I saw a preview for a TV show chronicling a woman who had been abducted by a man she met online. According to my mom, this is exclusively how the internet functions. As if real life weren’t creepy and weird enough, the internet can most certainly lend itself to the creepiest of creeps. That being said, I’m not sure the internet is any worse a place to meet and connect with new people than a bar. People may argue that at a bar, you meet the person face to face and your instincts and intuition kick in, but I don’t quite agree. Considering the fact that most people communicate almost exclusively in acronyms and consume more alcohol than water, it’s safe to say that people aren’t exactly able to suss out a sociopath—they tend to be very charismatic and engaging—as opposed to a super-awesome human who might want to take you out to dinner sometime.
Of course safety should always be a primary concern when navigating the often cruel and unusual punishment that is dating in Albuquerque. But I wonder if talking with someone online is really that unsafe. Is it any more dangerous than meeting someone at a bar while talking over loud music and exchanging phone numbers?
So many people are disconnected from each other as it is—disconnected from who they are, who other people might be and what they want. I sometimes fall into all three categories simultaneously, but I don’t know that this is a reason not to try to connect. It doesn’t mean you can't get up one day and try to sort some shit out.
I have many friends who have tested out sites like OkCupid and Match and their experiences range from falling in love to getting weirded out to LOLing at each message.
Two of my friends, for instance, met on OkCupid and immediately fell in love. Excited to hear about Gannon's new love interest, I walked over to his apartment in Cambridge to barbecue shish kabobs and meet Jeff. I watched them dance around in the kitchen and make BBQ sauce for the vegetables, and I could feel their closeness. It had only been a few weeks, and Jeff and Gannon seemed to speak to one another in a way that made sense—in a way each person before them could not. Gannon's wild heart met Jeff's calmness, and the two were unreasonably attractive as individuals, never mind as a couple. Today, by virtue of Massachusetts law, Gannon and Jeff are happily married husbands and live in Vancouver, and I could only dream of meeting a partner who suits my needs in the way those two do for one another.
On the opposite end on the spectrum, I have a friend who met a man online; he lived up to my mom's worst fears about internet dating. The first few dates they went on were pretty great. She seemed excited to be going out with someone new, and he seemed genuinely interested in her career and interests. Then, suddenly, he stopped messaging, calling and texting. Nothing. He simply ceased to exist. Confused and understandably hurt, she eventually stopped expecting to hear from him. Then, just as suddenly, he started texting, calling, messaging and emailing. Everything. She explained that she wasn’t interested, and the man still would not stop. He harassed her for months, and she eventually deleted her profile off the site and switched emails. This, of course, is what we fear about online dating: that some crazy asshole will come into your life, disorient you, bombard you and crookedly rearrange your openness as a human being trying to find love in a weird and sometimes-
I still don’t believe online dating is a bad idea. I don’t think you’ll die, but I can’t make any promises. But I also can't promise that monogamous love makes complete sense, that there aren’t aliens, that you’ll be safe if you meet a nice artist at Gecko's who ends up extorting money from your family and won't stop texting you emoticons.
I guess that's the gamble of love and of living, of the desire and urge to connect with someone. How beautiful it is that we humans seek companionship so relentlessly. I think the best part of online dating is that it truly allows you a slow-paced opportunity to exchange ideas and beliefs with someone before you commit to giving them your phone number or personal information. It's also good for your soul to know that, while Albuquerque may seem sparse at times, there are a handful of wonderful humans living in this city who are single and interested in knowing what your favorite type of ice cream is.
People have been dating psychos for centuries. Sociopaths existed before Al Gore invented the internet. The OWN network thrives off of love gone awry, and the news likes to remind us it's unsafe to be alone anywhere, at any time and for any reason. I’m not sure these notions do us much good as a culture. Do I walk with mace? Yes. Am I nervous everyone is a serial killer? Mostly. But I won't be so terrified of people's worst parts that I can’t explore and search for people's brightest parts, too.
Online dating requires the same precautions as living your day-to-day life. Don’t list your social security number on your profile, ease your way into telling people personal information about yourself and trust yourself if you feel uncomfortable with your correspondence. The world is a gigantic and terrifying place, but don’t forget it also has museums, baby animals and incredibly magical humans.