These days many people have communicated for months online before they finally meet one another. Online everyone is beautiful, single and sane, but in real life things could be very far from pretty.
Meeting your online partner is more dangerous than a normal blind date, because blind dates usually come recommended – hard as that may be to believe. Chatrooms also don’t have clickable buttons saying “click here for stalker”, or drug addict, or sex pest or serial one-night stand special, or professional sponger.
Be afraid, be very afraid
Before meeting this person, it is important to find out as much as possible about him/her. Be alerted by evasive behaviour, such as not wanting to tell you what they do for a living. Most people online should (you too) be hesitant about giving things like home addresses, so don’t read too much into this. But find out where they fit into the community, what their hobbies are, their family situation. If details given by someone are inconsistent, be very wary.
Keep in mind that sexy Sandra (26), a single chartered accountant, might actually be Sally (47), far from sexy, a divorced bookkeeper with three difficult teenagers and a psychotic ex-husband lurking in the background.
Importance of honesty
It is important that you must be honest about yourself, especially about what you look like and what your marital status. Send a recent photo of yourself, even if you don’t look like Prince Charming or Sleeping Beauty. At least then, if the person still wants to meet you, you have nothing to hide. If the other person doesn’t want to send you a photo or you suspect the photo is of someone else, be suspicious.
No money in the world can transform you in a weekend into your cousin, whose picture you sent to your online lover. Imagine the panic of trying to hide the extra 25 kilograms and two decades at your first meeting. Remember that no-one ever calls themselves Middle-aged Slob online.
Talk on the telephone
Real communication by telephone could also make you get to know a person much better. Their social skills and personality also become more apparent than when online.
Don’t give out your number until you feel you know the person reasonably well.
Never on the first occasion of meeting online.
Accept the fact that he might sound wonderful on the telephone, but have a good face for the radio. Don’t get your hopes up too high.
One step at a time
Take things slowly. Be suspicious about someone who is pressurizing you into a personal meeting within a very short period of time of meeting you online. Trust your gut instinct. Don’t pursue matters with someone if your sixth sense is telling you that something is not right.
Lonerider (29) - safely add at least seven years – has managed somehow to get to this age without you by his side. Another few weeks will make little difference. Remember that desperation is never attractive. Elaborate fantasies, whether of a sexual nature or not, which include you and make you feel uncomfortable, never point to a healthy and balanced state of mind.
There are a few things you could do to ensure your safety when meeting your online partner.
1. Get a telephone number from this woman or man. Not just a pager. If they don’t want to give you a home number, chances are the person is married or living with someone. Phone their work number to make sure there is indeed someone like that working there.
Snowgirl does not deserve your time and energy if she has been less than honest.
2.Always meet in a public place that you are familiar with on the first date. Even better if you know the owner of the place you are going to. Take care when you meet someone face-to-face.
Set the conditions (time and place and activity) and don’t let the other person change them at the last minute.
Be suspicious if he suddenly has to go home to look after his sick mother – it could be setup.
3. Tell someone you know where you are going and when you should be back. Also provide this person with as many details about your date as you have. If your date wants to keep the meeting a secret, this should be a red flag to you.
Lonerider could be trying to hide this meeting from his wife and three other girlfriends. Consider the possibility that he might have six other online names and be chatting with lots of different people.
4. Never allow yourself to be picked up from your home. It is not a good idea to give your address out to a stranger. Also insist on paying for yourself. You do not want to create any sense of obligation. It is also a good idea to have your own transport – or at least enough money for a taxi. In this way you can leave if there is any sign of trouble or even if you feel remotely uncomfortable. So what if he or she thinks you are rude?
The last thing you want is Sexygirl stalking you before the Mother’s Day Family Dinner at your flat.
5. Pay attention to everything that this person has told you about him or herself. If you find out that your date has lied about anything, be very wary. What else did this person lie about to you?
If your cashier in the Merry Corner Butchery turns out to be a school secretary, you have to ask yourself what else she has lied about?
6. Don’t take this person home after the first meeting, no matter how well things went.. You do not know this person. Also don’t go to their house until you know him or her better. Use the same kind of common sense and rules that you would use in any type of dating relationship. You have no background on Lonerider except what he told you. And he knows you would not have met him if you knew about the second bankruptcy and the six months spent behind bars for fraud. He could have really scary sexual tastes, which he also would not necessarily have shared beforehand.
Be sensible, regardless of how attractive you find this person. Take things slowly and be cautious. It is not unknown for sex pests and stalkers to use the Internet chatrooms to find their next victim. Don’t find yourself in the kind of situation where you have to ask yourself, “How could I have been so stupid?”
- (Susan Erasmus, Health24, February 2004)