attraction. All those adverts on the telly, in papers and magazines. Success stories of people finding their true love through the joys of the world-wide web. But how safe are we actually?

We warn children not to talk to strangers online: chat rooms have been frowned upon since the murder and kidnapping of the likes of Millie Dowling and the Soham girls. But adults are doing the same thing daily.

OK so we should be old enough to make a decision for ourselves. We should be adult enough and wise enough to realise when we are talking to a complete stranger not to tell them every detail of ourselves. I thought that users of online dating sites are reassured that everyone is vetted before they enter the site but it’s so easy for some to slip through this process. I mean, how easy is it to meet some one in a bar or club and give them a completely different name and story; tell them you’re a multi millionaire running your own business since you were 12 when actually you work in Sainsbury’s on a Saturday and still live at home with your parents. The people you meet will be none the wiser. The chances are that you probably won’t see that person again so what is the problem with telling a few white lies here and there.

Now look at the internet. Anyone can access it and say anything they like. I read the story about the women who were being caught out by men posing as soldiers who were scamming innocent women for their money through online dating websites. It made me angry; their ignorance and how easily they were led. Although I thought I could not comment on this until I tried it out my self. So I created a fake profile on one of the top dating websites to see how easy it is to lie.

For a start, you’re asked to enter your age, who you’re looking for e.g. woman searching for man etc, and where you live. This is where my lies started. I picked the first postcode and first city in the options. Easy! I thought I should use my actual email address though so that I could monitor it properly. Although my memory is pretty awful and I’m thinking that, on reflection, maybe I should have used a username and password I would remember easily as opposed to something completely random!

The next step is that the site sent me a confirmation email to activate the account. Clicking on this led me back to the website to finalize my personal information: height, relationship status, hair colour, eye colour, body shape etc. And then I had to upload a picture. I panicked slightly wondering how I would go about facing this. I decided that instead of chosing a picture of myself or a random picture of someone on the internet I’d test the site properly and chose a lovely picture of a sunset. And I was in.

Part of it made me sad to think that so many people had to resort to online dating to find a partner but then I realised what I was there for. I flicked through a few pages and then decided to see what other people had chosen to write on their profiles. I’m not going to lie, most of these men were WEIRD! I clicked on guy who looked half decent. Scrolled down and to my horror he had written, as his style, “cool”. I couldn’t help it, I laughed out loud. I mean come on, we can see your picture, back yourself much?  (even worse was the fact that under the “my lifesyle” heading he had written “night owl”. What does that even mean!! does he sit a tree and hoot all night!? sounds like a freak to me!).

Anyway, back to my real point. I decided that my chosen profile picture and details would not get me a man! So I thought I would need to be more realistic if I am to investigate this process further. So I chose a better picture of some girl I found on the internet and changed the details to something more attractive. And to be honest, the profile is looking pretty good!

Next was to find some poor suspecting person and see how it all actually works.

Stuff like this actually makes me cringe but I thought its ok, no one knows who I am. The options it gives you to communicate with other people are winks, IM, email, you can choose to like someones profile etc. It was all so easy! No wonder people get caught up in it all.

Maybe I’m a cynic. I mean I found it hard enough to convince myself when looking for a flat that I wasn’t being conned by every house I looked at and every offer I received. But all these guys pictures could easily not be them.

I clicked around a bit and then thought I should take this a step further. unfortunately you have to pay contact another member. Another caution: a clever computer hacker will be able to access any of your card details. It’s not just the fear of meeting someone who will con you out of your money personally, it’s that technology fanatic who is able to copy your details while you are left none the wiser. Being a poor student I couldn’t afford to subscribe to this, meaning I was also unable to view some of the responses I had received (I knew I had responses to my profile because there were notifications at the top of the page). Failing this I read the site’s “Safety and Security” statement. It announced that by subscribing it means that the other person is genuinely looking for love. Well, excuse me, but that’s like saying a bank robber who walks into a bank is genuinely there to open an account! The site also said that it checks profiles manually and any suspicious member can be blacklisted. I investigated a little further into free dating websites and fortunately, many of their terms and conditions did note that the information displayed about people may not be correct. So, in all fairness, it is at the users expense if they are deceived.

My fear is that people are too trusting. There have been so many stories in that past of people meeting over the internet and losing all their money to someone half way around the world. I just don’t understand why you would be willing to give someone you have never met any sort of money. Personally, I’m stingey enough with giving money to my closest friends let alone a stranger!

My advice is that you have been warned. Take the advice we give to children. Although going that extra mile to not talk to strangers will get us nowhere in finding love or what we’re looking for. There needs to be that element of wariness in meeting new people. When meeting someone new in person, in a supermarket, at work, or at a bar, we should be equally cautious about who they are and their intentions. However, online it is far more dangerous. In most cases, like elsewhere in life, meeting someone results in no danger. But we must be more aware that in a society where networking sites have come to dominate our social lives our details can be accessed at any time.

Just be more vigilant. We should enjoy ourselves in meeting new people and finding new interests but at the same time I can’t stress enough the need to be more aware of ourselves and other people; show ourselves a little more respect and not get too caught up in what sounds like true love.

I can understand that some people need another person to make them complete. There’s so much pressure, romance films, friends in relationships etc everywhere there’s someone in love that we know or it is constantly thrown in our faces. It’s as if the media is mocking those who can’t find love. But the truth is, there are so many other singletons out there those who are comfortable with their situation and those who are sad at being lonely but don’t actually realise that so many other people are in the same situation.

My advice is to find out who you are first; be confident in yourself and try not to search too hard for “the one”. You know what they say, the best things happen when you least expect it.

About Daisy Bambridge

I am a student at Wesminster University studying a Masters in Broadcast Journalism. I recently graduated from Southampton University after studying Politics and International Relations. I have a strong interest in social issues such as crime,drugs, alcohol, eating disorders. I am also deeply fascinated by terrorism, after the disasters of 9/11, as can be seen in my unergraduate dissertation on anti-terror legislation and human rights.
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