Don’t Get Catfished

If you’re like me (and I know I am), you may not pay all that much attention to sports. However, lately it seems almost impossible to ignore the story of Manti Te’o, the Notre Dame linebacker and Heisman trophy candidate who was propelled to infamy when the dramatic, too-good-to-be-true story of the death of his girlfriend proved to be a complete fabrication.

Unlike my completely legitimate and real relationship with Kat Dennings.

Unlike my completely legitimate and totally real relationship with Kat Dennings.

Now, while the jury still seems to be out on whether Te’o was duped by Internet pranksters or helped create the fictional persona in order to boost his visibility and garner the sympathy vote for the Heisman… but ultimately it does highlight just how much the Internet has redefined the definition and nature of our relationships with other people. We have connections and friendships – genuine, meaningful ones – with people we may never have interacted with in the flesh but speak to in a variety of mediums on a daily basis… and therein lies the potential for deceit. The old New Yorker cartoon that “nobody on the Internet knows you’re a dog” applies equally to “On the Internet, nobody knows if you’re real or not”.

Many, many people from all walks of life have been suckered into deceptive “relationships”, either with people who disguise their identities in order to seem more appealing or who create new personas out of whole cloth. If you want to avoid getting catfished – named after the popular documentary1, you need to know how to spot a faker.

Who Are The Catfish?

It’s tempting to assume that everyone who creates a fake persona online is a basement-dwelling cretin with a face for radio and a brain for social engineering who creates a fake persona to woo others because he or she knows that nobody could possibly love the “real” identity, but the truth is far more complicated than that. While many catfish are love-lorn and socially maladjusted – whether through crippling shyness, low self-esteem or other social and psychological ills – many others look to create fake identities for the lulz or to test out new identities… and some have more sinister purposes.

The Outsiders

Some catfish aren’t malicious so much as misguided and afraid – they have feelings and emotions that they want to express but feel that there’s something about them that holds them back. This is especially true amongst gay and transgendered individuals who have adopted fake identities online; they don’t have any malicious intent, they just fear the rejection (or in many cases, actual physical danger) that could come from confessing their feelings directly to the object of their affection.

It can be intoxicating when an otherwise “impossible” love feels attainable, even when it’s built on a lie; having to admit to the deception would not only ruin the “relationship” (and thus kill the dream) but also quite possibly torpedo any relationship from the “real” world.

Attention Seekers

Some people just want to be the focus of everybody’s world and don’t care how they do it. These fakers tend to inhabit forums and social networks and try to scam large groups rather than individuals. Many of them will actually employ entire networks of faked identities and sock-puppets in order to maintain the fiction of their existence. In one epic case, an individual known as MsScribe created over twelve separate identities in order to (I shit you not) take over a Harry Potter fanfic community on LiveJournal.

(Truly, internet politics is the fiercest, bitterest of politics because the stakes are so, so very low…)

Attention seekers live for drama; they will establish any number of horrible events in their lives in order to justify their behavior and keep the attention squarely on them where it belongs. Some will go so far as to fake their own deaths, just to keep the sympathy train rolling.

Manipulators and Abusers

Some folks get their jollies from manipulating others emotionally; they love to keep their victims off balance by constantly blowing hot and cold. They’re the emotional equivalent of a rickety roller-coaster – their moods soar and plummet unpredictably and forever feel like they’re just about to go flying out of control. They use sudden bouts of jealousy and anger to keep the victim constantly seeing their forgiveness and approval and get incredibly lovey-dovey to keep them sweet – often making over-the-top gestures like sending dozens of roses to their “beloved’s” place of work. These fakes have all of the earmarks of an emotionally abusive relationship – just without the physical presence to go with it.

Amusingly, the Nora Ephron movie “You’ve Got Mail” (based off of the 1937 play Parfumerie - which makes catfishing older than you’d think) actually treats this as an amusing lark that’s justified because it’s in the name of love.

Pranksters

Some people create these fake identities for their own amusement. They’re in it for shits and giggles – preferably at somebody else’s expense. After all, if tragedy is when I cut my finger and comedy is when you fall down a manhole and die, what could be funnier than convincing some poor lonely-heart that there is a love out there for them… right before yanking the dream out from under them and leaving them to wallow in freakish misery? This is a surprisingly common form of cyber-bullying- creating false profiles on Facebook and Twitter in order to taunt classmates and supposed “friends”.

Some of the most visible cases of catfishing come from would-be pranksters. Manti Te’o is the current and most famous example; much of the evidence seems to point that he was duped by Ronaiah Tuiasosopo, an acquaintance of his. The infamous /b/, a subforum of 4chan, decided to take things to another level by creating an involuntary “Forever Alone” flashmob.

Odds on the number of "This confirms my worst fears" comments: 3-2.

Odds on the number of “This confirms my worst fears” comments: 3-2.

Members created fake profiles on OKCupid and other dating sites to woo unsuspecting singles, Nice Guys and other supposed “undesirables” to a specific location in Time’s Square at 7:30 PM on May 13th, 2011 – which happened to be location of a publicly accessible webcam stream. The trolls would watch with glee as the horde of confused single guy descended upon the location, only to find out that they had all been duped.

(Spoiler alert: the prank didn’t go off as planned. According to at least one report, only 3 people were confirmed to be dupes, rather than the hordes of suckers.)

Scammers

Online dating can be a goldmine for scam artists. The majority of people on dating sites are genuinely trusting and generous souls – so naturally there will be predators looking to take advantage of them. It’s sadly not uncommon for lonely people – especially those who may not be terribly socially experienced – to be targeted by clever scammers who strike up an online relationship and proceed to fish for money. Things may be going swimmingly until, alas, their Internet beloved has just lost her job… and her rent is due! Or they’ve suddenly experienced a major health emergency. Or they’ve been mugged and they’re stranded or… the list of perfectly valid reasons why they need money goes on and on.

A variation of this scam is the “Foreign women want to meet YOU!” caper; a dating agency proposes to put you in contact with various women from foreign countries2  - usually Eastern European but not always – who are looking for American or European boyfriends and husbands. You’ll get photos, emails, maybe even a phone call or two and she’s starting to fall in love with you and is dying to meet you… but suddenly, drama strikes! They want to come see you but they need money for a visa and they just can’t afford it. Or the passport fees. Or the tickets. Or she needs to show proof that she has the means to travel in order to get a travel visa and could you please wire her $5000…

Of course, this all seems perfectly reasonable. After all, how could you deny such a sweet, wonderful woman who only wants to please you? What kind of monster wouldn’t send the money? And yet every time one hurdle has been cleared, another one appears – and once again, can only be solved by money. It’s a never-ending hamster wheel and you’re the emotionally manipulated rodent.

"Which of these computers hurt you, Boo? You point, I punch!"

“Which of these computers hurt you, Boo? You point, I punch!”

Who Falls For This, Anyway?

It’s incredibly tempting to believe that this could never happen to you. After all, you’re savy! You’re smart! It’s only gullible fools who get caught up by fakers like this.

There’s a reason why con artists love smart marks. There’s nobody easier to fool than somebody who’s convinced that they’re immune to being fooled – and everybody likes to believe they can spot a fake or a con a mile away. And yet, the people who have been catfished come from just about every possible age, gender and group. Manti Te’o – a college football star, someone who presumably could have his pick of available women – was suckered in by a (fake) pretty face and a clever line of drama… and he’s hardly the only one. Four members of the Washington Redskins were all deceived by the same “woman”, as were a number of other professional athletes and entertainers. And of course, filmmaker Nev Schulman was3 infamously conned while filming the documentary on a supposed 8-year old child prodigy.

Women are no less likely to fall for the scam than men; the blog 52 First Dates documents several women who were all scammed by one “Sebastian Pritchard Jones”, while many others were defrauded by a young woman posing as Elijah Wood’s male cousin.

Age also makes little difference; middle-aged men and women, especially those who are less technologically savvy, are often targeted specifically by scammers. A friend of mine has had to deal with her father constantly falling in lust with various fake Svetlanas, Irinas and Tatyanas – all of whom would love to meet him in person if it weren’t for that pesky bureaucratic red-tape that only $3,000 can cut through.

All it takes is the willingness to believe that someone – often someone incredibly physically attractive – is romantically interested in us, that they’ve seen past any of our flaws (or even like them) and see to the beauty of our inner selves. It preys on something that we want to believe because of what it says about us.

God DAMN it Mulder...

God DAMN it Mulder…

We want to trust them because… well, we like how it makes us feel, dammit! We instinctively like people who like us and make us feel good. We don’t want to believe that this person who makes us feel special is lying to our virtual faces… which makes it all the easier for them to fool us.

If You Haven’t Met In Person, You’re Not Actually Dating

Yes, the Internet has revolutionized how we interact with others, and it challenges our old notions of just what a relationship is… but no matter how much we may talk about soulmates and the meeting of minds, love isn’t just mental. Love has a very physical component as well – it’s not just jokes and emotional connections, it’s pheromones and sweat, the smell of their hair and the electric charge of skin on bare skin. You may have profound emotional and intellectual chemistry and compatibility over text, phone and Skype, but you cannot excise physical chemistry from the equation or pretend that it is somehow lesser because it’s so base and primitive. We are physical beings in the end and we live in meatspace; even the most passionate intellectual relationship can founder upon the rocks of a lack of sexual attraction when you meet in person.

I’m not saying that relationships can’t start online – in fact, this spring I will be marrying two friends of mine who met through a comic book forum – but until you have met in the flesh, you aren’t actually dating.

Yet.

How To Spot A Catfish

Spotting a faked identity is equal parts instinct and research. Some fakers are of the painfully obvious “Hello, I am $RICH_PERSON from Nigeria and I want to employ you, random Internet person, in my money-laundering scheme” style; the scammers behind these are trying to dynamite fish for suckers and only want the most gullible. Others will have put considerably more time and effort into their fake identities and making them seem “real”.  None of these tips are going to be 100% effective in ferreting out a fake profile – some fakes are extremely good – but in combination, these will help keep you from being gulled.

Google Image Search Is Your Friend

Most catfish rely on stolen photos for their profiles. Many will scour popular sites like DeviantArt or ModelMayhem to find attractive stand-ins, while some – notably Foreign Bride brokers – will use photos of known porn-stars. Others will steal photos from unlocked Facebook and Instagram accounts – as appears to be the case of “Lennay Kekua”, Manti Te’o’s fake girlfriend – in order to create a more authentic feel.

MUA HA HA HA!

MUA HA HA HA!

Using these photos, however, is often their greatest Achilles’ heel; because these photos came from other websites, it’s possible to trace them back to their origin. Google now allows for reverse image searches – simply drag a .jpg or .gif to the search bar and you can track down where else those photos appear online. Firefox, Opera and Chrome all have extensions that make reverse image searching a simple click away in your browser.

This isn’t foolproof: some scammers will use a third party as an (sometimes unwitting) accomplice – as with Diane O’Meara, the “face” as it were of Lennay Kekua – for custom photos that don’t appear anywhere else online. But if you suspect a catfish situation, Reverse Image Search should be the first thing you check.

Check Their Social Media Presence

In this day and age, the number of people who don’t have a presence on social networks are vanishingly small – and the younger they are, the more likely they are to have an extensive one. If you harbor suspicions, start to examine their online accounts. Does he or she have a Facebook page? If so, how many friends do they have? How many posts and photos have they been tagged in? What have they liked, what timelines have they written on? Not being wildly active or having few Facebook friends is not damning evidence by any stretch – not everybody is a digital social butterfly after all – but it can be a cause for suspicion, especially if their friends are predominantly single members of their preferred gender.

Similarly, check their Twitter feed – who do they follow, who follows them, how many people to they converse with and how many hashtags and trending topics do they take part in?

Yes, this can feel like stalking behavior, but you are allowed – encouraged even – to do your due diligence on the people who you presumably care about.

Speaking of:

Google Them

As more and more of our lives are lived online, it’s increasingly difficult to not leave traceable footprints behind. A slim Google profile may not mean much – many of my childhood friends don’t have much presence if you just search their names – but may of the provided details of their lives should be easily found. Some high-schools and colleges have publicly searchable alumni lists and even yearbooks. If they have an especially notable or unusual career – many a young man has had his heart broken by a supposed “model” – it should be easy to find information about them online. If not the individual specifically then their employer, organizations that they may belong to, etc.

(This, incidentally, is why it’s a good idea to occasionally Google yourself; you should curate what information there is about you online.)

Skype Is Your Next Best Friend

Some catfish will refuse to talk on the phone, preferring to text. Others have no problem speaking on the phone…. but this ultimately proves nothing. If you suspect a catfish, you need to get them on camera.

We are now at the point where it is entirely reasonable to expect that most of the people we interact with online have access to a webcam and video-conferencing software. Skype is the most obvious (and free!) example, but Adium, Message, Trillian, Meebo, G-chat and Yahoo all offer video chatting as well as instant messaging. Tiny Chat, StickCam and Google+ Hangouts also allow video conferencing. Even most smartphones also have video chat capabilities now; the iPhone has Facetime and Skype while Android phones have Skype, Fring and Google Talk.

So frankly, if your Internet sweetie can’t or won’t Skype with you, it’s a cause for potential concern.

If you’re especially un-trusting, you can always call or IM them (or arrange for a friend to do so, off cam) in the middle of your cam session.

Beware of the Drama Bomb

One of the most frequent signs of a catfish is a high drama quotient. Many fake profiles and identities are rife with histrionics and melodramatic goings on – family members who come down with dramatic diseases or even die, spectacular accidents, conveniently timed job losses, fights with dear friends, vengeful exes – in order to better take advantage of their audience’s compassion and encourage White Knight-ery. These splashy incidents also serve as convenient distractions to divert suspicion. Are you starting to ask probing questions? Time to kill of gradma! Now you’re an insensitive cad for daring to interrogate her during her time of need.

He who lives by the drama however, dies by the drama. Google once again is your friend; major incidents such as traffic accidents, muggings, assaults and even deaths get documented and logged online. Newspaper crime blotters, incident reports and obituaries are all searchable now and easily found with some basic Google-Fu.

If someone in your life is having constant issues in his or her life – especially if they occur at opportune moments, keeping them from meeting you in person or distracting you from a fight – it’s time to be suspicious. Once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence. Three times is somebody bullshitting you. Your mantra should always be trust… but verify.

Are They Too Good To Be True?

This can be the hard one because we desperately want to believe that the Danish supermodel with the incredible rack who also happens to love 3rd Ed. D&D and Tennant-era Dr. Who thinks we’re sexy and wants to date us. We all want to believe that someone so amazing could fall in love with our minds and hearts long before they encounter the too, too flawed flesh that we inhabit. And while that can and does happen… well, to be perfectly honest, it ain’t worth betting the house (or your heart) on.

Catfish prey on the fact that we all believe we’re special and that our beauty may well lie deep within rather than on the surface and the hope that someday somebody incredible will see that. They go out of their way to embody that fantasy; they create an illusion so compelling that you become complicit in your own defrauding because you desperately want it to be true.

You have to be honest with yourself: why would this person suddenly fall for you so quickly – and catfish tend to move very fast. Is it possible that this is too convenient, too perfect? If so, you owe it to yourself to check. If it’s real, then your Internet sweetie should have no problem with your investigating; presumably they have nothing to hide.

If they get offended and indignant that you don’t trust them, then it should be a warning to you that something may not be as it seems.

 

 

  1. which, ironically enough may itself be faked []
  2. incidentally, this is why I laugh whenever I see MRA-types advocating giving up on Western women who are too “independent” and getting a bride from a third-world country who “knows how to treat a man right”. Good luck with Svetlana, boys… []
  3. maybe []

Comments

  1. OldBrownSquirrel says:

    From the outside, it's hard to tell a catfish from a girlfriend in Canada. Supposing Te'o was catfished, one possible motive for pranksters might have been that people would weigh the possibility that his girlfriend in Canada was a beard.

  2. Is why I only use OKCupid for a few preliminary conversational back-and-forths before I start planning for the meatspace date. Not just to confirm their existence, but also to gauge physical chemistry.

    Of course, I've been deceived in person by someone I met in meatspace and had been dating for months already. So it's not like Internet dating is the sole bastion of deceit and scams…it just makes it a li'l bit easier.

    • When I signed up for one of the dating services, one of the first things they did was call me in for a personal meeting. The meeting's purpose was to make sure I'm being truthful about my identity. The first thing that they asked me was to show them ID. I wasn't offended, it meant that they are taking their role in preventing clients from getting hurt by scammers seriously.

  3. I'm assuming the Skype recommendation is for people who live too far away from each other for meeting in person to be a possibility?

    I've had some less than stellar experiences with men who lived in the same area but who were more focused on exchanging additional pictures or getting on Skype than on finding a time when we could get together to have a beer. I'm sure some of them are just cautious, but the ones I've run into have mostly started pestering for phone or cybersex and haven't actually been interested in meeting.

    • Paul Rivers says:

      I

    • Paul Rivers says:

      I think the online dating system has gotten pretty messed up.

      4-5 years ago I know some people who met through online and ended up in long term relationships or got married. It's ancedotal, but I haven't known a single person to do so in the last several years, despite having known several girls and guys who tried it.

      I can think of 3 female friends who tried it, and the pattern was all basically the same – they signed up, chatted a lot, got together with a couple of guys – and ended up dating someone they met in person instead (not through the site at all).

      I know from the guy side, the biggest problem is that the majority of women on the sites are incredibly flaky. It's the norm (> 50%) – not the exception – for a girl to respond once then never again, or make plans then cancel at the last second, or to simply not show up and act like it's no big deal that she completely wasted your time. All this happens before she even meets the guy – it's not like she doesn't like him. She hasn't even reached the point of knowing if she liked him or not. I know another woman who dates other woman commented about the same thing here before, so it's not even just guys.

      I don't have any useful advice because I think that for the most part, interesting guys have mostly just stopped signing up. I don't know many guys who actually enjoy emailing back and forth with someone they'll never meet in person, and the idea that one would invest a lot of time and energy behind the computer doing that, only to have most of them flake out anyways is just unnappealing, and they don't get anything out of it.

      I met up with 2 girls 2 years ago, after getting one response then nothing with about 15 of them. Both of them showed up twice then flaked out (the 2nd one actually contacted me to make more plans, then flaked – it wasn't even a matter of her not being interested in getting together again). But at least I got an interesting experience out of meeting someone in person. The idea of talking to someone via email and then having them drop off the face of the planet is just a complete uninteresting waste of time.

      I think there's pretty much 2 kinds of guys on the personals now –
      1. Guys who are very desperate
      2. The rare guy who gets something out of just chatting with it never going into meeting in person. They don't care about the flake factor because they don't really meet in person anyways.

      Every now and then I'll go back and try it again, hoping something has changed. But I know when I pestered a girl for a second time in a row with no response that she wrote me back something similar to what you're saying – that she was just tired of talking to guys over email and seeming to have chemistry, but then if they did want to get together ending up not having any chemistry in person anyways.

      • It's sad if it's changed in that direction. My experiences with online dating are from about ten years, so I have no idea what it's like these days–and I never was in the position of contacting women. At that time I did end up meeting several guys who seemed to be fairly normal, interesting people, and ended up in a serious relationship with one. I also had several guys initiate contact with me and write 1-5 messages before randomly disappearing, though thankfully no guys who stood me up for an actual meeting. So I do think that behavior has always been around on both sides. I don't think there's anything actually wrong with just stopping responding if you're losing interest. But flaking on agreed-upon plans is pretty poor etiquette.

        I do wonder if it's partly similar to the problems some guys report having approaching women in person. That in some cases they're focusing on the conventionally appealing women that lots of other guys are also contacting, and so the women can get away with flaking because they have so many options. I have *never* gotten even a first date out of interacting with guys in person, so I can't imagine that if I was single again, I wouldn't try online dating again now. And I can't be the only woman out there who's somewhat awkward and unconventional but perfectly good company, who hasn't had success in person and so is on the websites. (Actually, I believe at least a few regular DNL commenters would fall into that category. :) ) Maybe it's just harder to find them than it used to be, as online dating becomes more "acceptable" and so more people who are having success in person put up profiles just to see what happens?

        • Paul Rivers says:

          "I also had several guys initiate contact with me and write 1-5 messages before randomly disappearing, though thankfully no guys who stood me up for an actual meeting."

          And don't get me wrong, it's definitely just an annoying if guys do it.

          "I don't think there's anything actually wrong with just stopping responding if you're losing interest."

          That would take it's own topic in and of itself. I would prefer that people at least say something, but again – that's it's own entire topic.

          The effective point is just that when that happens, it just makes the interaction pretty unsatisfying. When the rate gets to > 90%, it becomes pretty pointless. It seems to me like eselle is saying something very similar – when *most* of the guys she talked to didn't want to get together in person and just wanted to cybersex or something, she's also losing interest in putting any effort into it.

          "But flaking on agreed-upon plans is pretty poor etiquette."

          Yeah. One is just wasting someone else's time without concern for it at all.

          "I do wonder if it's partly similar to the problems some guys report having approaching women in person. That in some cases they're focusing on the conventionally appealing women that lots of other guys are also contacting, and so the women can get away with flaking because they have so many options."

          Yeah, I think that's a big part of it.

          I think part of the difficult in getting a response is also similar – if she has cute pics, she just gets overwhelmed by the massive amount of emails she gets. I saw some tests that people did that women with the most attractive profile pics would get 50 emails a day…on a slow day. On the other hand, don't be in the top 20% for "visually attractive pics" and the emails drop off dramatically.

          I also think that just like certain environments benefit certain types of people. Just like some environments would most benefit the unethical male player, so do online sites benefit the kind of girl (even if it was a small segment of the female population) get a real kick out of getting messages, then pretty much always flake out. Since there are no consequences to her being entirely self-involved (her other friends don't hear about it, other people in her social circle don't see it happen, she doesn't even have to deal with someone getting upset in person with her for being completely self-absorbed, let alone have to see them again on a regular basis) that kind of girl is the majority on online dating sites (especially since she doesn't end up dating anyone, she stays online for a really long time). It could be 1% of the female population – you'd just end up with all 1% doing online stuff.

          (continued)

        • Paul Rivers says:

          On a somewhat different topic, I do think that women and men have a very different idea of how to filter. Women seem to want to have an email conversation, and it be interesting, and get drawn in with it. But I don't know any guys that are very good at that that are also very interesting in real life. For example, the other day my coworkers were talking about how they walked into a restaurant and there's a whole table of teenage girls, probably 8 people, and none of them are talking to each other. They're all staring at their phone, texting each other.

          Again it's ancedotal, but I've never known a guy friend who *wants* to spend more than a couple of texts texting back and forth with his guy friends. It's just…not a skill most guys ever have a reason to practice.

          I'll give you an example – I'm a regular member of my local lindy hop (swing dancing) scene. I've often had the experience (and so have other guys) where a cute single girl would show up, and you'd get a little excited and ask her to dance – and how dissapointing it was when she was wasn't good at dancing at all. It's not just "oh, she's not good at it" – you feel like you can't communicate with her in the dancing like you're like to, you're not really comfortable with her, etc. You'd be polite, thank her for the dance, and likely not ask her to dance again. But then I've (and several other guys) have watched where she keeps coming out, then she starts dating someone. And she keeps coming out dancing – then she gets good, and she's *really* fun to dance with. But now she's dating someone – and you feel like "aw, crap, I actually knew her when she was single! now she's dating someone else! crap!".

          I don't know if maybe what I'm saying is getting a little to hard to follow, but a girl's ability to dance when she just starts doesn't tell you whether she'll be a *ton* of fun to dance after she gets better at it. And, from my point of view, a guys ability to chat over email doesn't correlate to his ability to talk in person, or be fun to hang out with, or to be sexy – etc. It's just not a skill most guys use anywhere except an online dating site.

          (continued)

        • Paul Rivers says:

          A girl on okcupid this spring wrote this to me – "I'm mostly just kind of tired of meeting up with people who sound good on paper, but there's just no chemistry there in person (or whatever)."

          As a guy, I'm not surprised…being able to create chemisty over emails is just not something that the interesting guys I've known have any experience doing, it's kind of like filtering potential dates based on their dance abilities. Sure, someone you have a really good time dancing with is very likely to have physical chemistry with you. But when 90% of the available crowd doesn't have any experience dancing / emailing…it doesn't work very well.

          And don't get me wrong – there's no doubt guys suffer from something similar. I've no doubt there's plenty of women that we would find attractive if we were talking to them in person, but we never get to that point via the personals because they don't have conventionally attractive pics. Not saying guys are doing a better job, just trying to comment on both sides.

          I think the idea of meeting someone via online should be advanced. Something like – the guy chooses something to do that he enjoys, the girl does the same thing, then the 3rd meeting is an actual "date". Maybe there should be a 1st "talk for 15 minutes in person" thing just to make sure the other person isn't going to bore you to tears.

          But every time I've suggested doing something like that, or other variations, the girl seems to have an attitude like "that's not what I've been told to expect, so that's weird and I don't want to try it, it must be some sort of trick".

          "Maybe it's just harder to find them than it used to be, as online dating becomes more "acceptable" and so more people who are having success in person put up profiles just to see what happens?"

          I agree with you. Also, it used to be more of a "commitment" for either gender to do. Now it's done so casually and with such a "if I get bored for a second I'll stop responding because there's a million other people to chat with" attitude that it can't really develop. I don't know if I've ever seen a successful couple who didn't have *some* sort of ups and downs, including one time they hung out that was boring and wasn't really exciting, before they officially started dating.

          I know the last time I dated a girl who fell head over heals for me, our 2nd or 3rd date was the most boring thing you've ever seen. We went to see a movie – which was awful. We didn't have anything to talk about. At the end of the movie we parted ways without nothing more than a couple of pleasantries.

          If we had met via online dating, that would have been it. It would not have met the expectation of "every single interaction is interesting", so she would have just stopped responding to any communication.

          • " I don't know if I've ever seen a successful couple who didn't have *some* sort of ups and downs, including one time they hung out that was boring and wasn't really exciting, before they officially started dating."

            Huh, I haven't found that at all. The people I know with long-term partners, when they first started dating, they were all enthusiastic about how much fun they had or how interesting they found the person after every date/time they hung out. And sure, after 10 years or so, sometimes my wife and I are having a boring day and the conversation's a little lackluster – but even a lackluster conversation with her is still interesting enough that I'd go on a second date if we were strangers, no question. And I think the same would be true via text media.

          • Paul Rivers says:

            "Huh, I haven't found that at all. The people I know with long-term partners, when they first started dating, they were all enthusiastic about how much fun they had or how interesting they found the person after every date/time they hung out."

            Err…but where you there for every interaction when they met? After a while, sometimes both people don't even remember the boring parts, or the "didn't quite connect" parts. And I've known a *lot* of couple where I befriend them, and the girl tells me an amazing romantic magical story about how they met. But if I get to be friends with the guy he has a…very different version, that sounds a lot more realistic.

            There's also the age factor, where younger people newer to relationships see "boring" time as far more interesting just because they're around the other person.

            2 people I know who would say they didn't have any "ups and downs" when meeting, I know the second time they hung out they went bowling and it wasn't real exciting. It wasn't a negative either, but I get the feeling that had they had an expectation that things were going to be magical and passionate every second (an expectation that I see from both girls and guys in online dating) they never would have had a 3rd date either.

          • Oh, I don't mean some movie-style magical and passionate. What I'm thinking of is more like times when a friend has been dating people casually, and every time they go on a date with this one person, they report back to me on how much fun they had – it's obvious to me that they're really enjoying the other person's company every time. I'm sure they still had awkward silences and dates that were good fun but not the stuff of rom coms.

            But I'd be surprised if someone would end up in a relationship with a new person with whom they didn't particularly enjoy themselves on some of their first couple of dates.

          • Paul Rivers says:

            I think then we're partly talking about different things. Movie style passionate and magical *is* the threshold I've seen a lot of people demand out of every interaction from online dating. Was your last email not magical? Well, she has better other people to message back. Was your 2nd date good but not great? Not good enough.

            I mean most people don't say "I'm not going out with him because the 2nd date wasn't exciting enough", it's more like they just stop talking to him in order to go out with the more interesting sounding guy who they haven't met yet but just sounds so cool…or they "just don't get around" to planning another date…or they just sort of fade off in their responses with an attitude like "well, if he's really interested, maybe he could possibly talk me into another date". But since they're communicating via email, it never really happens.

            Like I said in another comment – it could even be the area of the country I live in, or some other factor, but that's been my own experience with friends, girl's who are friends, and ex-girlfriends. I do know that the "girl version" of how they met story sounds like they had fun every time, whereas the guy version is rather different. One thought is that your friends only call when they have something interesting to report, but that's pure speculation on my part and I could be wrong there.

            I mean I'm not saying they had a *bad* time in the first few times of dating, just that there's usually something that's a little boring or uninsteresting in there in my experience.

          • To me, there's a big gap between expecting magical and passionate, and "meh, maybe if he tries to talk me into it." If my interest in someone was weak enough that I'd give it up if I had a date lined up with someone new (assuming that it's a 'dating around casually' situation, not a monogamous dating relationship), that would probably mean that I'd also rather hang out with friends or stay home and play video games than go on a date with that person – in which case, what would be the point of continuing to date them?

            I'd say it's silly to want Cyrano de Bergerac emails and dancing in the moonlight dates, but also silly to go out with someone if you'd enjoy it less than NOT going out with them.

          • Heh. I've actually used that test sometimes. If going on a date and doing supposedly fun, social things with someone compares poorly to watching reruns of Battlestar Galactica and eating leftovers, it's often a sign that I don't really want to be dating/trying to make friends with that person.

          • I couldn't use that test. Maybe it's the introvert in me, but there are times a lot of supposedly fun, social things that compare poorly to reruns and leftovers no matter how interesting the person I'm with.

            If she suggests sitting in silent contemplation of universal impermanence and I'm lukewarm on it…that's how I know I should probably be with someone else :)

          • Fair enough! I'm pretty introverted but I have a fairly strong craving for novelty as well, so the concept of GOING OUT has a bit of cachet for me, even when it means dealing with sometimes exhausting people. They balance out at being superior to reruns in my personal calculus.

            They often don't compare well to video games, though, which is why I don't try to torture myself about whether I enjoy hanging out with a guy more than I like raiding.

          • Paul Rivers says:

            "I'd say it's silly to want Cyrano de Bergerac emails and dancing in the moonlight dates, but also silly to go out with someone if you'd enjoy it less than NOT going out with them."

            That's where I disagree – that *would* be true if you could somehow magically get to know the other person quickly, understand what each other expected, and make a judgement call based on how well you liked spending time together based on that.

            But in reality, most people *would* rather hang out with their friends than go through what's close to a job interview, getting to know someone with no easy interuptions, no natural context to learn about them through their (and your) friends, unclear expectations and timing (will she take my trying to kiss her as me being to forward, or will she take my not trying to kiss her as me not being interested? is his invitation to come over to his place next time meaning he expects sex, or that it's just a more comfortable environment for him? is he safe or is some sort of criminal if I turn him down? she's inviting me to come over to her place – if I don't feel like making a move on her that exact day, is she going to assume I'm not interested and I'll never hear from her again? should I do it even thought I don't feel like it right now because I do like and am interested in her?).

            Or would you rather come home from work and just hang out with some friends and have a good time?

            I hear you about not expecting "magic", that's cool, but my point a couple of posts up that I think online dating needs to be more advanced is to come up with some sort of common expectation for getting to know someone that's lower tension and more natural (does anyone have any experience getting to know people via a couple of emails and a 45 minute conversation at a coffee shop outside of online dating?).

            Having watched the results recently, I don't think it's natural for either gender, or very effective whatsoever.

          • I dunno, I think most people understand that things will be a little more awkward and stressful than it would be with a familiar friend, but are able to take that into account and evaluate pretty well whether they would enjoy seeing someone again in the future.

            I think it's just a case of having different experiences/preferences. I actually have gotten to know people through a couple of emails and a conversation at a coffee shop before – friends, not dates, but I think it would be similar (though more nerve-wracking, I'm sure!) for dating. And, within my age bracket, I know about as many people who've found long-term relationships (or short term ones, if that was what they were looking for) through online dating as through other means, so from my perspective, it doesn't seem to be working that badly.

          • That said, I very much agree that it would be awesome if there was a way to get rid of the tension, but I think any situation of getting to know a new person (other than one where you've already interacted with them repeatedly in a situation where interacting with them is NOT the focus) would have that. It's true that having more set expectations that everyone agrees on would probably reduce certain kinds of anxiety, but wouldn't that also mean people were much less free to do things in a way that they enjoyed and made them more comfortable? I don't think I would like that trade-off.

          • I'm not sure if this is a difference in the people we know or just in the way that men and women tell their dating stories to members of the opposite sex, but that doesn't sound familiar at all to me. Good but not amazingly entertaining hasn't ever really been listed as a reason to turn down a date by any of my women friends.

            I guess I'm more likely to hear a "We went out two or three times but then I called things off," narrative where a woman is intentionally trying to change the kind of men she dates or feeling a little desperate and tries to push through a few dates despite having an objection to the guy from the start. Then the couple gets closer to having sex or making a commitment, and she flips and decides she's not going to go through with it. I'm wondering if that kind of ambivalence makes it through when a girl is telling a guy friend the story, since a lot of times the objection is something that could be characterized as shallow.

            That being said, I'd agree that the presence of the somehow better-sounding guy who's writing but who you haven't met yet is a big issue. I would say that the guy who you've already met who you've been out with three or four times can be a problem as well. If things seem to be going well there, sometimes there's an awkward point where you don't feel that you can reasonably stop meeting new people but where your heart isn't entirely into your new dates either.

          • Paul Rivers says:

            "Good but not amazingly entertaining hasn't ever really been listed as a reason to turn down a date by any of my women friends."

            They don't say that, they say "I just wasn't feeling the chemistry" or "We went out a few times but it didn't really go anywhere". Or they don't say anything about it at all – a lot of women I've met don't like to talk about the "she just stopped responding" interactions…maybe it's embarrasing, maybe it's that people don't like telling boring stories.

            Of course there's also the possibility that it's a difference in the people we know, like you said.

            The girls I've known who do it don't go online to brag about it. And they don't usually conciously "choose" to go for the next guy because he sounds more exciting. Much of the time they'll insist that's not what they're doing, when if you track *all* of their stories it's pretty clear that it is. They're just following their feelings – and the rush of Mr Imaginary or Mr Theoretically perfect is nearly always more exciting than a guy they had coffee with.

            It's like guys don't think to themselves "I'm only going to go after the most visually attractive women when I got out, and feel burned by them when there's a lot of competition and I keep losing out!". But that's still often what happens. If you're watching from a high level it's pretty obvious, from their perspective it just keeps "not working out".

          • I'm curious: if most of these people don't actually say that the date wasn't exciting or magical enough, they just aren't interested enough to keep talking to the guy, then how do you know that the dates were enjoyable but just not quite exciting enough? How do you know the women didn't honestly have no chemistry whatsoever with those guys–it wasn't awful enough that they'd never see him again, but they feel no enthusiasm to give it a second chance if there are other things to do?

            And frankly, if these women are meeting enough men that they can keep finding new men to date and end up in relationships even if they do eliminate any guy who isn't outright exciting, then why on earth should they settle for less than exciting if that's what they want? I mean, if someone came to me complaining that they couldn't find a boyfriend, and then revealed what sounded like too-high or unrealistic standards to me, sure, I'd recommend they give some guys more of a chance. But if they're happy with the state of their dating lives, where is the problem? It's not clear to me whether the women you're talking about are dissatisfied vs. happy to keep playing the field.

            (And I'll point out, looking back on how we got on this topic, even if a woman is dissatisfied with her dating life because she's been too picky, the reason she should try being more patient/open-minded is so *she* will have a better chance of finding a happy relationship, not so she will be behaving more fairly to guys on dating sites or some such. Fairness is not a concept that has much use in personal relationships–most people don't pick even their friends based on what's theoretically fair, but on totally subjective and often random feelings.)

          • I think we're dealing with different dating environments, but in my case, I don't expect that a man will build a great deal of chemistry and attraction over email or text. I'd agree that people who are really good at that are often not so great in person. For me, the emailing/texting phase of things is to determine if someone can communicate in complete sentences, has some interests besides work and reality television and perhaps the occasional sporting events, and can interact with me over at least a short period of time without being creepy or rude. If his profile leaves out a couple of pieces of information that I find important, that's also the time when I'm going to ask about them. The first date or two is where I determine whether we have any reasonable amount of in person chemistry.

            Both parts are important. The second part for obvious reasons, and the first part because the reason I use online dating in the first place is that attempting to meet men in person generally means I end up talking to someone who has a good amount of charisma but who I won't be very interested in spending time with after I've heard his entire collection of funny stories.

            As for the commitment to a series of dates, I would have to say that I'd also assume that it was a trick, and that it would be most likely to be proposed by someone who wasn't representing himself very accurately (not in a catfish way, more in a decade-old pictures and "divorced" means "separated from his wife last Tuesday" way). Unfortunately, I think there's always going to be a little bit of suspicion, because there are people who aren't entirely honest and hope that given enough time they'll convince others that they're better potential partners than they appear.

            I think part of the problem is also that an online date makes things clearer when it comes to communication and commitment. That's often a bonus for quiet people and people who aren't good at reading body language, but I think it makes people reluctant to go on not-so-amazing dates because there's no gray area. If someone is a little boring at a party, there's no need to make a quick decision about spending more time with that person. If they're boring the next time you see them, you can drop contact or perhaps steer things more toward friendship. With a three-date commitment, I suspect people would still bring their old expectations about dating. A lot of men start making sexual advances, or at least attempting to kiss, by the third date. Additionally, most people I've met been on three dates with have expected me to explicitly say that things are over. That's a lot to ask of an online person who hasn't even verified that you're roughly who you represent yourself to be in your profile. I mean, I do think that online dating has its problems, but I'm not sure this would do much to overcome them.

          • Paul Rivers says:

            "The second part for obvious reasons, and the first part because the reason I use online dating in the first place is that attempting to meet men in person generally means I end up talking to someone who has a good amount of charisma but who I won't be very interested in spending time with after I've heard his entire collection of funny stories."

            On a little bit of a sidenote, a lot of "game" stuff describes that one of the reasons online stuff is a deadend is because women filter for non-chemistry criteria, then expect there also to be full on chemistry within a date or two, the context of which is that they previously had trouble finding *just* the chemistry part in real life. Or that they don't realize their goals are opposite – like someone who really falls for charismastic stories, then looks for someone who also has other interests…not realizing that the only way to be *as* charasmatic as the guy they have chemistry is through highly polished and rehearsed stories they've told a million times before (that's why the stories are so fascinating to listen to – the person telling them has bad a bazillion opportunities to practice telling them).

            Don't get me wrong – I'm just sharing a though, I've had similar problems. My biggest problem is that in the dance scene I gravitate towards the most emotionally interesting and stable (yet passionate) girl there (she's often not the visually hottest, fyi). That girl is ALWAYS already in a relationship….every, single, time. That's the girl I always most enjoy dancing with, talking to, and hanging out with. So I've started deliberately not choosing that girl, if there's any other girl with potential that's more likely to be single. But it gets complicated, because if I'm emotionally honest – if I dance with the first girl, it will be fairly obvious I'm more into the first girl than the second, and that makes the second girl feel…I'm not sure, but she definitely loses some interest in me. So then I started just avoiding the first girl. But once I start having a good time with the second girl, the first girl will *always* come over and ask me to dance. It's social protocol to dance with anyone who asks (unless you have a specific good reason for that specific person), so I'm faced with an awkward situation either trying to turn her down, or dancing with her and having the 2nd girl lose some interest in me. So…finally, I've PAINSTAKINGLY managed to get my brain to hold back from fully engaging with the 1st girl when I dance with her – keeping her at a "friendly aquantaince" level throughout the dance…for crying out loud lol…

            "As for the commitment to a series of dates, I would have to say that I'd also assume that it was a trick,"

            Yeah, that's the attitude I feel like I get a lot. Thing is, I remember 10 years ago when proposing coffee was also considered some sort of "trick".

          • I really don't think the "game" stuff applies to my situation. I'm not going and falling for the charismatic guy who has the best stories and ignoring his less charming but more compatible friend. I live in a blue collar community one state to the left of you, where most people didn't attend college and many didn't finish high school. Most men my age who live here have at least one child. Most are conservative or religious to an extent where we have incompatible values. If I go to a bar, the vast majority of the men there won't be what i'm looking for in a partner, so the one with the good stories is the best of an incompatible lot. My online dating experiences have mostly consisted of going out with men who only have one dealbreaker rather than the whole plate of them, and seeing whether that trait is something I can actually tolerate (conclusion: super-conservative and super-religious are incompatible period; everything else is fine in a very casual partner but a catastrophe if either of us wants something more). So, while I can definitely understand the frustration in trying to train yourself to be attracted to people who are good long term partners, that's not really what's been going on in my situation.

            Why is coffee a trick? Is it because coffee dates are inexpensive? To the extent that's a trick, I think it's a good one, because it encourages people to be honest about themselves. Knowing your date can leave after 20 minutes and that you won't get treated to dinner and a movie takes away an incentive to lie about who you are or what you look like. The three-date commitment seems to do the opposite. I also think it would drastically lower the number of dates. Men would be less likely to message older or less attractive women, and women would be less likely to respond to men who weren't perfect. Personally, I'd prefer it if the dating services had events where single people could attend and socialize with less pressure. That way, you could see a person several times before making a move, without having to commit to them in some way.

          • I think commitment is exactly the reason that people might feel the 3-date idea is a trick – if someone asks you to agree that you'll continue to see them for longer than the norm before deciding if you want another date, it seems like they are trying to use a sense of obligation to get you to keep seeing them, as opposed to letting you decide based on your feelings about them.

          • Yes, that's kind of what I was getting at, though I didn't phrase it very well. Online dating already has too many people who are hung up on the idea that people are rejecting them unfairly because of [FILL IN UNATTRACTIVE TRAIT HERE] and that if they fib about it a bit and convince someone to go on a date, all those silly people will drop their objections and fall in love. Draw the commitment out to three dates, and I think people will have a strong incentive to misrepresent themselves.

            It also sends a signal of neediness, in a way that doesn't seem quite healthy. Sure, people screw up first dates sometimes and sometimes that leads to missed opportunities. But would you really want the alternative bad scenario, being stuck spending three evenings with someone who you hated at first sight, or who obviously can't stand you and is just suffering through to fulfill a commitment? I'd be really wary of someone who would be okay with the second dynamic.

          • Paul Rivers says:

            "Unfortunately, I think there's always going to be a little bit of suspicion, because there are people who aren't entirely honest and hope that given enough time they'll convince others that they're better potential partners than they appear. "

            I hear you, but honestly I feel like that's just as true with someone who immediately generates sparks, interest, chemistry, and can keep it going for 3 dates – either you've met someone magical, or (more likely) – you've met someone who's had a *LOT* of practice…it's not a natural skill for most people. It's more natural for people to feel more comfortable around other people after spending more time with them.

            Even by the more realistics standards you describe, it's an artifical situation for most guys I know – I consider myself a relatively long talker among guys, I've had 2 hour conversations with friends, but – keeping that up with someone I barely know…it's just not natural. Like consider how people dated in college. You'd run into each other and talk if you were in the mood or had something to talk about, when you ran out of conversation there were usually other people around to go and talk to so you didn't have to keep up 45 minutes of straight conversation. You'd see the other person interacting with other people, you'd get some idea of what they were like from talking to their friends…etc etc.

            "If someone is a little boring at a party, there's no need to make a quick decision about spending more time with that person. If they're boring the next time you see them, you can drop contact or perhaps steer things more toward friendship. With a three-date commitment, I suspect people would still bring their old expectations about dating."

            Right…exactly.

            "With a three-date commitment, I suspect people would still bring their old expectations about dating. A lot of men start making sexual advances, or at least attempting to kiss, by the third date."

            Well this is not a guy-only thing – most girls seem to feel that if you haven't made a move on them by the 3rd date you definitely are not interested in them. Some girls I've gotten the strong impression it's the 1st or 2nd date.

            "I mean, I do think that online dating has its problems, but I'm not sure this would do much to overcome them."

            My problem is that it's such an artificial environment – most guys I know are *not* accustomed to constantly selling themselves to total strangers, having a 45 minutes conversation with someone they barely know, or not having chance to switch who they're talking to when they run out of things to say. I understand wanting those things – I'm not saying guys can't do that with people they know and are comfortable with – but most guys I know *never* do that in any situation other than online dating. And they don't generate their own strong genuine honest feelings of attraction towards the girl when they're shoehorned into those situations either.

          • I think we just may differ on how broken we feel online dating is. It has its problems, but I don't feel people are as quick to reject after a date that was just average as you do.

            I'd completely support some kind of mixer model where people could socialize several times with others who were explicitly single and looking, without it being one on one or labeled a date. I wouldn't be willing to participate in the model you described, though. I've been on too many first dates that were outright bad, and the idea of spending two additional evenings playing with my phone while someone tried to build attraction with me or trying to be pleasant to a guy who decided I was annoying and not as pretty as my pictures within five minutes sounds really soul-crushing.

          • To be honest, I think that's just a limitation of online dating, just as meeting people in person has its limitations too. And I think reasonable people using the service recognize it's a limitation. I never expected a first meeting to be super comfortable, because I knew it was inherently kind of an awkward situation. I didn't expect the guy to sell himself to me; I just wanted to get a sense of how well he fit the person I'd been talking to online. (I also didn't feel I should be trying to sell myself to him–I'd make an effort to wear a little make-up and nicer clothes than I might have if meeting with a friend, and try not to say anything awkward, but mainly I was just being myself, because I wanted a guy who was interested in me, not some hyper-stylized version of myself.) If I got some enjoyment out of talking with the guy, didn't find him outright unattractive physically, and didn't notice any dealbreakers (like totally different priorities, or stated prejudices, or whatever), then I was happy to go on a second date that would be more date-like and give us a more "natural" setting to get to know each other better.

            (That said, one of the reasons having at least a few somewhat in depth exchanges back and forth before meeting is useful is it gives you topics of conversation–I always used those initial email conversations to find out what the guy was interested in so we could talk about those topics more when we met up. I was able to have two to four hour conversations with almost every guy I met the first time with a minimum of awkward pauses. It's not as if you're meeting someone you know absolutely nothing about, unless you only look at the pictures and purposely avoid talking about anything other than "Hey, you seem cool, want to meet up?" beforehand.)

            Honestly, I find meeting up with someone I've established at least a little rapport with online *way* less awkward than going up to strangers and trying to chat them up (both as the chatter or the chattee), which seems to be a widely advocated approach to finding dates. People should pick the approaches that work best for their personality.

          • Paul Rivers says:

            "I'm curious: if most of these people don't actually say that the date wasn't exciting or magical enough, they just aren't interested enough to keep talking to the guy, then how do you know that the dates were enjoyable but just not quite exciting enough?"

            Probably from their tone and language as they discuss it. Actually, a lot of times they're very clear that they want to feel excited and interested in a relationship. When they meet a guy in person, I suddenly start hearing about him when it reaches the point where they feel excited and interested in him. When I ask, that's almost never the first time she's interacted with him, usually it's at least the 3rd.

            When they talk about meeting someone from online though, their attitude is usually an expectation that they would feel that chemistry in the first meeting.

            "How do you know the women didn't honestly have no chemistry whatsoever with those guys–it wasn't awful enough that they'd never see him again, but they feel no enthusiasm to give it a second chance if there are other things to do?"

            I don't know what that would mean. Where does chemistry come from? What creates it?

            The last girl I dated who I had mad chemistry with – we met at something where I was comfortable and enjoying myself (dancing) and she was enjoying herself. We met in a class, where our initial interactions where brief (whenever she came around in rotation during the class). Later we danced a couple of songs, but danced with a bunch of other people. Afterwards we got something to eat at Perkins, and made plans to hang out again (then I got sick on that day, but that's a whole 'nother story).

            Had exchanged a few emails, then had something to eat at Perkins on the same night – I just don't think we would have had any chemistry. And a lack of chemistry is not why things didn't work out between us.

          • Paul Rivers says:

            "And frankly, if these women are meeting enough men that they can keep finding new men to date and end up in relationships even if they do eliminate any guy who isn't outright exciting, then why on earth should they settle for less than exciting if that's what they want?…"

            You're jumping to conclusions that I didn't make. The girls *I've* known were pointedly wanting to get into a relationship (with someone they wanted to be in a relationship with). All 3 of them did so (though one of them broke up with him later) – but only after meeting a guy somehow in real life.

            "(And I'll point out, looking back on how we got on this topic, even if a woman is dissatisfied with her dating life because she's been too picky, the reason she should try being more patient/open-minded is so *she* will have a better chance of finding a happy relationship, not so she will be behaving more fairly to guys on dating sites or some such. Fairness is not a concept that has much use in personal relationships–most people don't pick even their friends based on what's theoretically fair, but on totally subjective and often random feelings.)"

            Looking back, my original post was that I think most interesting guys have stopped signing up or putting effort in because of the expectation that the guy will put in a lot of work, and so often that work results in the girl flaking out. The girl has the "right" to be inconsiderate, as does the guy have the "right" not to waste their time on it, which imo leads us to our current situation.

            If we're moving onto the next point, choosing their friends based on whether their friends – or relationships – treat them fairly is *exactly* what people do. Nearly no one makes friends with someone who treats *them* unfairly unless they're really, really desperate.

            But the latest topic I was talking about were approaches that women seem to think will work, that isn't getting the results the girl wants either. Every girl now seems to think that email a couple of times + 45 minute coffee date is the magical solution to filtering guys – my point is that it's not working *for them* either. I'm not talking about girls who aren't looking for a relationship, I'm talking about girls who are.

            My point is exactly what you wrote "the reason she should try being more patient/open-minded is so *she* will have a better chance of finding a happy relationship". My point is that I feel like most women's expectations of how to go about online dating (and quite possibly men's as well) are not producing the results for either gender who is looking for a relationship.

            I'm listing out some reasons *why* I think this is from a guy's perspective. I don't feel any need to apologize for saying "this is why it looks like this stuff isn't working out for the woman either from a guy's perspective".

          • Paul, I think you're reading what I wrote with more hostility than was in my words. For example, I clearly said that I *wasn't sure* whether the women you were talking about were happy with the state of their dating lives, or were upset they weren't having more success, and noted how I felt about either scenario. There's no reason for you to respond as if I "jumped to the conclusion" that it had to be one scenario and ignore that I acknowledged the other was possibly what you meant, and problematic. I wasn't sure, and thought it was likely that at least some of the women you were talking about were not actually unhappy with the state of their romantic lives, because you yourself referred to how some of them talk about their established relationships, which strongly implies they are actually finding boyfriends they're happy with even though they want "magical" or exciting experiences. The women who aren't having dating success and are unhappy about it, I totally agree it sounds like they have too high expectations and would have better luck if they lowered those.

            I also think we're running into some problems because you're talking about two different types of situations in tandem. What I wrote about fairness had to do with whether a woman agrees to go on a second date with a guy, which is what I thought we were talking about. Going on one date with a guy, and then turning him down when he asks for another, is not what I would consider flakiness, and I don't think it's unfair for a woman to do this (or for a guy to do it!) just because first dates after meeting online are awkward. If a person doesn't want to see another person again, they don't want to, that's reason enough.

            I do think it's unfair for someone to say they want to see you again and then start avoiding you without explanation or even addressing the subject. Or to make plans for a second date and then cancel at the last minute or not show up for no good reason, thus inconveniencing the other person. That would be being flaky, and I agree it makes sense to be frustrated by it.

            To address a couple specific points the above doesn't cover:

            "I don't know what that would mean. Where does chemistry come from? What creates it?"

            My definition of chemistry is just a feeling of interest and engagement in the other person. Being curious to find out more about them. Finding things they say intriguing. As well as finding them physically appealing. I don't think it makes sense for someone to assume that they can only have a happy relationship if they have incredible chemistry with someone right off the bat, because it definitely can take time to develop. But I do think that if you have *no* chemistry (as I said before)–as in, you felt no interest in anything they said, you felt no physical attraction, you were honestly bored through the entire interaction and cannot picture enjoying seeing that person again–then that's a perfectly good, not overly demanding, reason not to want a second date. In my experience, if you find a person that uninteresting, it's unlikely that more exposure will change that in any major way. (I am often forced to hang out with people over and over again via groups I'm a part of, and I've yet to have a person I found completely uninteresting the first time we talked turn out to be someone I really enjoyed spending time with once I was around them more, even though I give them plenty of chances.)

            "Every girl now seems to think that email a couple of times 45 minute coffee date is the magical solution to filtering guys."

            There are plenty of women here who'd responded and said that they and/or the women they know don't approach online dating the way you're describing. So I just take issue with the idea that online dating is totally broken, and that it's because either most women are being too demanding in what they expect from guys online, or because most women flake out on guys too much. I believe that most women *you* know are doing this, but I also believe my own experiences and those of other people commenting here. Clearly it's a problem in some cases, but I see no reason to assume it is in the majority.

          • In your first post about the three-date system, you mentioned that the first two dates would involve doing specific activities that the two people dating chose; I think that part of the idea might be a more valuable, less problematic solution than committing to a certain number of dates. I'm a fan of activity-centered dates, myself, because I also frequently have trouble maintaining a several-hour-long conversation with someone I don't know well. (I don't think that's necessarily a gendered thing, by the way, because I'm female, and I have male friends who will go down to the pub and happily shoot the breeze for hours on end with whoever they happen to meet.) Having something else to focus on can help ease the pressure and weirdness of several hours of uninterrupted conversation, and it can provide conversation topics, too. Sure, one of you might suggest an activity the other hates – but that in itself gives you valuable information about the ways in which you aren't compatible.

            One additional reason I don't think that committing to someone for a series of dates would work is that I don't think getting to know someone, to the point where you can relax and be yourself around them, is just about spending X amount of time in their company. If you struggle to have an hour or two of enjoyable conversation with someone, how much is that really going to change if you make it, say, 6 – 9 hours, spread over three nights? Is the pressure going to suddenly let up on the second date, just because it's the second date? For me, yes, second dates often feel more relaxed – but that's because I know that this person likes me at least enough to want to see me again. If you commit up front to having a certain number of dates, that takes that validation away. So it's not really three dates. Effectively, it's one long date, with breaks.

          • Paul Rivers says:

            "In your first post about the three-date system, you mentioned that the first two dates would involve doing specific activities that the two people dating chose; I think that part of the idea might be a more valuable, less problematic solution than committing to a certain number of dates."

            Hey, thanks, I just wish I didn't seem to get such a "how are you trying to trick me??" reaction from suggesting it. :-)

            "If you struggle to have an hour or two of enjoyable conversation with someone, how much is that really going to change if you make it, say, 6 – 9 hours, spread over three nights? "

            Lol, whoa whoa whoa – 6-9 hours over three nights is way more than I'm talking about – at *most* I'm talking about 3 hours over 3 nights, while doing something that is itself interesting.

            I'm just talking out loud here, but what I'm looking at is:
            - People mostly aren't getting into relationships via long coffee dates
            - People are getting into relationships (and apparently happily) via meeting someone in real life

            Ideally, a dating site would be a way to locate someone then have the real life experience that leads to a happy, genuine, and successful long term relationship, with the experience filtering out people for whom you're actually just not compatible. My thought is to try to make it an experience both people are more comfortable with, that comes more naturally for both people, something that's more "We developped feelings for each other because of the people we are" rather than "We developped feelings for each other because we're really practiced at artificially creating a certain image".

          • Ah, fair enough! My point was basically just that – regardless of the amount of time each date takes – I don't think that agreeing off the bat to go on three dates is, by itself, really going to make date 3 any less artificial or awkward than date 1. (With the key words being "by itself".)

            But I agree there can be value in shaking up the standard coffee date model. I think DNL had an article a while back advocating pretty much what you said about going on more unusual, activity-focused dates (though I believe he also argued for a quick, hey-I'm-not-a-psycho coffee date first). Maybe this is also a niche that sites like meetup.com and sites that organise volunteering events for single people can help fill? Or something of that model? In those cases, true, you're not finding individuals online, but those are ways to combine the scope of meeting people online with the slower pace of getting to know people through shared activities (which some people find more comfortable).

          • A few thoughts:

            -Re: stopping responding, I think the usual reason people don't explain is that then you're in the position of telling a person directly that they weren't "enough" or "right" in some way, and it's hard to do that without risking the other person getting upset and/or defensive. I suspect most women who tried doing that quickly ran into guys who got obnoxious or outright threatening about it, and so were scared off from trying.

            -I never expected that a guy be incredibly interesting and charming in text. I filtered based on whether he showed a clear interest in me as a person (asking about things I mentioned) and didn't show any red flags (overly aggressive or sexual talk, for example). Otherwise, as long as we also seemed reasonably compatible based on our profiles, I was open to meeting within a few exchanges. But there may very well be women who expect more… They are probably also women who get a lot of messages and need to narrow things down more.

            -I also never expected that every single meeting be totally exciting. There was one guy who I had a great first meeting with, but then wasn't feeling any real chemistry on the second date. I went on a third date with him because I wasn't sure if it was just on off day or it really wasn't happening (turned out to be the latter). But again, I can understand if someone has a lot of options, they wouldn't want to spend time giving an extra try to someone where they stopping feeling the attraction early on rather than seeing someone new.

            -I think there's a difference between "not excited" and "bored". I've been on dates with guys I hit it off with that weren't exciting, but I still wants to see them again because I enjoyed their company even so. If I'd been outright bored by them–if the date had felt like a worse way to spend my time than doing something alone–I wouldn't have wanted to see them again, and I think that's pretty normal. We don't generally keep inviting people to do things as friends if we have a really boring time with them early on either.

          • On the not responding thing, I think that "Screw you, bitch, have fun dying alone and being eaten by your dozen cats!" comments are roughly as feared as the "WHYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY?" ones. I hate it when people are nasty, but at least then I know I made the right decision and can press delete and block. Sometimes the second bunch suck me into these long arguments about whether it's okay for me to not want to date someone for that specific reason.

          • Yeah, I'd classify "WHYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY?" In the obnoxious category. :P

          • Yes to the difference between "not excited" and bored! It's not that I'd expect to experience fireworks and rose petals on all my early dates as that I would expect to be enjoying their company consistently. Exactly like with friends!

          • Paul Rivers says:

            With all due respect, I cannot think of a medium that's safer to turn someone down over than email with someone who you'll never run into again if you stop talking to them. Women don't seem to have a problem ignoring upbeat, positive, or interesting messages – it seems more realistic that they don't respond because there's nothing in it for them than it is about threat or being unable to ignore negative emails.

            "But again, I can understand if someone has a lot of options, they wouldn't want to spend time giving an extra try to someone where they stopping feeling the attraction early on rather than seeing someone new."

            Part of my feeling is that that 'extra filtering' just isn't producing useful results for the girl – I think I mentioned the couple of other people I've talked to who have also found that email chemistry typically does not relate at all to real-life chemistry.

            I hear what you're saying, and it's interesting, but my point after watching multiple girls looking for relationships not find anything online, then find someone in real life, that there's a good chance no one is very good at finding/creating chemistry and romance with the current online system / expectations. I think the high flake rate and 45 minutes of coffee isn't working for almost anyone who's looking for a relationship – not the guy or the girl.

      • I haven't been terribly successful with online dating recently (which I attribute mostly to being very unwilling to date in my current environment), but I haven't really noticed the environment you've described and I know several people who have met long term partners that way in the last couple of years.

        Of course, I'm on the other side of the game, and while I haven't ever flaked on a date (that seems terribly rude…though now that I've thought about it for a few minutes I have been stood up twice by my dates so perhaps it's fairly common), there are some conversations that I've let trail off for various reasons. In most of the cases, it was because something came up that made me decide that meeting wouldn't be worthwhile. In one other, it was because he was vague and evasive and I got a bad vibe. The last one probably deserves an apology, as he just had the misfortune to start talking to me at roughly the same time that I decided that I was going to stop actively using the service. That being said, I'm sure that seems different from the man's side of things and that the first two cases might not be as obvious to the other person as it was to me. On the other hand, I did end up meeting a couple of dozen guys in person, so it wasn't as if the site was being used purely for chatting.

        • Paul Rivers says:

          Did you stop using the service only because of what you wrote above about guys who wanted to exchange more picture, cybersex, and never get together in person? Or were there other reasons to?

          It's kind of difficult to guage what the average person is doing by asking online. From your example, let us hypothetically say that 9 / 10 guys who are on the site are only looking to chat or cybersex. It's unlikely those guys are reading these articles and are going to respond saying "yeah, that's the only thing I signed up for". Just like if – hypothetically – 9 / 10 girls almost always flaked out on meeting, they wouldn't go online to sites like this to talk about. You only hear from the 1 / 10 girls who really aren't intending to do that.

          It's interesting to read what it's like from a woman's perspective, as I do not know being the guy. Just saying what I've seen from the guys perspective – the flake rate is just so high that I think many really interesting guys wouldn't even both with it. It's even less rewarding than meeting someone in person and having things not work out, but with the same time investment.

          • No, that's not the reason. It's annoying, but like dick pics and pestery messages from men twice my age, I understood that was part of the package when I signed up for a site. I did online dating before, a few years ago when I lived elsewhere, and that happened then too. Realistically speaking, there are always going to be married guys who want a little bit of a thrill from someone they're pretty sure is a woman, and that's a low risk place to find it.

            The reason I've stopped using it is one that isn't going to be as common to users here, since I think there are a lot of people who live in large cities. I don't, and I'm fairly out of step with…well…most people where I live now. For me, online dating has been a series of experiments about what I can compromise on. Only a handful of my dates actually seemed good on paper. The rest seemed like possibilities. Unfortunately, what I've discovered is that while my standards are unreasonably high given my opportunities and my own appeal, they're also not very flexible. Dating people who I didn't find appropriate for anything more than perhaps friends with benefits was making me bitter, and it didn't seem to be very kind to my dates either, since many of them ended up being confused when I called things off after a few dates.

          • Paul Rivers says:

            Read the reply, thanks for writing back.

      • Jay here, with completely opposite anecdotal experiences!

        I've *never* flaked out on someone I made date plans with on OKCupid. Like I said above, I don't waste the man's time with a lot of back-and-forth. If their message and/or profile don't interest me, I don't respond at all, so they can move on right away. If the message and/or profile does interest me, I'll message back a few times to establish some interest and then make sure to propose some kind of date in meatspace if they haven't already. Result: quite a few high-quality dates and several very pleasing friends-with-benefits situations. I don't frequent OKCupid anymore, but I'm still maintaining meatspace friendships with people I met on there several years ago.

        So I don't view online dating as a bitter night of the soul, because for me it's been highly successful.

        • Paul Rivers says:

          How long ago was it that you frequented okcupid or another dating site, and why did you quit? (Started dating someone is the answer I expect, but I thought I would ask).

          And what general state / major metropolitian area do you live in?

          I recently visited Florida and Philidalphia, and I definitely noticed a far, far, far more open attitude to discussing relationships, sex, or even people making out in semi-public than I see where I live in the midwest (Minnesota). It's always possible this is also correlated to the local flake rate where I live…

          • I stopped checking OKCupid every day in mid-2011 when I started a monogamous relationship. It ended mid-2012 but I still didn't check back because I was going through a spell of singleton laziness and didn't feel like getting back into the dating game. I checked back in and updated my profile a couple months ago, and now check it once a week or so, but I'm semi-dating someone in meatspace and also extremely busy with geeky stuff so I don't have the motivation to use the site extensively (though I did make a very charming British penpal).

            Also, it's winter and I hate stepping foot outside so that is kinda curtailing my motivation to do *anything.*

            I live in the Midwest as well, but in a fairly liberal college town with a military base in the region. So I'm probably pretty lucky with my dating pool.

  4. I must be the only person who, in his early twenties, doesn't use Facebook, Twitter or any of the other social networking sites.

    • Dr_NerdLove says:

      You are a rare beast, yes.

    • Clementine Danger says:

      Well, there's me too.

      Oh, I tried and I tried, making the twitters and booking my face and whatnot, and it just wasn't for me. Couldn't see the point of it. Privacy issues and such, risk not worth the gain. It's a good thing my boyfriend (we met on a forum too) didn't Google me too much, because all he would have found was half a dozen abandoned social networking profiles.

    • I'm in my thrities but I don't post much on Facebook. I prefer real world interaction because you can do things other than talk and also because its not really prudent to post anything in the heat of passion that might come back to bite you in the ass when you least expect it.

    • metalraygear says:

      I don't do the twitters…. or skype- because I find them to be completely useless. *tweet* looking at a sandwich *tweet* just took a bite.

    • I'm in my twenties and don't use facebook either. I had an account when I was in college (and the only people who could have an account were also in college), but deleted it a few years ago. I google myself every so often and haven't been able to find anything. I also don't use skype. I have a twitter account, but I rarely tweet. You're not the only one, but there aren't many of us.

    • Even if people do use Facebook, Twitter and the like,
      do people actually give out enough information on dating sites such that they are identifiable as their "meat-space" identities? Or, equivalently, give out enough info so people could find my Facebook profile that corresponds to my real-life identity?
      Before the first physical date?

      I always though it was standard safety procedure not to.

      (And have the first date in a public place, etc.)

      • Sometimes a profile picture comes up on Google Reverse, but I think this article is more about what to do once you've been talking to someone for a while, get to know them, and start to suspect they're fake.

  5. I had a fake internet identity once. But it was actually because I am a girl on the internet. I don't know if it was because the internet has changed or because I was in high school and the places I went to where different, but back in the day I couldn't admit to being a girl online without someone propositioning me for cyber sex. So I became a man online for a while. I guess that puts me in the outsider category.

    • Clementine Danger says:

      I recognize that one. From WoW and other MMOs mostly, but the early internet too. At first I thought it'd be harmless, "I'll just use a male avatar and name and I won't lie, I just won't tell anyone I'm actually not male. Surely people will understand". But then you slip up, and they ask about it, and for some reason it's awkward to correct them, and before you know it there's this scary alter ego shit going on and you're actually lying to people. That's how it went for me at least. It really freaked me out how quickly it got out of hand. I never ended up hurting anyone with it, thank god, and I certainly didn't start out with bad intentions, but I'm still not proud of it.

      • Oh, I tried the male avatar thing too. I was never able to follow through with the being quiet about my gender thing, though, and generally ended up telling people I was a girl. At some point, I decided it wasn't worth the effort and just started making female avatars, since I usually prefer them.

        • Clementine Danger says:

          In WoW and a lot of other games I just prefer badass power armor over battle-bikinis, so that's why I go to the male avatars, but that's a whole separate issue. The whole "tits or GTFO" social issue seems to be getting better lately, or at least it's being challenged, so there's that. Gaming is a rough business, so you kinda take what you can get.

          The only times when I really notice I'm Not Male these days is when I talk about feminism and women's issues. Then the whole lot of them turn up to carefully mansplain my life to me. That's always fun. I did actually try one of those conversations with a male username (not in a community, an open thread on a blog) and things went very differently. I recommend it, participating in these discussions with a different gender identity. It's a real eye-opener.

          So yeah, I get why people might cheat sometimes. Sometimes it's nice to take a break from being The Girl. The internet is a lot of bad things, and it brings out the worst in some people, but in these cases it's the Great Equalizer. You're all just a picture and an opinion, and if people assume you're male, and you maybe nudge them in that direction a bit, well, no harm done. The trouble starts when you start hanging out socially. Then it's just lying, plain and simple. It's hard to draw that line sometimes.

          • I tried it on an online forum for a few weeks – not posing as a male but deliberately keeping it androgynous. I couldn't keep it going though, 'cos I was telling some story or other where my being female was a key role and I just decided, "fuck it." But I'm not a gamer so I don't know what it's like in those particular communities.

            I might have to try posing as male for a feminism discussion, though. Now my curiosity is piqued.

          • Clementine Danger says:

            It depends on the group and the discussion, but a lot of the things that usually tire me out almost from the get-go are conspicuously absent. A complete lack of "but you don't understand how HARD we have it!" was the thing that struck me most. Obviously nobody starts asking you for examples from your own life to "prove" your theoretical points. No having to assure everyone that while yes, you are feminist, no, you do not hate the cock. The whole thing is just a lot less antagonistic and defensive all-round.

          • Paul Rivers says:

            Hmm, are you talking about a woman posing as a man or a man posing as a woman?

            In my experience, what you wrote applies to either one. If you're a guy commenting you'll get a lot of automatic "you just don't realize how as a woman we have to lookout for danger everywhere we go!" comments immediately. Some of these are fair, I'm not saying they're all out of line, but it's almost always the case that those are the first comments you get.

            Write the same things as a woman, or a woman watching an interaction between a guy she's friends with and a girl he's interested in, and you don't get those responses. There's not a constant stream of insinuation that everything she does is because of the danger factor, and you just don't understand because you're a guy. A guy who complains about women being flaky often gets derided or stuff like that a lot – a lesbian complaining about the exact same thing doesn't get the "it must be your fault that this happened, not hers" responses.

            The one that stands out the most is – to paraphrase another poster on here from a while back – the "though shalt not insult the sisterhood" response. The most extreme I've seen is that a girl I knew from a while back unfriended me on facebook because another girl asked for "what is it like from the guys side of thing", and I factually listed out a bunch of times where girls where kind of being jerks to me, flaky, etc. The girl who actually asked the question said something like "wow, sorry to hear you had to put up with all that!". The girl who unfriended me insisted I was being "misogynistic" simply by writing down examples from my own life of girls being jerks. (And again – the context was the the other girl actually asked for examples of it, while I think people should be able to complain, it wasn't even a "complaint out of nowhere" situation or anything – it was specifically asked for). Had I been another girl posting the same things, I never would have gotten that reaction. I've never had a guy – in person or online – try to insinuate that I had a deep rooted hatred of men because I complained about another guy. Like the time a guy I was sorta friends with invited a bunch of my friends to a birthday party for me and him…without even mentioning it to me, letalone asking me if I was available and wanted to do it. I kinda complained about that one to everyone in our friend group – no one ever seemed to take offense (except the guy who originally did it), or accussed me of "hating men" or anything.

            Point being that I think what you wrote about "The whole thing is just a lot less antagonistic and defensive all-round." applies to either gender. I'm not sure I have the perspective to say whether it's worse for one gender or the other, but it definitely has some similarities on both sides.

          • Clementine Danger says:

            Oh, I did mean "woman posting as a man", because that's the only perspective I know (and that I *can* know). To be clear, I'm not talking about conversations about gender relations, I'm talking about discussions about feminism. The two are related, but not synonymous.

            You are of course right. These are discussions that cut down to the very core of our daily lives and identities and they can get very emotional very quickly, on both sides. I think a lot of feminists (myself included) have the same conversation so many times that they assume an unwillingness to grasp certain things, and that a lot of men feel like they are being told they're Bad People in these discussions. It gets very emotional right quick. Usually it devolves into something I call Example Battles, that weird thing that happens where the person who can name the most examples that support their point wins the debate or a soda or something.

            So… I should have been a little more specific, but I wasn't because I have to use a word that sets a lot of people on edge, one I don't like using, and the word is mansplaining. Which is a bit of a misnomer. It's not something *men* do, it's something men with some (possibly mild) misogynist tendencies do. To put the emotional side and examples from our own personal lives aside for a minute, mansplaining is a thing that really does happen, and it's something I personally find *extremely* grating. It really, really sucks having your demonstrated expertise on a subject denied. Because it's so grating to me, it's something that I tend to notice when it happens, even if it's very mild. It's also something I very strongly notice the absence of. I don't like the word, but I have to admit it doesn't happen to me when I post as a man.

            One of the points I usually try very, very hard to bring across is that having privilege (male privilege in this context, but I have a lot of it myself that I have to keep examining: white, thin, able-bodied, hetero, cis-gender and many more) doesn't make someone a bad person, that it doesn't mean people who have that privilege have no problems, just that the people who don't have it have different problems on top of those… I'm not going to do the whole thing here, but I will say that in my very limited personal experience, those points can get very complex and emotional, and as such require the assumption of good faith from both sides, and that it's easier to get them across when posing as a male ally, rather than a female feminist. Feminist theory is something I read and wrote about and studied and experienced and have spent a lot of time on, but there's often the assumption that I speak from a place of wild emotion and personal experience exclusively, which leads back to the mansplaining…

            Emotional, yes. Is what women are. "Don't get so emotional, I'm just telling you…" is also not something I hear when I post as a dude.

            So… the assumption of good faith… Yes, you're right, maybe that is something that manifests more easily among people of the same gender. That hasn't been my personal experience, but that may be cultural (I'm not from the US, and gender norms in my country aren't the most progressive). Since you mentioned sisterhood yourself, this is not something that I am familiar with. You will often hear people say that "the patriarchy" (another laden term) and all it entails basically tells men to condescend to and mistrust women, which is ignoring the fact that a lot of women buy into "the patriarchy" themselves, and that *everyone* is taught to condescend to and mistrust women, including women. (To go back to personal experiences: when I talk about feminism in what I sincerely hope is a non-confrontational manner, I get tons more shit from women than I do from men.) Maybe it's cultural, maybe I've been hanging with the wrong people, maybe I'm just too young, but this sisterhood I keep hearing about, to me, is more of a vague hope for the future of mankind than an established thing I know exists. YMMV.

            Aaaaand I've started lecturing. Sorry. Point is, yes, I agree with you. I think everyone could benefit from having two or three online discussions about gender relations and feminism posing as another sex. (Not that it would mean much. You can't understand someone else's life until you actually live someone else's life, and that's not a gendered thing. Having something mansplained to you once or twice isn't the same as having it happen every week for years.) From what I've experienced, which is extremely limited, expressing my strong opinions online as man was a *relief*. I still got a lot of shit, everyone does, but some bad things were very much absent. I just don't know whether the reverse would be true. I have my suspicions, but I don't know for a fact. I'd be very interested to read about the findings of a cis hetero guy who posts as a woman online. I can find a lot of accounts and personal anecdotes from women who do it (maybe they have more incentive to do so?), but I haven't seen the other side so far. If those accounts exist and I've missed them, I'd be very interested in them.

          • Paul Rivers says:

            "mansplaining" – from my perspective as a guy in the US, the "you just don't understand us and how hard we have it!" from men came from women using it to begin with. I can't tell you how many times growing up any complaint or genuine question about why a woman would do things that seemed bizarre or disrespectful was met with a "you just don't understand how hard women have it BECAUSE YOU'RE NOT A WOMAN!". I mean not *every* time, but…a lot.

            What I'm saying is that I definitely understand how annoying that is…from my perspective in the US, there should be a gender neutral term for it because it's definitely not just one gender doing it nowadays.

            Privilege – it really is difficult to have any reasonable discussion on privilege, for a couple of reasons:
            - There's always an underlying tone that you're doing something wrong, even when it's explicitly said that that's not the case
            - When it comes to feminism, the articles and the people who talk about it (and "the patriarchy") are mostly **extremely** one sided – and in my experience far more interested being used as a weapon in the power struggle between the genders than they are talking about actual fairness. Someone who wanted to fairly eliminate gender privilege would want to "tease out" privileges on *both* sides. But every time the topic comes up – online at least (in the US) – the suggestion that perhaps would should look at both male and female privilege is always met with immediate hostility. A middle class white woman in the US is the 2nd most privileged class there is – removing all male privilege, while leaving middle white woman privilege alone doesn't make things fair – it just changes who the "more privileged than everyone else" class is. When I was a kid, feminists would at least attempt to say make it so that both people payed for dates, women could ask men out, etc etc and try to balance things. Most mentions of "male privilege" or "the patriarchy" (in the US) always seem to view balance as some sort of nasty thing that shouldn't even be considered.
            - sisterhood – a commenter on here mentioned it a while back. There's the possibility that women only tear down other women when men aren't around, so as a guy I don't see it much. But you can see it in US stories if you watch for gender terms. When a societal/dating/gender topic is brought up that's negative, it's either described as something that's wrong with "men" – or something that's wrong with "society". You'll (almost) never see it admitted that a negative cultural idea is mostly propogated by women, though several are.

            I hope my post doesn't really come across as disagreeing with you exactly. Some of these things are the bizarre natural of online discussion. For example, I'm liberal, but I have a friend who's fairly conservative. We have discussions about political and social issues – and I've realized that sometimes what I think most conservatives think from reading online really is just what the wackos think, and that some of the things he think that liberals think – from reading online or watching conservative tv stuff – is equally absurd.

            So I'm not sure from the above points whether my perspective is totally accurate for the whole group, or if it's more of a case of the most extreme people being the most likely to post and respond, giving an inaccurate view of what the group as a whole thinks.

          • Clementine Danger says:

            Just to be perfectly clear, "mansplaining" is what happens when a woman is the most experienced and/or knowledgeable person in a conversation, but has her area of expertise explained to her anyway. By a man, yes. Of course this happens both ways, but for women it's common enough that there's a word for it. It's got nothing to do with the "how hard we have it" conversation.

            On privilege… I'm all for compromise. You take a little, you give a little, everyone goes home happy. The problem with privilege is that it is one-sided, plain and simple. One side has it, the other doesn't, and you can't barter for it. You can't give up something you don't have. Yes, relative and situational privilege exist and are *very* important to consider, I agree, but they represent glitches in the system. I find that getting into those issues in a feminism 101 discussion is conversational suicide, which is probably why they're rarely brought up.

            The very most important thing about overcoming it, from where I'm standing, is that BOTH groups benefit. I hope you would agree that the world is a better place now that white privilege has been toned down a whole lot in the last decades. That's obviously good for non-white people, but for white people as well. I'm very happy I'm allowed to hang out with my Turkish friends and that my mom's Moroccan friend can go to the same grocery store she does. We white people benefited from those friendships and opportunities too. The less racial tension and privilege, the better *everyone* does. The same is true for any other kind of privilege, male privilege included. If male privilege was reduced dramatically, men and women would *both* benefit. (Except the good doctor here. He'd go out of business, because dating would be super easy. Still, let's call it a win.)

            Sisterhood… again, might be cultural, might be just me, but I'd like some more of it. The thing is that girls are socialized to be non-confrontational and "nice", so when they have the urge to do something nasty, it's all very subtle and sneaky. It's easy to miss if you're not aware of it. It's more clever machinations than hair-pulling and eye-gouging. Again, my experience. Don't take it as fact.

            But on the whole, yes, I see where you're coming from. Thanks for having this conversation. It's nice when people actually argue your points. Having a discussion in good faith is always useful, even if you don't agree 100%.

  6. This might be me, but why are the malicious/abuser catfish in a seperate column than the prankster catfish? The goal of both seems to be the same, the infliction of pain. Pranksters seem to have a wider net and a greater desire to make a show of their bullying but the abusers and the pranksters just want to make people's lives miserable.

    One of the most unfortunate aspects of the internet is that it gives too many people the ability to inflict pain on others. They can commit idenity theft and put a person's life in chaos. They can cyber-bully, sometimes in really public ways and do real harm to real people. I believe that there have been some cases of victims of cyber-bullying committing suicide. Its why I couldn't stand Nice Guys of OkCupid. Yeah, many of the people on that tumblr might have not been the most outstanding individuals but that doesn't mean its morally right to humiliate them in front of the entire world even if its the name of something worthy, and trolls usually have some sort of self-justification for their actions even if its a feeble one. You just don't do that to people, ever.

    • I'm guessing you'd never been victimized by a Nice Guy of OKCupid. It looks pretty different when you identify with the other side.

      They can get cattier on Tumblr than I prefer, but again, I sympathize a lot more with the women who've been subjected to a Nice Guy since I've had similar experiences.

      • No, I haven't. There was one women on OkCupid who kept messaging me even though her profile really turned me off but thats about it.* I understand that most of the men mocked a Nice Guys of OkCupid deserve it and that most of them are resentful jerks and some of them might even be evil. That doesn't mean you get to make fun of them to the entire world.

        *Her self-summary on her profile basically summed up as "this is who I am, if you don't like it, f-you." It wasn't the most endearing ways to present yourself to potential partners.

        • "That doesn't mean you get to make fun of them to the entire world. "

          Uh…why not? Negative reinforcement is a strategy. Plenty of male-dominated communities (certain subreddits come to mind) happily exist to pillory women as sluts and whores to the entire world, I don't see why they get to operate unfettered by an opposition.

          • Clementine Danger says:

            I have to agree with LeeEsq. I've had the unpleasant experience of dealing with Nice Guys twice in my life. My favorite teenage girl in the whole world just got confronted by a posse of them, five guys who no doubt thought they were valiant heroes for sticking it to the bitch and her cockteasing ways…

            And I still don't think shaming people publicly is morally okay, or practically productive. Nobody's ever mended their ways because someone shamed them online. Besides, everyone here knows how internet justice mobs have a tendency to get wildly out of hand and turn on everyone who happens to be close. It's not a tool for people who want to avoid civilian casualties.

            I absolutely do get the urge to strike back at those guys, because that helpless anger and hurt is worse than anything. But publicly shaming them is not the same as negative reinforcement. Negative reinforcement works on people who are actually in your life and you have a mutual bond of friendship and respect with. When you employ those tactics on strangers, the word you're looking for is bullying.

            Besides, I'd be very surprised if anyone who contributed to that site thought to themselves "oh, this poor guys has problems, I'll just put what he said on the internet and then he'll see it and be a better person, it hurts me more than it hurts him, but I just have to help him." No. It's done in anger, out of bitterness and hurt, and those are very poor reasons to do anything you hope will end well. Opposing those guys doesn't have to take the form of online bullying. The ends just do not justify the means. The culture isn't going to change on a dime, it's not going to change by shaming the people we think did us wrong (sound familiar?), and the only thing we can do if we want to change it is use our goddamn words and not buy into this antagonistic tit-for-tat cycle of mutual abuse.

            Tl;dr: you can't hate people for their own good.

  7. I think a common sense approach is necessary. If something sounds to good to be true than its probably not true. Its important not to be so desperate for relationship, and I know this sounds rich coming from me, that you don't approach things cautiously. Luckily, I've never been catfished. I have hermit-like tendencies anyway, so being alone its that bad and its probably be better to be in no relationship than to be miserably coupled up for the sake of being in a relationship.

    • Clementine Danger says:

      "its probably be better to be in no relationship than to be miserably coupled up for the sake of being in a relationship"

      I want this etched onto the face of the moon. Someone fetch me a laser.

  8. Actually MsScribe created all those socks to propel herself into the "inner circle" of "big name" Harry Potter fans/fanfic writers such as Cassandra Claire.

    Lol I could write a paper on the politics of the Harry Potter fandom, man.

  9. WTF Does this have to do with ANYTHING this blog talks about? Seems like a shameless promotion for some kind of diet program…

    Doc, I recommened the ban hammer on this one.

  10. Wow! This just TOTALLY happened to me. I loved this article because it is really enlightening and a lot of it rings true to me! I was "friends" with someone on Facebook since 2008 that just out of the blue started talking to me, we hit it off hot and heavy, had phone calls every night, and he did try to move it very quickly. Much more quickly than I am usually comfortable with but he was hot, so what the heck? Turns out none of his info checked out, he has ZERO internet presence (swears he had it all removed because he had a stalker), immediately blocked me on Facebook, the works. He was definitely the manipulator. I want to create an art installation of his moody text messages to me. Thanks for this advice! Wish I would have seen it before I had my heart broken by a fake person :-/

  11. oh! the only thing I am confused by is he had tons of photos, and none of them came up in Google Image Search. But a HUGE indicator was he was also not tagged in any photos either….

  12. I have a friend I met on social media who has a relationship with a woman an ocean away from him. They skype daily, and he is waiting for the day they can be together, but every time a date is set, she has some major life event (translation: tragedy) that occurs to her within in days of meeting. I have not tried to discuss any of this with him, after seeing others online bringing up these red flags to him. When others question this situation, she "sequesters" him and he has to cut off all contact with others online. It saddens me, but I guess he will have to learn the hard way.

  13. I forgot to mention how well this piece covered EVERYTHING! Nice work.

Speak Your Mind

*