I’ve read a number of articles lately that discuss whether or not to give your phone number out to someone you meet online. As usual, my head exploded because of all the special snowflaking and Stranger Dangering.
It’s very easy to get caught up in all of the warnings and horror stories. But it’s important to take all of the bad things and complaints you hear with a grain of salt. More often than not, the people complaining either aren’t telling the whole story, are trying to brag or have some pretty serious emotional or psychological issues. For example, I was reading a comment over at xoJane recently that was written in response to these helpful online dating safety tips.
In the comments, a woman shared that she asks all of the men she meets online to take a picture of their driver’s license and send it to her before she agrees to meet them. When I asked how many of the men obliged her request she said, “Every. single. one.” Let’s suspend our disbelief for a moment and assume this is the truth. How desperate do you think these men must be to open themselves up to possible stalking? Because, like, men get stalked too. (Though, let’s be honest, women are far more at risk when it comes to possible physical harm.) If someone were to ask you for such private information – someone you’ve never met – would you do it? Probably not. But it sure makes you sound in demand and special to say that everybody bends to your whim, doesn’t it? Exactly. If someone I met online asked me for such information, I would immediately categorize them as shady or exceptionally paranoid. Sorry not sorry, but I’m not interested in playing nursemaid to someone.
Then there’s this woman who is weirdly proud of the fact that she “tricks” men into giving her their license. Apparently she creates a fake license with a fake identity so that she can give it to them in order to get them to show her theirs. Then she runs to the bathroom and copies down all their info and rushes home to do a background check. Because that’s what normal, stable people do, amirite?
The majority of the Chicken Littles who run around warning everybody about online dating safety and share their scary stories and offer “helpful tips” on how to avoid “the creeps” fall into these categories:
1. The have no luck dating online - The author of this article repeatedly writes about her bad luck trying to date online. She even wrote the cliched piece about how she’s taking a break from online dating because she’s just so fatigued by all the douchebags she meets. That, in and of itself, should be considered a red flag. Sorry, but online dating just isn’t as hard as she has depicted. It’s not. There’s something going on with her that is getting in the way. I don’t know what it is, but I do know that it goes beyond bad luck.
2. They don’t know their audience – We’ve talked before about all the Google Pros who dig 8 pages deep in the search results because “something wasn’t right” about their date. All you need to know is that something isn’t right. You don’t need to know what it is. I would guess in the majority of those cases, those people were batting spectacularly out of their league. That, more than anything else, is what has triggered that person’s suspicions. Why is this person interested in me? Yes, why is that person interested in you? That’s what you need to determine in order to break the cycle. What are these people seeing in you that makes them think they can get one past you? Trust your judgment and listen to it.
2. They are manipulating the facts – This author is constantly telling people how to avoid all the catfishes and creeps and guys just looking for sex, yet seems to consistently find herself involved with them. It’s fun to write about all the people you reject because it makes you sound so worldly and desirable, but eventually people catch on and realize that maybe they aren’t getting the whole story.
3. They have bad judgment/bad taste in the opposite sex - Oh, so you have kids at home and you still chose to ignore all of the red flags that the guy from hundreds of miles away exhibited? Okay. Yeah. He’s the only bad guy.
4. They’re atypically paranoid, possibly unwell, or hiding something themselves- It’s always smart to be cautious, but taking it to extremes indicates deeper issues. As I have always said, if somebody wants to find or contact you, they will. That’s why I don’t bother taking extreme measures to make myself impossible to find. Somebody who does that does that for a reason, and it isn’t security. As I mentioned to the author of this article, who said that she writes online under an alias but posts photos of herself, there’s no hiding anymore for anybody. Not sure what she thinks she’s accomplishing by being so mysterious with her photos and pen names, but it all adds up to me thinking she’s hiding something. Ironic, right? But that’s what happens when people encounter someone who seem so risk averse that they create obstacles in order to prevent people from knowing who they are. Burner phones and anonymous email addresses and fake licenses all scream paranoid/unstable or special snowflake to me. There are always going to be those rare bad apples that make a nuisance of themselves. Welcome to the internet circa 2013. Thinking you can avoid them completely or that you can keep your true identity shrouded in a cloak of mystery (especially if you write online) is naive, annoying and a little unsettling in today’s day and age.
What the majority of these people really want to do is scare you from trying to meet someone online. Don’t listen to them. Learn to trust your own judgment, take the necessary precautions like meeting in a public place, know your audience and options, and you’ll be okay.