Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Love 2.0

Reading this article in which experts hold forth on online dating reminded me of something a friend had said a while ago - that I should write a post on how to spot a fake in thirty minutes or less. It is commonly known that on the Internet no one needs to know you are a dog. With apologies to the canine species who are by far superior on all counts compared with the scumbags you run into online, it is important to be able to recognize the many "dogs" of the online dating world. Here is a small sampling of things to beware of :

1. Email Address : Would not use a real first and last name, the handle itself would be vague and not have any real life associations that you can trace back to. Often the address is fairly new - its hard to find a fake using an email address he has had since the 90s.

2. Voice Mail Greeting : Regular people often announce their name in the own voice (at least) and will also have a greeting recorded. A fake will use a cell-phone and/or a VoIP phone as their only contact number. They will use the pre-recorded greeting that comes out of the box and record a blank instead of their name in the greeting. Most often the phone number will not be announced. You will feel weird leaving a message and wonder if you even had the right number.

3. Lack of e-correspondence : They will like to minimize e-mail trail and try to get on the phone as quickly as possible. You will be hard-pressed to get them to send you a photograph. They may or may not ask to see one of yours. They will reason it is much more effective to meet in person because it is almost impossible to sense chemistry via a picture

4. Invented Identity : If you want to meet only people of your own religion, a determined fake from another one will lie about his faith. An easy way to test this one is to lead him into some very uncomfortable discussion about religion or better still be obnoxious and flaunt your own faith to the point, it becomes difficult for him to not defend what he believes in. Chances are, he will steer conversation in a different direction. All other aspects of a fake's identity will be invented as well - education, career, family, marital status, children - what have you. They follow a playbook and will do their best to stick to the script. Drilling down to the next level of detail on any aspect is the easiest way to rat them out simply because there is no detail.

5. Language : Usually effusive and charming (if they have been at it for any length of time). They will try to bypass the initial ice-breaking phase and plunge right into the heart of the matter with lines like "Do you think you will like me ?" , "Do I sound like the kind of man you might find interesting to get to know ?", "I can't wait to meet you. In all the time I have been dating, I've never talked to someone like you. When do you have some time to meet ?" and so on. It all about not venturing into territory that requires specific, quantitative responses and trying to tug at your heartstrings by way of "You are so wonderful to talk to, I could be on the phone with you all day", "You should never settle for a man who does not appreciate how special and unique you are ". On a bad day, a lot of women will drop their guard when such lines are delivered with panache and it is exactly on such days that fakes pull off their scams.

6. Speed : Sort of related to the previous section. Fakes want to hit the ground running. There is no time to be wasted getting to know someone new. They act like they have this amazing psychic connection with you, which makes the run of the mill process of relationship building quite unnecessary. They "get" you completely and you will discover that yourself as soon as you drop your defences and let them into your heart. As for your body - they are not seeking that at all - easy women are dime a dozen and they could be hooking up with anyone they fancied. You on the other hand are exclusive and special - it is your love and respect they seek. They will do their utmost to get you emotionally entangled quickly - everything else becomes easy at that point.

7. Too good to be true : If a guy tells you stuff about himself and/or his family that is simply too good to be true be very afraid. If he talks to you like he has known you for ever and gets you to talk with him like you would with your closest friends even before you have met in person, be very afraid. If he is not able to give you his full legal name, home address and phone number or send you a mail from his work mail address you can be almost 100% certain you are dealing with a fake. The real guys have no trouble providing you as much information about them as you reasonably need to feel comfortable.

So let's say you know exactly how to tell a fake and think you are talking to one. It's one thing to think and quite another to know for sure. Your fake is going to try his hardest to convince you that you are paranoid and steeped in negativity to the point that you are unable to see the inherent goodness in human beings.

He will have some cockamamie story about how he had been a victim of identity theft in the past and prefers to err on the side of caution when giving out personal information. After all, when the two of you are together, he will be handing his life over to you to guide and run - remember you are his life's true north. If not that, the other frequently used story involved a neurotic ex (girlfriend, fiancee, wife etc) who is obsessed about him and will do everything in her power to stop him from moving on.

He is a man on the run, trying to hide from this raging female lunatic who is hounding him relentlessly - he just cannot afford to leave traces of himself online or offline if he wants to escape her wrath. You just have to live with the ambiguities and trust that he is the man you have been waiting for - all will be cleared up in the end when you two are married. Needless to say, all stories are told very convincingly. You have to maintain strong resolve and assume guilt until proven innocent. Despite what your fake tells you, this is a basic survival mechanism and not some deep-seated cynicism that will take mental health intervention to correct.

When you allow yourself to get carried away by the tall tales of your professional fake, be prepared to be jolted out of your little paradise with no warning - a call from his wife one weekend asking to know why your phone number appears hundreds of times on his cellphone bill, the man himself dropping off the face of the earth never to reappear are among the myriad of possibilities.

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