“You’ve Got Mail”! A very popular phrase used in a Tom Hanks’ film a few years ago. Meg Ryan‘s character was always so excited to see that little phrase on her computer indicating ‘Joe Foxx’ had just sent her another message. The two exchange emails for quite some time, until one day they meet in person and fall hopelessly in love. Great love story, right? However, not necessarily always the case. Sometimes you meet someone on line only to find out later on, they were just an illusion. The person you thought you were meeting was displaying behaviors he or she wanted you to believe in. Not really the person you thought they were at all.
How many of you have ever met someone through the internet? Now a days with the world being so technically wired, communication is as easy as the push of a button. There’s ‘Match.com’, ‘E Harmony’, Facebook, Twitter and the list goes on. Several ways to meet on line. How safe is that really? Of course not everyone you meet turns out to be a serial killer, stalker, or fraud, yet you still need to be careful when approaching a relationship this way. It’s so easy for people to create fake profiles. They use fake pictures, fake information, they draw you in with what they think you want to hear. Suddenly, you find yourself having feelings, falling for a person you never even met. BINGO! They’ve got you right where they want you. You start divulging information about yourself, until one day you decide to meet. Then what? As I see it, the situation can fall a few ways. I’m about to tell you what I think about possible out comes.
First outcome when you meet someone via the internet, well you could actually have hit the jack pot! Perhaps your man or woman on the other side of the computer turns out to actually be someone extremely wonderful. Someone who was telling the truth about who they are or what they want out of life. Someone who genuinely has the same feelings for you, same interests and wants to pursue a relationship with you. How grand is that? You found your dream partner on line. Hmmm? Is that always the case? I think not.
Second outcome you meet your dream person, start dating, they are wonderful at first, but a few months down the road they end up displaying behaviors you had no idea they were capable of. They start asking you for favors, money or to do things for them. They stop communicating like they were in the beginning. No more sweetness, no more making you a priority, no more sweet talk….suddenly they are the complete opposite of what you ‘thought’ you were getting. “Where the heck did the person go that I thought cared so much about me?”, you ask yourself. You start wondering if there is something wrong with you or if you did something wrong to cause them to suddenly or gradually be disinterested. Reality is, they just used you. They had an initial purpose for getting to you in the first place, you served your purpose and now they are done with you. Sounds cold, right? Well, trust me, from many people who have emailed me with their stories seeking advice, I can tell you it happens. Sadly enough we live in a society where anyone can ‘Google’ you. They can pretty much find out anything they want about you via the internet. That’s why it’s so important to keep certain information private.
Third outcome and for sure the most serious, the person you’ve been communicating with turns out to be a complete fraud! They used a fake name, fake photo, fake identity only to suck you in and play with your mind. You never know what they really want. Are they trying to gain personal information about you to rip you off? Are they stalking you? Have you become a challenge? Are they a serial killer? You have absolutely no idea. You just find out that you’ve given out personal information that may or may not lead to your bank account or other assets you own. You may have trusted this person with personal information they can now blackmail you with or use against you. Best case scenario, they really just wanted to play games with you, finding it amusing to themselves for whatever reason. Unfortunately, you just never know who you are meeting online. Here are a few “Rules and Red Flags” when meeting people on line:
1 – Never give out your address or telephone number to a stranger.
2 – Turn off the navigator on your cellphone. Now a days, people can actually track your location through your phone.
3 – When making an account via Facebook , Twitter, Google or any other social network, make sure you offer the bare minimum information. Don’t display your telephone number, city you live in or even photos that may show your location. Avoid ‘checking in’ places.
4 – Never be too quick to complain about a dysfunctional relationship. This can and will be used against you. It makes you appear vulnerable, giving the perpetrator a way to get into your good graces.
5 – Run a background check. You can do this for a small fee. If you can’t afford that, Google them. If their trail only goes back a few months to 2 years, something is wrong.
6 – Never meet a stranger alone. If you really think you like someone and you want to meet, take a long a friend to a public place. If you don’t do that, then at least notify friends where you are and who you are with. Check in with them or have them check in with you every 30 minutes. Take separate cars and NEVER get into a car with someone you just me via the internet.
7 – Many times the younger crowd loves to post pictures of themselves partying on their social networks. This gives a predator information about where you like to hang out. Next thing you know, they are popping up at the places you frequent. You may not even know who they are or what they really look like, but they are there watching…waiting.
8 – Be ware of persistent invasive behavior. If the person on line is insisting you meet them but your gut is telling you otherwise, DON’T go! Trust your gut and your instincts. Never let yourself feel pressured into meeting someone you don’t know.
9 – If you start to have difficulties breaking off communication, call the police. Document if you receive harassing phone calls or emails. Even if the person threatens you, still call the police. Don’t be afraid. Step up and take care of the situation. Tell the person in clear terms not to contact you any more.
10 -If by chance the best case scenario works out and you believe you have found Mr or Mrs. Wonderful, give it time. Truly falling in love takes a long time. People fall in lust, fall in like, become enamored quickly, but when someone is truly in love with you they will mirror your feelings. They will stick with you through the good times and the bad times, they will be honest with you, respect you and trust you. They may have minor mood swings, but they will always be the dependable, consistent person who you never have to second guess.
It’s unfortunate in our current society that one must be so careful when finding love. Perhaps people are too quick to want to ‘find’ someone to love and love them in return. If you just take your time, sit back and allow the right person to find their way into your life, then you will probably end up with the right one. In the meantime, I hope my Rules and Red Flags help some be a little more careful when forming relationships via the internet.