Life is much more hectic these days with the wide web playing a much bigger role in our lives today. Various networks, apps, web chats are used for business and social interaction building networks, friendships and relationships. I’ve discussed in previous posts how we are replacing physical social interaction for a virtual one and how this affects the relationships we form, especially those online. The online world is a benefit to those who are shy, find it difficult to interact with others, and use communicating online as a stepping stone to meeting in the physical world. It’s when people take advantage of the anonymity the online world has to offer.
The online dating world has become extremely popular no longer having the same negative stigma attached with it. Perhaps as we evolve we are becoming fussier thus wanting our ideal life partner to meet certain levels of expectations we have created for ourselves. There is nothing wrong with wanting what you deem to be the best but what if the person who you have been speaking to for a period of time isn’t who you think they are?
What do you think of when you hear the word ‘Catfish’? Maybe you immediately associate the name with a type of fish, or perhaps you associate the word with someone pretending to be someone else via the internet?
Every time we create a profile for ourselves, whether it be on a social networking website or a dating website we are putting ourselves at risk. Information about ourselves, once out there it is out there for good stored on the internet highway. We are at risk of identity thefts, hackers etc. We are forever being warned to be cautious about who we connect with, what information we choose to share on a public level and what information we should keep private or be protected with the correct security settings.
The same applies to the online dating websites. Online dating sites do not ask any physical verification to proof an individual is the person described in the profile. It is stated in the match.com’s terms and conditions that the website accepts no responsibility of anyone of creates a fraudulent profile but advises their users to be cautious and to basically use their common sense in order to protect themselves.
Match.com Terms and Condition excerpt
‘ Article 5: Your Safety and Security
…. we do not have a contractual obligation nor moral or ethically responsibility or the technical means to:
verify the identity of persons who register as Members or use our Services; or to verify or monitor Member Content (although we do reserve the right to monitor if we think it appropriate).
As a Member you are advised not to assume that any Member Content is accurate. A person may not be who he or she claims to be. You should at all times exercise the same caution you would normally when you meet people. We cannot be liable for false or misleading statements by Members.
As a Member you at all times remain solely responsible (and liable) for the use of your identification information by third parties or for the actions or statements made through your Member’s account, whether these be fraudulent or not.’
eHarmony safety tips excerpt
‘eHarmony does not conduct criminal background checks at the time an account is registered.
Assessing a match’s truthfulness and honesty is ultimately your responsibility. Don’t ignore any facts that seem inconsistent or “off.” Trust your instincts and remember that you have control over the situation. If you’re talking to someone online or by phone and they say things that raise your suspicions, consider ending the conversation. If you’re out on a date and you feel uncomfortable, leave.’
Should dating websites take some responsibility towards protecting their users from dating fraudsters? Neither example I’ve used carry out CRB checks on the creator of an account. Online dating memberships can be costly, if they were also to start carrying out the necessary checks to verify a new member’s identity that would fund the cost of this? The assumption would be the users through membership fees. We also have to consider the possibility that just because a person does not have a criminal record does not necessarily mean they do not harbor any morally wrong intentions.
Some American online dating websites have taken things to the next level. Users of their mobile app are able to see which other singletons from the same website are in the area and communicating with them.
Romantic liaison do not just happen through a dating website, a lot of relationships develop in the social media world such as Facebook and Instagram.
Social media in general plays a large part in people meeting each other across the bytes, chips and sparks of the internet. Facebook prohibits the creation of profiles of people that are not human, under the age of 13, over the age of 99, or fake / false profiles. Like with internet dating there are no checks in place to verify the person’s identity. Take this article from the BBC News website; Fake girlfriend: I paid for make-believe love on Facebook. For a small fee, in this case $5 someone will pretend to be your girlfriend on Facebook. They will have a Facebook account from which there are pictures and updates of this person. This person will also leave messages on your Facebook page as if they were your real girlfriend, note the name used in the Facebook profile is fake yet everything else about the Facebook profile was genuine.
Even with all the necessary precautions taken some Catfish do manage to slip through the net.
The general advice given is to not get too wrapped up in a profile, after all profiles are just full of words. A person may appear genuine and sound genuine but that doesn’t mean you have to start trusting a complete stranger, as effectively that is what they are. Some websites ask you to verify your email address and phone number for potential suitors to contact you. It is up to you as to how comfortable you are with this, you could have a separate email specifically for your online relationships. Meet in public places and let someone know where you are going.
If the person doesn’t want to meet sooner rather than later then it could be time to nip it in the bud. However I have heard stories where people have met online and met in person yet one party was not completely honest and was leading a double life.
At the end of the day any relationship online and offline is built on trust. My advice would be, as soon as those alarm bells start ringing like crazy, it’s time to move on. Anyone can create an online persona for themselves but does that persona resonate into the real world?