The phone starting ringing early in the evening on January 16th with news stations across the country wanting to know if the Manti’ Te’o story is common on the Internet.
In a Skype interview on KSDK in St. Louis, I talked about how to protect yourself from being a victim of a “Catfish.”
“The whole subject of fake profiles or falling in love with someone that doesn’t exist is sort of rampant,” says author and online dating expert Julie Spira.
She says some people are easy targets.
“They are so in love with love and they believe there is this unconditional love, and the moment someone shows them a lot of attention, if they’re lonely or if their heart has recently been broken and they become really vulnerable.”
“My number one tip is if you’re going to have a long distance pen pal with somebody and you’re flirting on facebook, text, or you’re on twitter or on an online dating site, get on the phone with them.”
She also says to google them, make sure their facebook pictures match the ones on the site where you met. And Skype with them.
“If somebody won’t hop on a Skype call, yet they’re saying I love you in a text message and they don’t want to hop on a Skype call or even a phone call and they’re talking about having children with you they are hiding something.”
And if you think someone isn’t who they say they are, she says contact the dating site and let them know.
So what’s a “Catfish” and how do you know if you’re dating one?
A “Catfish” is someone online who’s really pretending to be someone else online to get someone to fall in love with them. This could be using social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter, as well as on Internet dating sites. In the series, the photos used to capture hearts online were from other people than themselves.
The show’s hosts, Nev Schulman and Max Joseph appeared on Good Morning America, to talk about the show and provided their online dating advice including:
- Stay away from model types. Often people will post stock photos or pictures they’ve found on the Internet.
- Be careful if it seems too good to be true
- Check their Facebook profiles
- Use Skype or have them hold up their driver’s license.
If you’ve fallen in love from behind your keyboard and haven’t met in real life, you might a victim of a Catfish, or what I call the digital pen-pal syndrome.
But not everyone is a “Catfish.” We feature online dating success stories all of the time in our Cyber Love Story of the Week, even those who waited a long time before meeting in person and rode off into the sunset together, in-real-life.
Misty and Marty met on Twitter and started following each other on Facebook as well. Two years later, Misty moved from the Philippines to the U.S. and the two graduated to Skype dates.
They finally met in person and are now happily married.
Evita and Billy met on MySpace and started a long-distance relationship. Eventually on Skype, Billy revealed that he was deaf and an amputee, something he didn’t want to let her know right away. Evita had already fallen in love with him online and once they met offline, they felt the same magic. The two are now happily married.
But there are still those who misrepresent themselves that we feature in the Peril of the Week that go beyond just a bad date.
In Girl Meets Boy, Meets Girl, a woman met a man online and they fell in love on the telephone. They started a long distance relationship, and corresponded via email with shared photos, talking about their values, dreams, and life experiences.
The gentleman, “Mark” event went as far as financially supporting the woman for some time. Finally the day came for the two to meet face-to-face, but “Mark” kept canceling the date.
Eventually, they had their first in person date, where “Mark” arrived, and was actually “Mary” not really “Mark.” This female had been impersonating a male the entire time, and when she finally showed her real face the truth came out.
Fortunately for “Mary” the woman she had been courting had a good sense of humor about it and they have remained friends to this day.
At the end of the digital day, online dating is a numbers game. You need to play to win, and use common sense. The need to be loved and accepted is so great, that some singles do feel the need to expand the truth to fit into a search on their online dating profiles.
Authenticity will always make you a winner.
Julie Spira is an online dating expert and relationship coach. As an online dating pioneer, Julie was one of the first on her block to create an online dating profile in 1994. Today, she creates irresistible profiles for singles on the dating scene. For more dating advice, sign up for the Weekly Flirt, follow @JulieSpira on Twitter, and like her at Facebook.com/CyberDatingExpert.