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What They Never Told You About Romance Online - The REAL Danger Of Internet Dating

Updated on July 4, 2008

Dating on the Internet, or 'online dating' as those crazy kids call it, has gotten a lot of bad press over the years, mostly because people fear that the Internet is mainly populated by axe wielding psychopaths who will drug you and lop the top of your skull off and eat your brain whilst you watch them. While that is a real danger (and anyone dating online should definitely wear a safety helmet at all times for this very reason), there are greater dangers out there. The greatest danger of all however, is one that you will almost never see listed anywhere, but it affects a very large portion of the Internet dating community.

Unwilling victims are claimed daily, and suffer in silence whilst they lose hundreds if not thousands of dollars, and perhaps even their sanity. The real danger of Internet dating is insidious and will creep up on you before you even know its there... the real danger of online dating is the love illusion trap.

What on earth is the Love Illusion Trap?

It's a fairly clumsy term that I'm using to describe the phenomenon of falling in love with someone who you have never met. Now at this point, about a third of you dear readers will guffaw and deride anyone so stupid as to fall in love without having met the other person, an other third of you will blush with embarrassment, and still another third of multi taskers will do both.

As stupid as it sounds it is very possible to fall in love online. People do it all the time. They fall in love with chat room personas, with IM conversations, with emails. They fall in love with a picture taken 19 years ago, they fall in love with that voice at the end of the phone line.

Often times this is dismissed as being just silly folly, but the reality is, it is much more dangerous that other forms of escapism because it emotionally traps people. That's right, because you are now 'in love' (and I believe that, speaking on a chemical and emotional level, what people feel in these situations is indeed 'real' love) with what can only be a phantom presence in your life, you cut out other in person possibilities.

Not only do you shut yourself off from other possibilities, but after a while, you may start to become quite disdainful of the people you meet in person. They lack the class, the style, the charm of your online lover. Your online lover would never pick their nose, or have a stain on their shirt, or do that annoying twitchy thing with their hand.

Online relationships can be very socially isolating, as the person 'in love' becomes more and more attached to the Internet to give them their love fix, and starts withdrawing from 'normal' social activities. Shy people are particularly prone to this phenomenon, as they may not have many friends to help break them out of their self imposed shell, and the reality of being able to interact at a safe distance online beats the reality of having to interact in the big scary world at large.

But don't think this only happens to social misfits living in their parents' basement. It can happen to anyone, and the terrible thing about it is that it can affect both parties equally. Now ideally of course, this period is a short one, and eventually the parties meet and decide if they are in love or not. That's the ideal situation, but with the Internet being the way it is, quite often people meet and fall in love with partners from other countries, and then they may be stuck in a situation where meeting is not possible.

There are very few statistics on people 'trapped' in online affairs, but I would estimate that there are several million around the globe. They are trapped by their yearning for something they cannot have, and the prospect of losing that glowing future that they have talked about so often with this person they have never laid eyes on. Because the emotions are completely real, even though the situation may be virtual, people become stuck in limbo, sometimes for many years.

And that, my friends, is the real danger of online dating.


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    • profile image

      john 7 years ago

      My wife is there now. she has fallen in love with a guy she has never met and she cannot verify anything for herself about this guy. He sweet talked her and told her how beautiful she was, just as she was.

      They have had cybersex etc and the feelings are very very real for her. She is locked in and cant and doesnt want to get out.

    • profile image

      Dean and Angella Romance Online 7 years ago

      You make some good points in your article because yes there can be many pitfalls and negatives.It is often easier for people to play out fantasy online, pretending to be someone they are not etc. But you know the offline romance scene is really no better in some ways but fortunately just as in offline there are success stories of online romance and our story is one of those.....thanks for sharing great information though...Dean and Angella

    • William R. Wilson profile image

      William R. Wilson 8 years ago from Knoxville, TN

      Interesting stuff for sure. I think online love and real life love have many of the same components. When you first meet someone and fall in love you are blind to their foibles, or you think those foibles are adorable. Online, there just more that is hidden, so its easier to be blind.

      And I think the brain chemicals that are excited by online love are the same as in real life love.

      I've never fallen in love online but I know folks who have. It's very interesting to me. There's a whole new set of rules to follow, you know? 20 years ago we were wondering how far to go on the first date. Now we have to think about what the other person is really like, and how deeply to get involved before we reveal all.

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      Margaret 10 years ago

      Thanks your article was very sobering,i was also caught in this on-line trap for about 3 yrs,during that time we discussed marriage , relocation and our future.He did not ever ask me for money but cancelled arrangements to come over to see me twice and profusely apologised to give him another chance,after the second time,I called it quits as painful as it was.He still writes to me but I am not going there!