Thursday, December 06, 2007

Gettin' Naughty - Virtual Love

Most everyone has Internet access and an email address, if not at home then at least through an employer. Many spend a great deal of time online for work, entertainment and even to connect with friends and family. Then there’s the group of us for whom the web is our world. Heck, my laptop is like an extra appendage permanently attached to my body.

We spend a lot of time online, practically live our lives on the net, so what about finding love online? Internet dating?

The bar scene has never been a great place to connect with someone, but where else is there to look? Fishing from the company dock can make the work place a very uncomfortable environment if things don’t go well. You can only hang out at the local coffee shop for so long before getting caffeine jitters. Where do you go to meet people with similar interests?

The Internet? You don’t have to leave home or step outside your comfort zone. You can get to know someone through email, live chats, even have a virtual date if you have a webcam. If something goes wrong all you have to do is sever an electronic connection. Seems…easy, safe, convenient. Here are a few things to keep in mind if you’re either considering or currently participating in an online hookup.

Virtual online dating is vastly different from real time dating. The online environment is restrictive. A great deal of a message can be lost without being able to observe non-verbal language—expression, gestures and other physical cues, along with tone of voice and inflection. Careless wording can cause hurt or offense. Unless you have a webcam and microphone, you must rely on written communications alone, which is problematic. Sarcasm must be spelled out clearly. Unless someone is exceptionally skilled in non-verbal communications there are liable to be misunderstandings and you’re not going to get a true impression of what someone is really like.

The Internet also comes with it own lingo and rules. Emoticons such as :-) and are used to express emotion and common phrases are abbreviated. There are hundreds of shorthand message you must decode. The rules and protocols are different too, such as typing in all caps is yelling. Learn the rules of the road before trying to hookup.

A few examples:

CSL – Can’t Stop Laughing
FWB – Friends With Benefits
MIRL – Meet In Real Life
SNAG – Sensitive New Age Guy
SWM – Single White Male

Links to decoding text abbreviations:

Netlingo
Techdictionary
Webopedia

Finding someone who is available and interested in more than casual cybersex can be challenging. Cybersex hounds are attracted to the anonymity of the Internet, where you can act rudely without serious repercussions. And how do you determine if you are falling for an online fantasy persona or a real person? While you may feel a bond with someone online you may feel very different when interacting fact to face.

Another complication is that online dating is often used as an escape from reality into fantasy. Online, we are who we say we are and who we want to be. We may not be honest about our appearance or other important factors to be more attractive. The temptation to misrepresent ourselves is huge. Be careful of players. Not everyone is honest and decent. Pay attention to inconsistencies.

There is also a tendency for rapid advancement from attraction to intimacy, while skipping essential dating stages along the way. You don’t discover the little endearing or annoying personality traits. This means you may develop a serious emotional attachment to a person you can’t stand to be around in real life. You should consider online relationships to be incomplete until meeting offline. Human interactions are based on real world situations and reactions. It’s impossible to experience the entirety of another individual through a virtual connection. The potential for extreme disappointment and heartbreak are great.

Don’t give up all hope. Successful relationships can begin as online romances. I know several couples in committed, happy relationships that began in cyberspace. Once the potential for a relationship is established online it’s time see if your connection can survive the real world. This poses another complication—safety.

There are certain precautions you must observe when meeting face to face. First and for most, be safe and cautions. You may feel like you know and can trust this person, wrong! You don’t really know them and could be risking you life by going in with blinders on. Plan ahead! This goes for the guys too. You may be a prime alpha capable of taking care of yourself, but remember the movie Fatal Attraction.

Important safety rules for online dating and real time meetings:

  • Do not divulge your address, place of work, phone number or social security number or other identifying information
  • Trust your gut instincts. If you feel uncomfortable don’t go
  • Meet on neutral ground in a public place with other people around (Do not go to their home or hotel room) and do get in their car to go somewhere else
  • Do not drink alcohol. Your judgment needs to be unimpaired
  • Make sure someone has the details of where you are going and when to expect your return
  • Do not leave your purse at the table if you step away (Your drivers license provides too much personal information)
  • Consider bringing a friend along. They don’t have to be within hearing distance, but should be within sight
  • Set up a lifeline (Make arrangements with a trusted friend for check-in phone calls at pre-arranged times, such as once an hour. This person should know the location of the meeting)
  • Establish a private code phrases to let verify things are going well or that something has gone wrong and they should call the police
  • Your last safe call should be for after you’ve made it home okay
  • If he/she objects to any of these precautions, Do Not trust this person

  • Meeting someone online can be a wonderful experience or lead to misery. With instant access to a vast and diverse population there’s a chance you could find the love of your life if you practice common sense, patience, proceed with caution, and follow safety rules.

    11 comments:

    N.J.Walters said...

    Fascinating post, as always, Nic. Safety first. It's possible to make a connection online, but until it's tested in the real work, you need to proceed with caution.

    Ciana Stone said...

    Excellent points made here, Nic! Online romance is something I honestly fear. Perhaps because of (as Gregory House likes to say in the show "House" - Everybody lies.)

    By and large that's something I found to be true a year or so ago when I was researching the online world of love and romance. I'd had a few friends badly burned and thought I'd conduct an experiment so ... yeah, I lied. I posted a completely fictitous photo and name and started cruising. And what did I find? Lots and lots of photos I'd seen on stock photo sites. Hmmmm, so ALL of these guys are models? I think not.

    I do know of one couple that met online and operated much the same as in your guidelines and are still happily involved after a year. But then there are the others who got a really bum rap, deceived and manipulated.

    In the end, to me online romance is more difficult because we can't rely on our senses. We all tend to pick up on suble nuances in voice and body language, the message in a person's eyes. Without that we've operating at a disadvantage. And as a writer, I know all too well how easy it is to sound convincing when you're spinning a tale.

    I'm so glad you addressed this topic and once again you provided us with great food for thought.

    Naughty Nic Rocks!!

    Deb said...

    Nic, Excellent topic. There are many out there that just don't think of what might happen if they put out TMI in an online admirer.

    I am one to passing on things and I will pass this Information on to people I know.
    But always play it safe.

    Nic, you are an amazing author and Friend, congrats to all of your sucess;)

    Sally Painter said...

    Great post, Nic. Since I've been out of the dating scene for nearly 18 years, I wouldn't have the slightest idea how to approach online dating.

    I met my husband at work. It seems to be a common place for couples to meet. Probably because that is where we spend the most time.

    One thing I discovered though by having been co-workers first, friends second and then lovers, I was able to observe how he treated people on a day to day basis and also how he responded in stressful situations and problems.

    His people skills just seduced me because of he was fair and able to enforce the company policies while still being very sensitive and caring to the employee.

    On the other hand, there was another man who asked me out, but because I was privy to watching him daily and seeing how he moved through life, I knew I would never be able to adjust to his lifestyle and especially the way he treated people. I passed and am very glad I did.

    Had I met him online or say in a non-work environment, I probably wouldn't have picked up on all those nuances until the actual date or even the second date.

    I don't envy those in today's dating scene, but I think your post really helps prepare someone for internet dating. Great dos and dont's!

    Dena Celeste said...

    Awesome post! I'm one of those lucky few who met her man online, talked on the phone for a month, then met in person and is still with him 3 years later!

    As he was the first person I met and really got involved with online...I lucked out like no one's business.

    Fabulous subject! *beams*

    Dena

    TK Winters said...

    Excellent topic and great guidelines! I think it takes a certain kind of person to meet someone online and not get caught up in the fantasy. From what I've seen, and this goes for real life dating as well as cyber dating, people get caught up in the fantasy and the feelings and the dreams of what they have always wanted. In the cyber world it is so much easier because you don't have those nonverbal cues, and you don't get to see the irritating little habits.

    I'm one of those who met someone on line and it turned into the most wonderful experience of my life. However, even when I was head-over-heels and caught up in the fantasy, I kept talking to those I trusted and kept asking questions, and just used plain old common sense about the whole thing.

    Great post!

    Anonymous said...

    Awesome topic Nic!

    I know three couples that are in committed relationships that started online. One couple has been married for 7 years and they have 2 kids.  Theirs was a long distance online relationship. Another couple has been married for 5 years with 1 child and they were in the same county but started completely online and later met in person. This last couple used a dating service and they will swear by it. The third couple… Teri and John … well most of us know this story and it’s only getting better. 

    I’m very glad I’m not in today’s dating market, I don’t envy those who are. I’d love to hear some other success stories! Hopefully someone will share theirs! 

    Christine

    Nicole Austin said...

    Thanks for the comments everyone!

    Dena, you are very lucky to have had your online romance turn out so well.

    I think dating gets more difficult all the time. Online dating more so, but its fabulous to hear that its working for some couples! I hate hearing about the ones who get deceived!

    Dani said...

    You really do have to be very careful these days with online dating. I'm very leary of it, but I've seen others that it's worked out well for. Basically it comes down to common sence, but then again some people out there don't have it. LOL!

    forgetfulone said...

    Very true - all of it. I actually met my husband online... when online dating wasn't "cool." (a little over six years ago.) Everything is fine for me, but it's a crapshoot. I had to weed through some frogs to find my prince, and luckily, I used commone sense and came out with a winner. Great post.

    Nicole Austin said...

    Its true, Dani. Common sense ain't so common!

    I'm glad everything has turned out well for you, forgetfulone. Kissing frogs is awful, but finding the prince among them is well worth the effort. :D