Over the past few weeks, I have learned some pretty terrible things about us as a society. It has pained me to see a venerable institution under attack by a select few whose hearts have withered like the Grinch’s.
I’m talking about the dating scene and the proliferation of online scammers. (What? You thought I was talking about something else?)
As a recent re-entry into the world of dating, after my 19-year marriage ended, I decided to try some online dating sites in the hopes of finding a suitable match.
Instead, what I found was a duplicitous world where you can trust no one. Or, at the very least, as Ronald Reagan used to say, “Trust, but verify.”
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I am not naïve. I know there are people out there willing to do anything to make a buck. But this is different. This is nothing less than the death of our sense of humanity.
Because dating can be awful. We all know how hard it is to get out there, face rejection and catastrophic failed dates and still keep our spirits up. It is a universal condition, and one that tests even the most confident person.
What keeps us getting up in the morning in the face of overwhelming odds and the lonely emptiness of a once-bustling home is one thing: hope.
Hope that someone out there will find us. Or we’ll find them. And it will be magical.
That hope is the scammer’s weapon. A story on CNN said the FBI’s Internet Complaint Center received 5,600 complaints in 2011 for what is known as a “romance scam.”
There are several different forms, each of them low. Some scammers pretend to be a soldier serving overseas. Some get to know you, then ask for money when a tragedy happens or they hit a rough patch. Some just want your email address to spam you.
What scammers do is worse than stealing, because that’s just part of life. But these people, they destroy our hope one “wink,” one email, one “favorite” click at a time. And while your brain may tell you that a beautiful young woman probably isn’t really going to favorite someone on the north side of 40, your heart says, “maybe.”
And when you stop believing that, then the scammers have done worse than rob you of money or privacy. They’ve taken away the exciting expectation that the next message you get might be the one that connects you to the love of your life.
So be careful, but don’t let the scammer terrorists win. That soul mate is out there. Don’t give up believing in that.
Dating can be awful, I know. Getting out there can be daunting, scary and something akin to trying to pass legislation through Congress.
So don’t give out your email address or landline home phone number. For the love of God, don’t send people money.
But keep trying. Because dating can also be wonderful.