If you've had a bad experience with online dating, here's some more bad news. A relationship expert suggests it's the way people get together now. The numbers are in online dating's favor.
“There are 54 million single Americans today,” said Wichita State University’s Deborah Ballard-Reisch, who has researched the subject of communication and relationships for about 20 years. “Forty million of them are online in one way or another. You have a better chance of meeting Mr. or Ms. Right today than you ever have.”
So far, Viola, of South Carolina, isn't convinced, after signing up with a dating site.
“The few guys I did chat with were clearly looking for flings,” she wrote in a ConsumerAffairs post. “Also, I have noticed that since signing up, they don't send emails telling me when someone has flirted or sent emails like before I signed up (I guess they have my money now). I wish I had spent my $80 on a new pair of shoes!”
Maybe Viola would have better luck if she joined activities at church or took a class. You might meet someone with common interests but that universe is small compared to the online world.
Less in-person contact
“We used to develop romantic relationships with people we went to school with or knew through church, or family or friends introduced us to, and now we supplement that by meeting people online,” Ballard-Reisch said. “And the world of people available to us has exploded exponentially because of that.”
But that's not always a good thing. While the opportunity to get to know others has increased because of online dating, Ballard-Reisch says people need to be aware of some of the risks. One of the biggest, mentioned frequently in ConsumerAffairs posts about dating sites, is fraud.
“This site is full of scammers,” complained Chris, of Milwaukee. “I have been asked for money by subscribers several times. I see the same members posting under a different username.”
“There are a number of international consortiums that get on online dating sites and pretend to be someone they’re not in order to get money out of people,” Ballard Reisch said. “So if someone asks you to send them money, especially out of the country, run.”
Sometimes it's obvious you are being scammed. Sometimes, there are more subtle tell-tale clues.
“One of the things to look out for in online dating is that, when people claim language fluency and then they have grammar and syntax and spelling errors, if their language doesn’t seem right, it likely isn’t,” Ballard-Reisch.
Even if you are convinced the person you are striking up a relationship with is who they appear to be, it's wise to take nothing for granted. Sadly, it's guilty until proven innocent.
“This might sound coarse, but so much information is available to us online now, if you’re thinking of meeting someone you have met only online, Google them,” Ballard-Reisch said. “Use multiple search engines. Consider seeking criminal background checks. Make sure that people are who they say they are.”
She has other online dating safety tips; If you decide to meet someone in person that you’ve spoken with only online, always meet in a public place the first few times. Drive yourself. Let your friends and family know where you’re going, with whom and when you plan to return. Have a panic word in case you have a quick second to call them if you need help. And keep your phone online so you can be tracked through GPS if necessary.
That might sound a little extreme, but Balland-Reisch says it's simply a prudent precaution. Just last month a Las Vegas woman sued Match.com after she said she was stabbed by a man she met on the dating site. We used to be able to rely on our support networks — our family and friends — to vet people for us. When we meet people online, we can’t do that anymore.
And more and more, we are meeting people online. Despite all the nightmare stories and bad experiences, Ballard-Reisch says an estimated one in five romantic relationships start online today.