Saturday, February 26, 2011

Post 61: Anti-Social Networking & Online Dating

Dear Journal,

I had taken quite a break from facebook and I had such a calm existence. Now, don't get me wrong, I like facebook. I like being able to keep in contact with friends from all points of my life and in all destinations. The ability to see the children I love grow from thousands of miles away is pretty precious too me.

But, I think that the internet, cell phones and technology has actually made people less social then before instead of more. Now, picking up the phone and having a real conversation can be cancelled out by a five second text. I recently asked a friend if she had remembered to invite a mutual friend to a lunch, she told me she would "Facebook" her. This meant send a quick email on facebook. There would really be no interaction. Sometimes, I think that a phone call is way better. For instance, if there are questions about an event: what to wear, directions, what to bring etc, they can be answered in one call instead of days of emails.

I say that the internet is antisocial for a couple reasons. First, it allows people to have an excuse not to see each other, send personal correspondences (like thank you cards), or interact. In a couple key strokes it allows for a person to dismiss another person. Friendships and relationships can be ended by simply changing a relationship status or deleting a person off of a friends list. Conversation, explanation not needed. People can read into status messages or emails whatever they like. Sarcasm where there is none, seriousness where there is sarcasm. I think that the written word can sometimes cause more miscommunication then clarification. Second, it allows people to hurt other people easier. It is so much easier to type out a string of curse words or insults when the person is not sitting in front of you. Third, it allows people to be fake. You aren't challenge to be real, raw, or honest on websites like facebook or myspace. People are only going to see the angle of the photo you choose to post, or the words you decide to write out. You can keep your enemies closer. You don't have to do your hair, makeup, or even brush your teeth to talk with your friends, yes that is nice, but you also don't have to be honest when they cant see your facial or body language.

It is fun to network. But if you are putting personal information on your page do you really need a thousand friends? If you are networking for work or a personal project why not have two pages? One for each? Surely you can't keep an interpersonal relationship working with a thousand people at once.

You are not "best friends" with a person from an online forum that you have never met. You can develop a friendship with a person online, I believe that, and I even believe you can start caring for a person but until you have met them in person you do not know what part of them is real or what part is simply an act. I have a friend like that. She is completely, one hundred percent, different online then she is offline. You can be anyone you want online. You can have the guts to say something online that you don't offline. You can be self assured and confident online and insecure and shy offline.

I love that the internet has introduced me to some of my best friends. I do. But the thing is, we found each other online and then hung out offline. We got to know each others mannerisms, beliefs, personalities in a way that is simply limited on the internet.

There are some women online that I have never met that I honestly think I would give my shirt off my back for. We have been online friends for years. We exchange ideas, thoughts, recipes, advice from thousands of miles away. We support each other when our husbands are deployed, we cheer when one gets promoted, cry when someone gets hurt, we oooh and ahhh over the birth of babies and weve kept in touch through multiple moves and adventures in our lives. I really do think of them as friends.

But again, that is a limited friendship. There is only so much I can do through a computer screen.

Online dating. I get it. It is a great way to "meet" a person. The point of online dating is not to keep fantasies or role play up for years on the internet. The point is to meet a person, in real life, outside of the computer screen, and grow a relationship out of it. Online dating can be a great tool in finding your future spouse, but it can also be a dangerous way to fall into the hands of predators. Being safe is the most important thing.

But, there are so many downfalls to this if you do not really meet the person. I will tell a couple, real, honest to God stories here. There was a unit of male soldiers stationed in Iraq who were bored out of their mind. They decided to start a "dating" game. These guys really got into this game. Many of them were married or in serious relationships. They put up profiles on a certain dating website and sat back and waited. They led multiple women along, pretending to fall in love with, these young, vulnerable women. They emailed, some went as far as to call, and skyped these girls. Each girl thought they had met the man of their dream. Meanwhile, the guys had multiple girls they were each doing this to and had a competition going to see who could get the most girlfriends, the most care packages, the most dirty pictures and who could get the best cyber video. Then, when they were ready to wrap up the deployment they deleted their fake email accounts, their fake dating sites and just disappeared from the women's lives. These women sat back in the States thinking their boyfriends/fianc├ęs had died or were injured. Some of the men went as far as to "break" up with their pawns. As a member of multiple online forums, unfortunately, I have read about this scenario on multiple occasions. Women who had spent hours upon hours talking with these guys on yahoo, skype, the phone, corresponding, sending presents, not dating anyone else for months finding out he was married, or that she was just a member of this game.

Then there are the guys, both civilian and military, who lie about who they are. They put up fake photos, fake careers. Can talk to a woman for months and play up this persona that doesn't exist. The internet allows for people to be whoever they want, whenever they want. It could be an old, bald, fat man sitting there saying he is a twenty something Marine in great shape emailing from Japan. It could be a young boy playing around online. A friend of mine had that happen. She thought she was "dating" a Marine who was stationed in Japan. She "talked" to him for months online, exchanged photos etc. Turned out the guy was fifteen, using photos of a dead Marine he found online, to fulfill sexual online fantasies.

If you are going to meet a person online make sure you do it safely. First, do not send anything you wouldn't want your mother reading. Second, do not correspond with someone who is overseas, in a dating capacity. Keep it plutonic. Real, mature men will understand that the need to grow as a friend first is important. Second, meet the person in real life. Do not exchange last names, addresses or personal information with the person until you do. Meet them in a public location, make a safe call to let a friend know where you are going and when you will be back. Third, if it seems too good to be true it probably is.

One of my pet peeves is when people say they were "dating" a person based on the amount of time they were "talking" to a person. Until you have met in real life you are not dating. You can't be sure the person is not talking out of his ass, you can't be sure he's not a married man or a fourteen year old playing you. I don't care if you have talked on the phone, on skype, or online. Anyone can pretend from a distance (or slip their wedding band off for a photo). No, you have not been dating for six months if you have never met him. You have been talking to, friends, or getting to know, sure.

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