Damsels in Distress

Excessive isolation due to government reactions to COVID led me recently to seek out new friends online.

On the suggestion of a real offline friend, I decided to look into online dating sites.

I have been actively online now for over ten years. My involvement in various legitimate websites has resulting in a small number of friendly connections online. But these were not local friends. In the hope that I could make more friends locally, I subscribed to a couple of dating sites. This is my initial report on that experience. I may expand on it later, or continue the story in future articles.

Friendship and criminality

A classic strategy of the socially unwell (learn more about them here) is to “make friends” with someone, and then use the natural need and desire of the target person for interaction to “mine” them for physical and emotional resources that the highly troubled person finds difficult or impossible to create themselves.

Thus, a website dedicated to starting new friendships would be a perfect target for criminal activity.

Criminals would pose as, say, women who – buffeted by the challenges of living – have come to a place where they are both emotionally and financially needy. Using, perhaps, alluring photographs of pretty young women, criminals would sucker men seeking friendship into sharing data that could be used to compromise them socially or professionally. Then they would be asked for money. And if they refused, they would be threatened with the release of the personal data they shared with the “woman” in their search for intimacy.

In one such scam on Facebook, I got a young African man to admit that he was posing falsely as a pretty American girl. He then sent me a picture of himself, and proceeded to ask for financial help! This, then, could be a case of a double-layered scam, where the scammer has a second backup identity. Or this scammer might simply have been inexperienced in his “art.”

But from this experience we can see that the real person behind the online identity might be totally different than what they appear to be.

Is honest online dating possible?

Say you were an honest businessperson hoping to earn a living by providing an online dating service. Could you design one that would discourage or eliminate a takeover from criminals seeking to take advantage of lonely people?

Criminals seek avenues of less resistance. If it is quick and easy to set up an account on a website, they will try that first to see how it works. If it is too time-consuming to set up an account, they may never even try to get on that site.

eHarmony

eHarmony is an old and rather successful dating service. It was designed by a psychologist to “match” people based on answers to a personality questionnaire. If you want to interact freely with others on the site (see their photos, send messages) you must pay a subscription fee for at least a month.

I have no particular opinion about the validity of matching people based on a personality test. But what this test does do is make it much more difficult and time-consuming to create an account. I believe the popularity of this service is mainly due to the fact that the long set of questions discourages most criminals from setting up accounts.

Though eHarmony started as an American company, it is currently owned and operated by a German firm.

I use a service, Silver Singles, based on this same principle. It is owned by another German company. This company operates several dating sites that all require answering many personality questions to start an account. This results in a site populated by almost all very real people.

Age Match

As I like younger people and am perfectly willing to associate or get romantic with younger women, I wanted to try a site that included a larger age range of participants.

Age Match was mentioned in reviews as one such site, so I tried it, buying a month’s subscription.

However, this site is very easy to get onto. There is no long questionnaire. You have the option of getting your photo “verified” by submitting a picture ID. But almost no one bothers with this step. I did, but in my time on the site, I only found one woman who did.

I found that virtually every “woman” on this site was basically a scammer to some degree. You can normally tell this in several ways:

  1. Their profile is short and “vanilla” or not at all uniquely personal.
  2. Their photo or photos are all of young attractive women showing off their bodies.
  3. Their initial questions normally ask for data provided in your profile. In other words, they didn’t bother to study your profile before deciding to “like” you.
  4. Their ideas about love and friendship seem trite or simplistic.
  5. They quite normally tell a story or previous betrayal and financial hardship. They act stupid when you mention the fact that such information makes them look less attractive. They ignore or reject suggestions that could help protect them from future transgressions.
  6. They speak (write) in poor or broken English, even if claiming to be well-educated.
  7. They ask for money.

After a couple weeks on this site, I have discontinued using it. My experience with it has been uniformly bad. I figure if anyone there is serious about me, they can visit me via my blog.

The future of human interaction in the internet age

The foundation of all useful human interaction is honesty. If the bum on the street actually makes $1,000 a week, but for some reason prefers to live as a bum on the street, then he is misrepresenting himself in his interactions with people to the detriment of all involved.

And if the misunderstood young woman on the internet turns out to be some dude just cruising for people he can take advantage of, the that pollutes the whole field of human interaction, and should be discouraged or eliminated.

We have always needed ways to tell if people are who they claim to be. On the internet that becomes more important, as the capacity to deceive is also much greater.

We need online methods that encourage, if not guarantee, honesty. And I suggest that they should correlate to how we do it with people in person. This might be accomplished using video chat technology. It should be some sort of system that verifies or communicates the reality of a person to others online. Though I am sure any such system could be gamed, I see very little interest in doing this on online social platforms. This makes me wonder if they weren’t designed from the beginning to be criminal platforms.

Recent events have indicated that criminality is in fact their preferred use, as it is very difficult now to find any mainstream information that is not misleading if not outright untrue.

Our challenge going forward, if we wish to advance our culture, is to reverse this trend towards the criminal misuse of our communication systems.

Lucy, 23 years old

Tags: , ,

3 Responses to “Damsels in Distress”

  1. Ekaterina Says:

    I think that a way forward for any legitimate sites is indeed by verifying identity. I, on my side, want to be sure I communicate with a real person behind the real profile (on online social networks), and I managed to build interesting and beautiful friendships online, so it’s a good way to communicate, but one has to be very careful.

    • lecox Says:

      Thank you Ekaterina! It is a brain teaser to figure out how to make this work! I have never used video chat, but this seems like one possibility.

  2. Concepcion Perez Says:

    I believe eHarmony has been helpful? =)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


%d bloggers like this: