You’ve head of online dating and maybe you indulge in it yourself from time to time. I’ve done the same. I’ve met some very nice people although certainly not The One. Very seldom do I see that happening around me although a colleague seems to have met her man that way. She however, paid for her match. Free dating sites sound somewhat riskier to me. Anyone who is unwilling to put out a few bills, answer an extensive online profile. and submit several personal photos probably isn’t interested in a serious relationship. If you aren’t looking for love (in all the wrong places?) then maybe free sites such as POF may be a reasonable starting point to meet friends or go out on casual dates.
Paid sites, such as Match.com seem to have a better success rate for men and women but that doesn’t mean there aren’t catfish and trolls on their too. They just sound a little smoother at their game. Match has just started screening sex offenders to make the site a little safer. It “made the decision to screen after a California woman filed a lawsuit last week against the company, claiming a man she met on the dating site sexually assaulted her after their second date. The suit says the alleged attack could have been prevented ifMatch.com had checked users’ names against public sex offender registries.” However (there’s always a however), I am a firm believer that a smooth computer/sexual criminal can find a way around that by inventing a bogus identity so he can slip underneath the Match radar.
I also think that a catfish who pays for an online dating membership is probably grooming victims to get money out of them, rather than merely satisfying a sadistic need to torment unsuspecting site members. And there have been worst scenarios where women have gone to hotel rooms to meet their “sexy stranger” and paid with their lives. Do you remember the Craigslist killer? That’s a feather worth keeping in your cap if you’re dating online. Sneaky sites as I refer to them such as Ashley Madison and Seeking Arrangement are just all kinds of wrong from the get-go. SA cannot be legitimate. Why is a millionaire going to waste his time meeting gold-diggers online? I’m sure he can easily meet them in his daily business. One of their assurances for these so-called millionaires states there are “8 sugar babies for 1 sugar daddy”. Wonderful.
Ashley Madison just rubs me the wrong way. Seeking a partner for an adulterous rendez-vous is just wrong. And dangerous. Meeting a woman or man at a motel is just not a smart thing to do (see the aforementioned Craigslist killer information). But Madison sets up its members to do exactly that. Where else are you going to meet for sex? At your husband or wife’s home? You are going to be somewhere alone, isolated and very vulnerable. No doubt you’ll probably be unarmed too since an attack will be the last thing on your mind.
However (there’s always a however) the problem with any dating site, free or paid, is that there are always catfish, (or people I call trolls since they are trolling for victims), looking to reel you in. These are people with phony profiles who are out to scam legitimate people on the same site. I watched an interesting episode of Dr Phil (not someone I tend to have a lot of respect for, since I doubt his agenda) about four women who were victims of the same “catfish.” One woman was “involved” online with “Shaun” for 2 1/2 years without even meeting him (he always had a reason why he couldn’t). Another was “dating” him for 2 1/2 months. Imagine their shock and psychological trauma when the women discovered that Shaun (also known as David) was a woman. The catfish managed to fool the women in this manner:
- she scanned a few photographs of a good-looking man who had nothing to do with the scam (he was identified and made a webcam appearance on the show) and presented the photos as her own.
- She posted the photos on POF.
- she created a fraudulent identity
- She told the women early in the relationship that she loved them.
- The woman had a very gruff, deep voice when she spoke on the phone.
- She groomed the women the way a pedophile grooms a child victim: she listened to what the women wanted to hear from her, analyzed their personalities, and told them whatever they needed to hear to remain “involved” with her
- morbid fascination with hurting others
- built files of her victims
- isolated the victims
After discovering that she had been deceived by a catfish, one woman used a knife to scratch and gauge her own abdomen and the inside of one arm. As an aside, for that woman to be so traumatized as to punish herself in that manner, that suggests to me that this isn’t the first time she has committed self-harm. This may be a sad way of life for her. Dr Phil didn’t discuss that perspective on television, probably because the focus of the show wasn’t on her self-mutilation but on the phishing that led to her self-abuse.
The Catfish Profile
Before old Phil created a list of traits for this individual I’d already made up my mind that she was a psychopath or at least exhibited several pathological traits. Several of the traits Dr Phil listed are found on Canadian psychologist Robert D Hare’s Psychopathy Checklist:
- no conscience
- no remorse
- glib charm
- incapacity to love
- uses melodrama
- grandiose self-worth
- callousness and lack of empathy
There are a few more but you get the idea The melodrama thing on the Phil show was crazy. The catfish told all of these women (and many more) that she couldn’t meet in person because (this isn’t exclusive):
- she broke her finger and was on pain medication
- her grandmother died
- her niece had been in a car accident and had two broken legs
- her son was having seizures
- she had migraines that had progressed into a brain tumor
- she was receiving chemotherapy
- she had knee surgery
- her mother had breast cancer
- she was getting physical therapy on her knee
The Victim Profile
Quite a list isn’t it? You may wonder why it was that these attractive, intelligent women were so taken in by the catfish. There’s a few reasons Dr Phil discussed and I have mixed in a few opinions of my own. Phil (and I) stated:
- victim is gullible and lonely
- victim lies to herself
- victim is somewhat or very isolated
- victim is emotionally unstable
- victim has low self-esteem and confidence
- victim is in self-denial
- victim has been abused in a previous and significant, intimate relationship (ie. childhood or teen years)
- victim has had a series of unsuccessful, disappointing relationships
- victim repeats the same mistake when choosing a romantic partner
- victim isn’t self-aware
I want to elaborate on a couple of these items.
Victim is isolated – old Phil commented that the catfish was able to isolate these women. That sounds odd for an online relationship but what I think he meant was that the catfish psychologically isolated these women. Isolation comes about first and foremost within one’s mind. A person can be completely surrounded by family, friends, strangers yet feel she is utterly alone.
Victim repeats the same mistake when choosing a romantic partner – I read a great Aboriginal expression: a lesson will be repeated until it is learned. I don’t remember who the man was that wrote and published it. He was referring to life lessons and what that philosophy meant was that a person will keep making the same mistake in life over and over until s/he recognizes their error and stops making it.
Victim isn’t self-aware – if you don’t recognize your own needs and your own strengths then you aren’t going to find a healthy relationship. Finding out what lies at your core is a good beginning. For some people that takes professional assistance. Nothing wrong with that.
Victim lies to herself – The women on the Phil episode knew “long before you found out the truth” that they were being conned. It just isn’t possible for a partner to truly love you yet not want to meet you in person! In fact, I’ve often wondered how it is that a victim even considers herself to have a “partner” she has only corresponded with online. Until the two meet, there is no “partner” and no “relationship.”
Victim is in self-denial – when a friend of mine told me a new man she met couldn’t meet with her for the next three weeks because
he would be out-of-town and he would love to email but he’s too busy, and she absolutely believed him, I wanted to slap her. Clearly, he tried to let her down easy but she wouldn’t let him. She lied to herself and truly expected to hear from him three weeks later when he had “returned” from his business trip. When that didn’t happen my friend actually tried to contact him to find out when they would get together. Seriously. She only managed to leave messages on his cell phone and he didn’t return her emails, two developments that truly floored her (roll eyes in head).
It’s not that I’m insensitive to people’s need for love and intimacy. These are basic human needs, as is socialization on a platonic level with friends. These emotional needs are even included in the middle rank of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. That’s a cool little pyramid and a very powerful one.
Safety First, Kiddies
- never meet someone for the first time at your home or at theirs
- always meet in public for your first few dates
- don’t reveal too much personal information to an online “date”, whether you meet or not
- hold off on feeling and expressing “love” for several months….at the very least, make sure you have met in person
- meet as soon in the online chat stage of your relationship as possible
- anyone who keeps inventing excuses as to why she or he can’t meet is a phony…..end it
- never give money and never give your “date” access to your personal finances
- don’t allow your “date” access to your identification…you don’t need to become a victim of identity theft
- never co-sign for a loan or vouch for your date in a financial, immigration or legal matter
Often online dating turns out to be okay, disappointing, successful, or just unlucky. Most of the time it doesn’t involve extreme relationships like the aforementioned. But it doesn’t hurt to be aware of the negative possibilities in case you happen to reel in a catfish when you’re fishing for a record-breaking bass.