Secrets, Lies & Chat

Friday, October 21, 2005

Love Bytes

Comment for RADAR re Love Bytes
The Sydney Morning Herald
19 October 2005

Love Bytes

As a once 'addicted to chat' female who also experimented with online dating websites, I found the article interesting for a couple of reasons.

It was clear to me that the writer has never personally been involved in either chat online or dating websites. This, of course, lends itself to people coming out of the woodwork to comment, and a way for the writer to perhaps find out some of that information not readily available.

I too, have been approached by journalists for information about chat and dating, and the repercussions primarily, but their ultimate aims were to have me provide other contacts for them to interview to produce a 'grab' story. I know only too well, that the people I used to spend time online with, would never speak to anyone they don't know and trust about their experiences online.

I appeared on Today Tonight and spent over two hours being interviewed for a segment on online dating. As an author of a novel about my life online that was about to be released in the USA, I was promised promotion for the book in the segment. The cameraman painstakingly took footage of the book in strobe light, and I was impressed. Not so when the story hit the airwaves. What I saw was not what I expected and I learned a good lesson about the media. There was not a single mention of the book; however they did use my real name. They also used a stand-in actor in part of the segment about me that angered me immensely. The story was what I regarded as absolute trash, and the fact that I was a part of it made me shudder.

People who use the Internet frequently, who become involved in whatever way with the opposite or same sex, are not going to come out and tell their stories freely. Anonymity is the name of the game online and that's exactly what most people want.

The 30% quoted of married people online is way below the mark and I would put it closer to 90% of the males over 30 online are married. Women fall into a lower percentage, but many married women chat during the day to fill in their hours alone, and some extend it into the nights when their husbands are either at work or in bed.

If writers of articles on online chat and dating spent some time online themselves they would see that at night, for instance, the married and flirting rooms are full of people. The name of the room has little to do with what is actually going on in those rooms for a large proportion of the chatters.

A room of say 60 people, where maybe only 6 are typing on the screen, says a lot for what is going on in private. Not with everyone, no, but the majority yes. Enter one of those rooms with a suitable nickname, and the private conversation requests will astound you, both in the sheer number you receive, and the comments made about what the other person wants from you.

Cyber sex is a priority for many people online. It fills a void in their lives where they can fantasise with a willing, anonymous partner, and go to bed feeling a bit better than they did earlier. This participation often leads to a meeting in reality and can, and does, then lead to marriage breakdowns and broken hearts.

These people believe it is their right to share intimacy with strangers while their partners are asleep, or at work, or out for the evening. They don't see it as a new way to cheat, as they have no fear of being caught and losing their safe lives.

The Internet is another form of society, and I repeat, an anonymous, and insidious one. The owners of dating websites are laughing all the way to the bank as the majority of people using that medium to look for love, are sadly disappointed. Yet they join up in their thousands, in the hope they will find their perfect match in what they consider to be, a safe place.

A large proportion using the medium are looking for free sex, even to the extent of making up lies to tell their spouses so they can escape for a weekend. The sad part is, these people usually hook up with someone who is genuinely lonely and looking for love and affection, and is single.

Manipulation by words online gives the lonely surfer the notion that they may very well have found their soulmate, so they throw caution to the wind and allow themselves to be used by those that have no consciences. Some people can be very persuasive with the written word and, if you are like me for instance, meeting someone online who can string more than two words together, is a definite plus; and of course, a fantastic bait.

The Internet is growing in leaps and bounds as millions come online each year. If you put everyone on an island together that use the Internet in the search for a soulmate, you would have a huge population of people from almost every corner of the globe.

My advice to anyone contemplating entering the world of the Internet in search of love is, be aware, be wary, and beware. Many people have already been hurt, and some are no longer with us, due to liaisons that began online. I personally know of women, young and not so young, who have been raped and stalked by men they met online and then chose to meet in so-called reality. I don't consider the Internet as fantasy; it is a very real and very dangerous place, depending on how you use it and how tuned in you are to people you can't see or hear.

What the Internet brings to the world in other ways is outstanding and I doubt anything will ever replace the good it can, and does do, for people all over the world. But, as in all societies, there is that darkness there. Many never find it and scoff at those that say it exists. I for one can attest with all honesty to the fact that there are some fairly obscene and dangerous things going on under the surface, and some of them I have experienced first-hand, by choice.

Instead of looking for stories to blast across the Internet or newspapers or magazines to grab readers, I believe journalists should start to work in the other direction. They should use the tools they have at their fingertips, and the voice they have, to tell the real story and to make people aware that all in the garden is not so rosy.

Educate people about the Internet. Warn parents about their children being exposed to things they would never allow them to be exposed to if they knew about it. Make the Internet safer, just like many are already trying to do. The Government of Australia, and I imagine Governments of other countries are doing the same, has websites set up for children and parents where information is readily available on the dangers of the Internet and how to handle issues and who to contact if help is needed.

That's my opinion anyhow, for what it's worth, after six years of surfing, three of which were intense and centered on chat and online dating.



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