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Is Your Online Prince Charming Really a Frog?
"Words are cheap." This old adage has taken on new meaning in the cyber world of hopeful meeting and virtual dating. Boy meets girl, they email, text, send pictures and links to social networking pages--and maybe even get to the point where they exchange phone numbers and have their first glimpse of what each other sounds like in real, connected time.
During this virtual courtship; many individuals begin to envision what it would be like to be with this other person. Their likes, dislikes, and the interests, activities and passions they will share are often visualized on a time continuum, stretching into a shared future together, all before the first face to face meeting. No wonder there are so many first date stories filled with disappointment, disgust and even horror.
Most of us know the social and networking advantages that cyber space offers--but have we given enough thought to the negatives and how to deal with them, right from the start? Follow along with me as I take a closer look at how and what folks say and don't say about themselves online, and offer tips on how you can learn to really "hear" what is being said.
* Online Profile
Let's begin with the personal ad, since this is usually the way introductions happen online. Ask yourself the following questions. Do you know what red flags to look out for? Do you read between the lines, looking for negativity, inconsistency, too much information, too little information, and comments that seem inappropriate and/or lead you to feel uncomfortable? Does he sound too good to be true? If so, he probably is. Does he make sexual innuendos? Are there any negative references to past girlfriends, bosses, family members or others in his world? Does he use many adjectives and list activities, pursuits, and interests that leave you with your eyes crossed? Does his profile tell very little about himself and leave you with more questions than answers--or try to tell too much, rambling on without getting to anything specific and notable? If you answered yes to any of these, step back, slow down, and if you really can't resist sending him a wink or an email--pick out one line you have red flagged and ask him a question about it in that first communication. Then pay close attention to his response. Make sure you approach any questions and concerns you may have in a direct and immediate way, before you have wasted time with the wrong someone for you.
Note his answers to the short answer questions--they can be revealing as the essay. Pictures are also important. How many does this guy post, and do they offer a snapshot of the life he writes about in his essay? If there are no pictures posted, beware. It usually means he just didn't bother to take the time and make the effort, he doesn't want visitors to see what he looks like, or he is concerned that he will be recognized (married?).
* Facebook page
Not only is this page important as a stand alone advertisement of who someone is; it is also something that you can Google, and perhaps get information from that a guy may not want you to know. Pictures offer the first clue. Who is included in his? Do they show glimpses of someone who appears different from the person he talks about in his profile? Any mention of a relationship, past relationships or activities that would disqualify him from your list of possibilities?
What are his online friends like? Does he have friends of both sexes? Is he "friends" with his family members, old school chums, or perhaps past girlfriends? If so, all of these relationships tell you something about him. Take note, as they will be a part of your life if you two begin actively dating.
How much time does he spend on social networking sites? Is this consistent with how he says he spends his time, and is it in balance with the rest of his life? If he is online frequently, his virtual relationships may be the primary ones in his life. How well does this fit with what you are looking for?
Compare his page with his profile and look for inconsistencies, new information, and any information that will help you sketch a clearer and fuller picture of the person contained in them.
* Forums and other online postings
The virtual nature of the internet makes it easy to find all kinds of information about another person. Anything that is posted online will show up, and get picked up and replicated as the information hits the virtual super highway. Perhaps this guy of interest has a passion or interest that is not mentioned in his profile. Maybe he has gone to online support groups, chat rooms or information pages, and added his thoughts, comments, feedback and ideas. If so these will come up under various key words, and can offer a more candid picture of him than what he has presented in his ad or social networking page.
* Third party references
These are the bits of information that be gleaned from newspaper articles, meeting notes and summaries, professional/workplace websites, records such as tax assessments, political contributions, and any information that is accessible on the internet. The existence of this information is not always known to an individual, and it can help you to see a side that may not be visible until after a relationship has begun.
Now that I have discussed some of the primary sources for gaining useful information about that guy that has caught your eye, and offered tips for interpreting it--I want to point out something that is probably pretty obvious already. That interesting guy can also use this same approach in his search for compatible women for dating and more. Note to all you guy readers out there--it does work just as well from your end. Therefore, before you get back online to peruse those ads and social networking pages--Google yourself and with an objective eye as possible, evaluate what is said about you, and decide if you look like a "keeper," or a "loser."
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Toni Coleman, LCSW
© Copyright 2008 Antoinette Coleman. All rights reserved.
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