I’m sure most of us are familiar with any number of blogs which depict creepy messages, profile pics and, of course, the not at all inappropriate answers to the important question of “What I’m good at”. Not so widely covered, however, are some of the very serious privacy and safety issues related to these circles.
Whether I’m at the airport, sitting at the bar or a café, when casual conversation is struck-up and the “what do you do?” question appears, I’ve been amazed at some of the responses I’ve received when explaining my business. Following are the two most frequent and potentially harmful examples I hear of and everyone needs to be aware of.
The Jilted Texter
This is by far the most common scenario and usually begins in one of two ways after phone numbers are exchanged. One of the two either decides against meeting the other in person or, after meeting in person they thought better of doing so again.
Regardless of whether there was a meeting or not, I’ve been surprised to hear how often someone who seems (mostly) normal turns in to a hate-filled, texting and calling machine. I’ve heard of messages ranging from incoherent to insulting to absolutely threatening. I have been amazed at the number of times I’ve heard of this happening but even more alarmed by the fact that in most of the stories the mobile carrier of the party being text-stalked would either not block the other party or would only do so for a fee.
I’m not certain why these individuals feel that some sort of contract has been violated and that this is their only recourse but needless to say, I have never heard of an instance where the one being battered by texts decided “you know what, this person has a good point with their 137 text messages; I need to go on a date with them.”
This behavior is annoying and scary but not at the level of the next case.
The Personal Info Stalker
The worst tale I’ve heard is where, after a phone number exchange, the offending party Google’s the others number to locate personal details such as home address. Simply Googling the number can lead to a lot of links to click through but stalkers have many friends to aid them in their search for personal information. I do not care to give these companies any publicity here but there are many, many stalking services which claim to allow one to search on details, such as phone number, in order to locate lost loved ones or classmates. This begs the question; if I have a “lost loved one’s” phone number, why do I need to use internet search tools to locate their home address; and for a fee, of course.
This particular type of offender is especially dangerous due to the sheer nature of their efforts. It is bad enough to threaten someone via text message but it is quite another to literally show up at someone’s doorstep. This very thing happened to a friend of mine after she excused herself from an awkward first date.
Shortly after she arrived home, relieved to have made it out of the situation, there was a knock at her door. Surprised, as she was not expecting company, she went to answer and found that her date was there, standing on the doorstep assuming he could spend the night. You know, because their date went so well and all. Fortunately she was able to get him to leave without incident but many are not so lucky.
No More Online Dating for Me, Right? Not so fast.
Although the majority of the stories I hear are related to online dating, this is simply due to the nature of my business and customer base. Just a couple of weeks ago I heard the story of a jilted texter who a colleague met at a Thai restaurant. And so, it can happen anywhere, but the anonymity of the internet does seem to bring these issues out more often. Unfortunately, the term “keyboard warrior” exists for a reason.
The problem is not the medium but the behavior itself. For one reason or another there is still a significant demographic who do not honor the personal space or safety of others. I do not have all the answers to this problem but I believe awareness and education are a start and organizations such as Break the Cycle are taking ground-breaking steps to educate youth on how to maintain healthy relationships and how to recognize and report unhealthy relationships they, or their friends and family may be involved in. Through educating future generations, let’s hope the issues I’ve described above become a thing of the past.
In the end, there is no doubt that online dating can be a successful means of finding a safe, healthy relationship but those who are participating in this medium should be aware of the dangers which the anonymity seems to bring with it. After hearing the many horror stories which I have, one thing that rings true is to always trust your gut. Overwhelmingly those who shared their stories felt something was wrong and did their best to remove themselves from the situation; whether it be politely declining to meet for a first date, or my friend deciding to remove herself from a bad first date.
There is a reason we have instincts. Listen to them.