How to navigate the dangers of internet dating

How to navigate the dangers of internet dating

Internet dating: meet the person of your dreams? Or your worst nightmare? Here are tips on how to safely choose your next internet date.

It is possible to find love online, but you need to know and heed a few things first. (Photo: Pexel/Claire Hickey)

FORT WORTH, Texas, February 3, 2016 — It seems that old- fashioned courtship has gone the way of rotary phones, analog TV and dinner made without a microwave oven.

With the advent of the Internet, online dating has become an intrinsic part of our society. So much so that the use of these services no longer labels a person “desperate” in the quest for a partner.

Computer generated matchmaking is nothing new though.

Jeff C. Tarr and Vaughn Morrill founded the very first computer dating service while undergraduates at Harvard in 1965. They named it Operation Match and distributed questionnaires to Boston-area colleges. Respondents filled them out and sent them back. The cost was $3 and a stamp.

Aided by David L. Crump and Douglas H. Ginsburg (Cornell University dropout, Harvard Law School professor, judge and was a Reagan nominee for the Supreme Court,) data was transferred to punch cards, which were fed into a rented computer the size of a small room. Computers certainly have changed since then.

There were some marriages as a result of this service but Crump doesn’t necessarily believe it was because of their method. He explains, “…statistically, if you match up a million people, marriages are likely to happen.”

Courtship has changed quite a bit in the last 60 years
Courtship has changed quite a bit in the last 60 years

Back then, as now safety doesn’t necessarily come to mind in the quest for love. Safety and love go hand in hand, right? And if matched by a computer, wouldn’t both people have the same morals and values?

Of course that thought doesn’t take into account the honesty of the dating-site participants. and others know this and the former even has a Safety Tips page. Here is what it says about criminal background checks:

“We don’t conduct criminal background checks on our users, so if you would like more information about someone, we recommend using the Internet and government resources available to everyone.”

How many people stop to think about how safe they will be in their quest to meet “the One?” If people would consider it when meeting in person why wouldn’t they do that when meeting on the Internet?

One dating site consumer found out the hard way. Mary Kay Beckham incurred the wrath of a date by the name of Wade Ridley. They went out eight times when she realized something was wrong with him and broke it off. Ridley broke into her garage one night and waited for her to come home. As soon as Beckham got out of the car Ridley pounced. He stabbed her ten times and stomped on her head and neck. Thankfully she survived, but not without restorative surgery and a long convalescence.

In January of 2013 Beckham filed suit against for $10 million citing the site lulls customers into a “false sense of security.” She feels the safety tips provided are not enough and that warnings on the site should be more plain and clear. A judge threw out her case in May of that same year.

Should dating sites provide criminal background checks? Or should the responsibility remain with the subscriber?

Tread carefully and pay attention to your instincts. Your love interest may not be showing his/her true face. (Photo: Pexel)
Tread carefully and pay attention to your instincts. Your love interest may not be showing his/her true face. (Photo: Pexel)

Jennie Cesario, 49, of Los Angeles, says she used Christian Mingle’s online dating service and found the outgoing guys she had requested turned out to be shy, hard to get to know men. 

She adds, however, the responsibility lies with both the dating site and the subscriber: “I do believe they [dating sites] bear part of the burden to pre-screen a bit better, for red flag issues like a tendency to become a stalker, with the intent to commit violence, to the softer issues like making sure that once you’ve stated your preferences, those who contact you actually fit that description.”

She goes on to say that as for safety, she feels a person should treat online dating the same as offline dating. This includes background checks and not getting into a compromising position where a woman can’t reach law enforcement if needed. Yet Cesario concedes that you cannot be 100% safe and that criminals are very, very good at covering their true intentions. There is always risk as a certain amount of trust is necessary to begin a relationship. It’s a Catch-22.

Common sense tells us to not expect anyone or anything to be in charge of one’s own safety. And initially said it would be too difficult to do background checks on all its subscribers. But if it’s easy for the average Jo or Joe to go to a website to find background information, why is it too difficult for a multi-million dollar company to do it?

Since then has started doing background checks. A representative for the company says new technologies and databases make it easier to investigate members. But they warn that while it will help in some instances, the system is still flawed and they don’t want to give out a false sense of security to members.

Does this mean one should never look to the Internet to find love?

Patrick Hansen and Carrie Dodd met on the Internet while playing online games. Over the course of five years, their relationship developed into more than friendship and they are now happily married.

[Read more about them in my next article about how they came to be together, moving from online acquaintances to soul mates.]

The dating world has changed dramatically with the advent of online romance. But some things haven’t. If you ignore your gut instinct and common sense your quest for love can lead to tragedy, just as before.

It seems like the best course of action is to go slowly and tread carefully. You never know if the person at the other end of the Internet highway is your dream come true or your worst nightmare.


Read more of Claire’s work at Feed the Mind, Nourish the Soul in the Communities Digital News and Greater Fort Worth Writers.

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