Ask Dr. Tracy

The Pitfalls of CyberLove

Although this website and my professional expertise are primarily dedicated to helping people with flesh-and-blood relationships, cyber-relationships count, too. If all you really want is a cyber-penpal or cybersex, fine, but if you're looking in cyberspace for a flesh-and-blood relationship, I don't want you to spin your wheels or set yourself up for disappointment. Here are a couple of ways that can happen.

Who are you talking to?

Until technology allows us to see an image of the person we're corresponding with, and confirm by electronic signature that the person and the picture match, you really don't know who's at the other end of your e-mail exchange. He/she could be a bright kid in junior high school somewhere having fun with an online persona as an older person of the opposite sex.

Sure, you think you can't be fooled over the course of an extended e-mail exchange, but don't be so sure. I've had clients who actually dated someone who turned out to be a different person than they claimed to be.

Again, if you're not ready for or really interested in a flesh-and-blood relationship, then of course this doesn't apply to you. But if you are, I urge you strongly to read "`Qualifying' Someone" to get my recommendations on what you should know about someone before you start to get dreamy about them -- no matter how you meet.

A Flood of Remote Prospects

The online dating and matchmaking services make "meeting people" fast and inexpensive. It's great escapism for singles who are tired of the local, conventional "dating scene." It's easy to be seduced into the wishful thinking that you're reading profiles of real people.

Don't get me wrong -- I like some aspects of online dating, and some profiles are more or less real., for example, seems to have a lot of real people, and they offer a geographic filter. Some online services don't, however, and that's a problem. Unless you're stuck in someplace like Barrow, Alaska, it just makes no sense to start matching preferences with the U.S. population at large (again, unless you're only interested in entertainment).

Sure, we've all read accounts of bi-coastal marriages resulting from online "meets," but common sense dictates that you use the efficiency of online matchmaking to find interesting prospects in your own city or area. It's tough enough getting a fix on someone even if you can see them conveniently and meet their friends (again, see "`Qualifying' Someone" for the nuts and bolts of checking someone out); if the other person is halfway across the county, you're dramatically raising the odds of making a big mistake.

If you use online matchmaking wisely, you might actually wind up meeting a cyber-penpal. To be sure you do so safely, please read "Going Beyond E- Mail".

Related Keywords: Meeting People, Over-Romanticizing, Bad Prospects

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