What about internet dating?

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In 1727, Helen Morrison, a lonely spinster in Manchester, England, placed the first lonely hearts personal, advertising for a husband in the local weekly newspaper. In response, the town mayor committed her to a lunatic asylum for a month.

But in hindsight, Helen Morrison was a pioneer. People from that period would be appalled that the day has come when advertising for a mate is considered a legitimate way of meeting new people. Chat rooms have replaced bar rooms and dating sites. Personal ads no longer have the “stigma” they once did.

Internet dating is proving a much more successful way to find long-term romance and friendship for thousands of people than was previously thought. A new study of online dating sites found when couples who had built a significant relationship by e-mailing or chatting online met for the first time, 94% went on to see each other again.

Why is on line dating popular?

1. Everyone on site is looking to meet someone. So, there’s none of the awkwardness and uncertainty in social situations.

2. By reading people’s profiles closely, one can quickly weed out people whose interests, age, values, religion or whatever else is not appealing. When posting their own profile and describing themselves honestly and being clear about their values and interests it makes it more likely that someone compatible will write.

3. One can meet people they wouldn’t otherwise meet because their social and/or business circles don’t intersect or because they don’t frequent the same places.

Although internet dating has gained popularity by leaps and bounds, unfortunately, so have the dangers and horror stories some have encountered. The anonymity of internet dating has afforded con artists a new playground for scams and has allowed people to be anyone they think you want them to be because they are engaging you primarily through the written word. One needs to recognize the signs and red flags so internet dating experience stands the best chance of success, rather than leaving a bad taste in your mouth.

The danger of long-distance internet romances is that it is extremely easy for someone already involved with a partner to go out and cheat in a relatively safe (for them) environment. Cheaters get a secret e-mail address, create a persona and have a cell phone, and if necessary a P.O. Box and they are all set. So beware of people who only give you their cell phone number or never answer it at night.

If you decide to date online it is much safer to establish an e-mail account at a remote location that reveals nothing about your geographical location.

Remember to be careful giving out ANY personal information to anyone that you haven’t verified yet, no matter how well you seemed to have “connected” with that person.

Make sure before you agree to meet anyone that you have all the facts about them and that someone else knows where you are going and who you are going to see. Better still, take a friend with you.

Agree to meet only in a public place and make sure that someone you know has a photograph of the person you are meeting. Make sure your date knows this.

Things that should automatically raise alarms are requests for financial assistance. These requests may range from help with bills, airfare, and heavy suggestions for presents.

Beware of people who ask for suggestive photographs.

Date and have fun, but be careful and don’t forget to use common sense!

Dr. Leta A. Livoti Ph.D., LCSW, LCPC is a psychotherapist in Thompson Falls.

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