Manti Te'O. Image source: NPR

Don’t Get Te’Od: 5 Ways to Protect Yourself When Online Dating

Manti Te'O. Image source: NPR
Manti Te’O. Image source: NPR

Written by Alanna Gardner, MFT

From the recent Manti Te’o scandal to MTV’s new hit show Catfish, the possible dangers of establishing an online courtship have garnered massive media attention. “Catfishing”, as it’s been dubbed in the social media world, is the art of engaging an unsuspecting person in a romantic online courtship with an individual that is falsified by another individual seeking attention.  With online dating quickly rising as a way for people to meet, connect and start relationships; it is important to know the warning signs and protect yourself emotionally and physically from those who are utilizing a deceitful online presence.

1. Choose Your Sites Wisely
If you’re choosing the online dating route, make sure to align yourself with verified and reputable dating sites such as Match.com. Using a site not geared to dating, like Facebook to start a relationship (unless reconnecting with someone you’ve met before in person) can increase your chances of meeting someone who is using a fake profile and picture to meet others.

2. Use technology to your benefit
With Skype, web cams, and other forms of visual technology; it’s hard to not be able to connect and actually see the person you’ve been chatting with online. If the person is repeatedly unable or not willing to engage in this form of communication that should be an instant red flag!

3. Spend more time talking on the phone
As time goes on more people are using their phones for texting and iMessaging instead of actually calling each other. Take time out to chat on the phone consistently instead of texting/emailing all day. Some conversations like disagreements or those of the sexual nature you want to have on the phone so you’re able to hear the intimacy and emotions in a person’s voice. A lot can be miscommunicated through texts!

4. Schedule a meet up in a safe place

If things are going well and you trust your online love enough to meet in person, do so in a safe way. Meet in a public area, during the day on a weekend or schedule a group outing with friends so you as well as your circle can get a good feel of the person and their intentions.

5. Trust your gut

Finally you have to trust your intuition above all else. Deep down most of us can feel when a situation isn’t right. If you’re online mate is distant, consistently redirects conversation away from them, won’t speak to you on the phone or continuously makes excuses for not wanting to meet up in person, heed the red flags and listen to your gut!

Being the butt of an online prank, especially when it’s a fake relationship, is embarrassing, hurtful and emotionally taxing to the victim. It takes a lot to emotionally open up to someone and to find out the person was not trustworthy can make it difficult to want to try your luck in love again. Have you or anyone you know experienced heartbreak due to a negative virtual experience?

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