With the rise of Internet dating, come the stories of success, failure and strange experiences in the cyber-world. At the heart of it all is the mantra ‘be yourself’ which is bandied about as a lesson to us all, and most of us take heed. After all, what is the point of being someone else? They are not real and the truth inevitably rears its ugly head in the end. There are, however, some online daters who prefer to tread the fictional side of life, believing that you have to really stand out from the crowd to be noticed, so what harm can come from stretching the truth?
Being your ‘Best Self’
It is difficult to project the best image of yourself in the hope of getting attention online. According to News.com.au, men can be the worst offenders of inappropriate chat up lines and dodgy techniques to win themselves a date. A bad experience of being yourself can lead to a good experience of being someone else, so it’s easy to understand the temptation.
Men are guilty of posting peculiar photos of themselves online, with topless shots being a common choice. Another offender is the photo taken many moons ago, the one that doesn’t even look like you. Women can also offend with dishonest photos. A guy once told me that he had arranged to meet a woman on a dating site who had sent him a photo of herself. When he turned up she called his name but he could not recognise her at all. The photo was a good 15 years out of date. When I asked him if he bought her a drink anyway, or at least had a chat with her, he shook his head and said he drove off, leaving her standing there, which didn’t give me the impression that he was being his ‘best self’. There should be a certain etiquette to online dating, after all, where a man remains a gentleman, shouldn’t there?
Who’s Real and Who Isn’t
It difficult to tell truth from fiction with online dating because you are basing your opinion on someone’s photo and profile. Photos can bewitch us and we sometimes just skim read the words beside them. Men and women base their views on each other’s ‘attractiveness’, and this is a subjective, personal thing that changes with every person, but what use is attractiveness if the person online prefers tall women and you are 5’2, or you have strong anti smoking views and they are a 40 a day kind of guy?
Regardless of taste and idiosyncrasies, you will not know how ‘real’ they are until you meet them. This should take place somewhere very public, where there are a lot of people around you, not because he or she may be a psychopath but because they might not be who you thought they were. Height cannot be disguised in reality, nor can age or weight. If you are the guilty culprit and have indulged in a little harmless fiction online, your date will not thank you for this.
If you are on the receiving end of a date’s ‘unreality’, you might want to run for the toilets and hope the window is large enough for a quick exit. If you don’t think you can survive the next five minutes, perhaps leaving is the only course of action you can take. However, it might be useful to sit down with the person and ask why they felt the need to reinvent themselves for you; just how insecure are they? You never know, you could end the date on a high note, if only because you both have a chuckle about it.
Sometimes people disguise the truth because they genuinely have something they feel they must hide, and a first date is not the right time for such reveals. These might be issues such as hair loss from anxiety or illness, or a recovering alcoholic who has sought help from a treatment centre and wishes to conceal this from their date. These are very different issues to the ones that tend to make or break a first date, and are concerned more with the obstacles life might throw at us and the guilt that ensues rather than deceit to get a date. No one wants to unburden themselves to someone they have just met as this would result in an uncomfortable situation. A first date is about making the right impression; it’s about finding out as much as you can, but it is not an interrogation and, above all, it should remain light and fun.
Many people get hooked on online dating when they are not really ready to date. This is part of the charm of cyber dating; it does not seem quite real. At the other end of the spectrum there are those who check their emails every few minutes and spend hours glued to their computer screens, according to Womans Day. Then there are those who have one bad experience and disappear from the site, missing the chance to meet their perfect partner, which is a real shame.
With truth separated from fiction, online dating can and should be a wholly positive experience. Keep it real, persevere and, above all, enjoy yourself.