This past Monday, Luc was charged with another felony – False Pretenses. While this charge was related to falsifying information on the life insurance application he took out on my son, I couldn’t help but think that Luc’s entire life has really been based on many False Pretenses. In the interest of full disclosure, I must admit that I met Luc via match.com. At the time, I was pushing 30 and ready to settle down. I had just relocated to the DC area, and was interested in meeting people outside of my current circle. While on some level I had heard negative reviews of online dating, I had decided that I was going to be all in and remain optimistic. ‘I will know if someone is lying to me once I meet them,’ I thought confidently. ‘It will be so obvious if something is wrong with them from the first date,’ I said to myself naively.
While Luc never wanted to admit we met via Match.com (possibly because he had used it in the past to target women), I have no shame in admitting that is how I met him. In fact, I think online dating is one of the most dangerous ways to meet someone. Sure, there are tons of normal people who have met their current partner via a dating site, but there are also all sorts of predators online. The Internet is a scary place full of all sorts of smoke and clouds. It is very easy for someone to completely reinvent themselves, and hide behind the virtual curtain long enough to be dangerous.
So this week, I wanted to lay out some reasons why I will never on-line date again. For those of you who want to try it out, keep in mind the below when you are meeting people so that you can go into this arrangement with your eyes completely open.
1) The Profile Trap: On just about every dating site, the dater is encouraged to write something about themselves. People will write what they want others to know about them, and dishonest people can use their profile to lay the groundwork for a complete sham. After reading someones profile, you might get the false impression that you know that person, even before you meet. Much of the information that people put on their profile cannot be vetted, nor is it common for people to vet information before the first date anyway.
2) Connections Prior To Face To Face: A lot of people feel more comfortable speaking to someone on the phone or talking to them online well before they meet them. While in some ways, this might make sense. This practice ended up being dangerous for me. After speaking to Luc on the phone, and through emails, I felt as though I had already invested some emotions before I was able to see him in person. I remember the moment I laid eyes on Luc. As soon as I saw him, I got an uneasy feeling in the pit of my stomach that made me want to run screaming. He didn’t look anything like the picture he had given me, and something felt wrong. That said, I had spent so much time talking to him, I felt invested enough to continue the date. If I hadn’t felt this sort of investment, I wouldn’t have thought twice about just ditching out on the date and never contacting him again.
3) Degrees of Separation: One of the things that drew me to online dating was the fact that I wanted to meet people outside of my circle. That said, it would have been much safer had I stayed in my circle. Meeting people through friends gives you a natural vetting mechanism. Luc, on the other hand, would never have run in my circles. He would never have worked with anyone I knew (because he didn’t work), he never would have gone to school with anyone I knew (because he was a high school drop out from out of state), and he never would have met any of my friends through any hobbies (because he played video games all day). Because we didn’t have anyone in common, I was completely reliant on “vetting” him through the people he presented to me (see number 4).
4) Third Party Deceit: I remember explaining to a friend how comfortable I was with online dating. One of the things I was comfortable with was the idea that after meeting someone, I could always insist on meeting their family and friends. Surely, if you meet family and friends (all of whom rave about how great the person is), that has to say something right? WRONG. Luc presented an entire fake family to me. I went to their home, and they claimed to be his aunts, uncles, and cousins. They told me stories that backed up what Luc said he did for a living. After I left Luc, I came to learn that these people had no relation to Luc and currently don’t have any contact with him. In addition to a fake family, Luc introduced me to several attorneys. These attorneys claimed that they were his business attorneys. This helped him uphold the story of being gainfully employed. None of this was actually true.
Most dating sites don’t do anything to verify the information that someone puts in their profile. While you can meet a psychopath anywhere, before you enter the online dating world you should understand the risks associated with this venue. You should also know that many dangerous people use internet dating to troll for new victims. If you meet someone in person who has clearly misrepresented themselves (i.e. put someone else’s picture online, etc), don’t feel bad just walking away. And if you ever get the impression that their story doesn’t seem to match up, it is probably because they are not telling you the truth.
I understand my story is one of the more extreme stories. The man I met online was a walking false pretense. Before I met him, however, I was one of the people who believed I would never end up being that girl from that terrible lifetime movie. Now, I realize the only difference between me and that girl is that my story hasn’t been on Lifetime yet.