eHarmonizers, beware. The reputation of online dating has officially turned down a dark alley leading nowhere near true love. Think you have fallen in love with a petite, blonde bombshell modeling by day and singing show tunes to admiring fans by night? Imagine your surprise when she turns out to be a truck driving, cat lady falling in love with a new man each night. It’s weird. It’s scary. And it’s happening to unsuspecting online daters across the country.
This fall, MTV premiered a new show revealing the men and women behind the computer screen. Catfish, hosted by Yaniv “Nev” Schulman, sprouted from a documentary detailing Nev’s own faux relationship with a middle-aged mother of three masquerading as a beautiful, young 20-something with a passion for singing. Each week, the show features a new victim confronting an imposter of the same caliber. In fact, the art of using false pretenses to lure online love is now affectionately coined “Catfishing.”
How can you prevent yourself from ending up on the wrong end of the catfishing pole? Step away from the computer. But if you can’t do that, at least follow these simple tips and tricks for to avoid a virtual bait and switch:
Measure the digital footprint – You can learn a lot about someone by dropping a name into a search engine. Conduct a full-scale social media investigation. Is his facebook friend count unusually low? Not as many tagged pictures as you might expect for an aspiring sock model? Are his wall posts limited to just a few recurring comment makers? Face the music. He’s a fraud.
Schedule a video conference – If the only interaction you have with this girl is in type mixed with wink faced emoticons, head for the hills. Unless you can see this person live, on-screen you might be dealing with a web based weirdo. If you do get her on screen, ask her to hold up a photo I.D. just for extra insurance.
Run a quick reality check – If it swims like a fish, and smells like a fish, it’s most likely a catfish. What are the chances of falling in love with a multimillionaire model/actress, or a Persian Prince? Slim to none. Bring it on down back to Earth.
Demand a meeting – The heart accepts no excuses when it comes to true love. Insist on meeting as soon as possible. If you get stood up, it’s not because he was conveniently involved in a freak accident just minutes before arriving at the coffee shop. It’s because he’s on the other side of the country washing his face, the one that looks nothing like the face you have seen in pictures.
Don’t talk to strangers – Remember this one? Perhaps it needs an addendum: Don’t type or text to strangers either. Ever.
Follow these rules and you are sure to save yourself from heartbreak, betrayal, and total humiliation on national television.