10:07 AM

Looking For Love In All The Cyber Places

You may find your soul mate through cyberdating, but it's wise to take precautions that protect your privacy and keep you safe.

It's 10 p.m., and where are you? Still at work, in all likelihood. Staring at the computer screen, alone, eating a Yodel, Diet Coke in hand. Is this the way you want to live your life? What about making time to use all those frequent flyer points you earned--and, more important, finding the right person with whom to stroll along a romantic moonlit island beach?

So many of us work too hard, or spend so much time with our families that we don't have time to get out and meet people. You've already checked out the New York magazine personals, but unless you are a thin millionaire, athlete, and great cook who also writes poetry and saves the rain forest, there are few ads there that would solicit your response. But most of us realize that Prince or Princess Charming isn't going to knock on our front door between our favorite TV shows or online chats.

So, what the heck ... you drop by the cyberdating site of the week. There it's OK to be a computer geek. (You may find a fellow geek, too!) It's OK not to be a millionaire. (How many dot-commers are anymore, anyway?) And as far as cooking goes, if heating up White Castle burgers is your forte, you're in the right place. Perfect! Or is it?

Before we start ... you need to recognize that the only way to stay truly safe in any dating situation is to not date, period! There are always risks in dating, especially when you date strangers ... blind dates, first dates, and cyberdates. But, when you cyberdate, there are special risks. And those risks exist whether or not you decide to meet your cyberdate offline, f2f (face to face).

When you first meet a cyberdate in person, offline, you feel as though you know them ... the normal first-date precautions are often tossed to the wind. You know their favorite actors, authors, and foods. You know everything they have told you--but they may not have been telling you the truth. You don't really know them. So treat them as a stranger and use all the normal precautions you use with strangers, even cute ones. You shouldn't give any more information to a first cyberdate than you would to a stranger you meet on a plane, or in a club, or in a bar.

Online, keep in mind that people can pretend to be anything they want to be--beautiful, wealthy, someone of the opposite sex. The one rule you can count on is that everyone lies at least a little. Women tend to lie about their weight or age, while men tend to lie about their income, level of baldness, and athletic condition, for example.

The best thing about the Internet is also the most dangerous: A person's personality can show through, and what you are inside gets a chance to shine without getting overpowered by what you are outside. But, the cues we use in life, body language, dress, personal hygiene, tone of voice, and the way we judge the truth of statements are lost in cyberspace.

Take your time, use your head, and be careful!!!

But, that said, many people have found love online. So if you're still interested in trying to find your soul mate, here are a few safety tips:

  • Don't give out personal information online. Personal information that would let someone find you offline should never be shared online until you're pretty sure you can trust the person you're sharing it with. That includes your full name, where you work, where you live, your phone number, your fax number, your Web site address if it contains personal information, or Web site E-mail address.
  • Never share a photo with anyone online you wouldn't want broadcast to 120 million people all over the world. You don't want to give ammunition to someone if a cyberromance ends badly. When the old-fashioned "for a good time, call Sally" is posted on one bathroom wall, the results can be horrible. When a suggestive photo is posted on the Internet's cyberwall of sexual Usenet groups and chats, it can be very dangerous and even more embarrassing!
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