The murky world of online dating

This is the phase where the highly romanticized version of romance sells best. We’re also the generation that wants instant gratification. So what is the one place that offers both? – Online dating. It cuts right to the chase by establishing the intention of the concerned parties very clear – “We’re here to meet someone and date/fall in love”. In the real world, reaching this stage takes one helluva time. You meet someone, you sort of like them, you sort of try to make small talk, and if that small talk is engaging enough you pluck up the courage to ask them out. Even then, the date might or might not work, rendering all your invested time and effort in case of the latter quite useless. However on an online dating site, you can simply choose not to reply or hit that block button if it gets annoying.

In short, online dating saves you a lot of time, trouble and even mild heartbreak. It’s also an avenue for people who are just looking to meet new people. But all said and done, how effective is it really, considering the fact that most of these sites are plagued with trolls and creeps? How much can you trust someone you’ve been talking to only virtually?

If I were to sign up for one of these websites today, I could very easily download a picture of a beautiful girl, make a fake profile with a fake description, and attract a lot of attention. My profile would be hoarded with requests and messages. Why? Because in a shallow world like online dating, the first approach always depends upon physical appearance. Anyone contacting you will first browse through your photos. Because for most online dating is just a pass time to indulge in some flirting, the overall personality doesn’t really matter. They log in, they flirt, have fun and then leave. In the real world, it’s so much tougher to have a plethora of choices offered to you on a platter to choose from. Which makes large scale flirting very difficult. An online dating website however is like a virtual store of prospective matches, offering you the luxury to flick through all of them in one go. So you could be sitting at home in your pyajamas, having pizza, stinking like a pig and still getting an ego boost out of browsing through your matches like they were on sale.

A very small percentage of people exist who actually want to meet someone. That could either be because they don’t get to meet interesting people in their immediate social circles, or because they’re introverts who have trouble mingling with people. These are the people who lie less and try to strike up a real conversation. But assuming that they do manage to find a suitable partner, how much of that is reality? Who we are virtually is very different from who we are in reality. Being online does two things – gives you the power to be whoever you want and reduces the risk of complete vulnerability (Although cases of cyber bullying are becoming a serious issue, but more on that later) Many times we don’t feel confident about who we are – we think we’re too fat, too ugly, too stupid, too on and so forth. But online, we don’t have to reveal any of that. We can actually come across much cooler and attractive virtually, simply because it almost never gets to the point of revealing our true selves. But if it does, that’s probably when for most people, the bubble bursts. In short, there are hardly any people who would be willing to reveal their honest, true selves online (This applies to reality too, now. But the magnitude increases virtually)

Coming to what could easily be called the most dangerous aspect of internet dating – cyber bullying. The genesis of cyber bullying lies in one simple categorization. There are two types of people who use Internet Dating – 1) The emotionally vulnerable ones who are looking for a connection to fill a void in their lives and 2) The predators who are looking for cheap thrills. These predators come across as extremely charming at first, they know how to sweep you off your feet, how to make you feel special and loved, and how to make you fall for them within days. They ‘win’ your trust by expressing empathy. The victim, in such a case, doesn’t realize that he/she (Mostly she) is walking into a trap of emotional manipulation. For eg – It may start with the guy forcing the girl to tell him what she’s wearing, then sending him intimate picture and then having intimate conversations. The girl may not be comfortable with this at all, but she, being emotionally vulnerable, doesn’t want to lose the guy who is supposedly in love with her. It begins with threats and intimidation – “Do it or else you will not see me ever again!”, “You were a nobody, I gave you attention and this is what I get in return?” and “You’re not even that pretty, and I still gave you so much time and attention” so on and so forth. By the time the victim realizes the full consequences of what has happened, it is already too late. There have been numerous examples of people whose lives have literally been destroyed because of this. Amanda Todd, a girl who ultimately committed suicide because of all the hatred she was facing, had shared some of her intimate pictures with her boyfriend online. Jessica Logan also committed suicide for the same reasons. Ryan Halligan, Megan Meier, Tyler Clementi – all were victims of cyber bullying.

One might think that they are too strong for something like this to happen to them. They couldn’t be more wrong. This can happen to anyone, anywhere. It can happen to people who are bullies in real life, by people who are victims in real life. The virtual world is a place of masquerade, and no one is ever what they seem. Whilst not completely wrong, online dating requires a person to be sufficiently trained in emotional defense to identify and block the people who send off red flags. In the end though, before we get into any time of dating, we must love ourselves before falling in love with someone else. Another person being the reason for your survival is never healthy.

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