More couples than ever before are meeting online, not only for a one time hook up, for an online affair or for mutual masturbation, but for love. Yet many of these couples never actually meet in person. In the New York Times February 6th, 2014 Daniel Jones reports in “Romance at Arms Length” that he finds a new phenomenon growing he labels “soul mate in a box,” which he defines as meeting a person online that the person pursuing the relationship never speaks to on the phone or in person. But an emotional relationship does develop, perhaps deeper than any in person relationship. There may be webcam sex, or just the promise of sex. They may meet in Facebook or on a dating site, and at first just chat. Then there is flirtng, then even love – all online. They may share intimate details about themselves, and then text, instant message or email one another several times a day and share every private thought with one another all day long.
The problem with these soul mate in a box relationships is that the the partners dont actually meet in person, or when they do, it is crushing for some; the in-person intensity and attraction is not the same. There is no intimate connection, the physical connection is not the same as the online attraction and they are not as in love as they were when they had a relationship on their computers or hand held devices.
A television show currently on MTV called “Catfish” is popularizing the dilemma that some young people find themselves in that is more problematic than soul mate boxes. These young people are meeting someone online that is not who they say they are. Internet relationships develop quickly and deeply. Sharing intimate things about yourself happens when we cant make eye contact. The relationships that develop when these people believe that the person representing themselves is real can lead to connections that feel real but aren’t. Whats worse, some of these lead to scams and real life crimes.
The Internet Crime Complaint Center, a part of the US Dept. of Justice, says that there was a reported $55 million lost to romance scams in 2012. According to the latest data collected, both men and women who meet scammers on dating sites are being lured in and taken advantage of by people posing as sensitive and caring potential partners telling stories of financial ruin, or of travel emergencies.
One woman who had been emailing with a man she met online for three months received a disturbing email, “He said he was in Mexico and lost his wallet and needed $2,000 to get home. I could wire him the money. I knew then that all the poems he sent and all the photos of him and his kids were a lie. I was devastated. I should have known.”
Some signs to watch for to avoid being scammed online: if someone you meet online is too good to be true, they might be. Ask to talk on the phone after your first few exchanges of emails. And if the phone conversation goes well, ask for an in person date. Meet in a public place and always tell someone where you are going and who you are meeting. And if anyone, at any time, asks you to wire them money, don’t. Report them immediately. Don’t be scammed by a fake romance online. Always be safe.
(Contact the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre on Romance Scams for more info).