It’s been a long time since the internet became public domain. I got my first email account back in 1995 at the behest of my best friend. It didn’t take me long to figure out that there was more than just email to be had online. Back then Netscape was my best online friend and it showed me a wonderful little chatroom called Talker. Anyone remember HTML chatrooms? Anyone? It was in Talker that I met people from all over the globe. I even made friends with people in different areas of my own state. The entire world opened up with just a few clicks on the keyboard and a successful dial-up connection.
I still have some of those friends from Talker in my life. Some of them I’ve met in real life. Some I’ve video chatted with. Some I may never meet in person. The internet has evolved. We now have social media, blogs, online role play games, and virtual realities.
I won’t even comment on the now infamous case of online dating that is still being talked about. I will say, he is not the first person to fall prey to someone being disingenuous and he won’t be the last. I see situations like the current one played out time and again and it is frightening that we as people, can be so deceiving and so trusting.
One friend from those early Talker days flew from Sweden to Florida for vacation and to meet his “girlfriend.” Only when he got there, she wasn’t what he expected. It turned out all the pictures she used online or sent to other men were all of her daughter. He suffered through his vacation and returned broken.
That was the first case for all of us in the chatroom to sit back and really think about what goes on. For the most part, I knew my friends were all who they said they were. It takes a lot of paying attention to what is said and not said to know when something is amiss. In our friend’s case, the girlfriend was the same person she was online, except for the picture she used to portray herself. How many times have we seen on TV or in movies of characters signing up for dating sites and not using their own picture or using their own picture but making up details about themselves far from truth?
The most recent case of misrepresentation I witnessed was in Second Life. This guy that was involved with a friend of mine disappeared from my circle after some information about his personal life came out. A year later or so he reappears and another friend made friends with him. Being a good friend, I warned her about him and left it at that when she brought him into her business. Until things just kept not adding up. His wife was in-world as well and even if their avatars were logged in at the same time. They never typed at the same time and they never moved at the same time. Stories he told didn’t mesh. Stories she told didn’t mesh. Something was rotten. I told my friend. Other friends told her. Turns out he was the same person. He was using a voice modulation program to talk to my friend as himself and as his wife. He used pictures of a model that he claimed was his wife. He didn’t stick around after we all found out. I hear he’s still somewhere out in the big virtual world. He just can’t come into my little slice of that world.
Not every “relationship” that starts online ends in disaster because one party was dishonest about themselves. One of my good friends from Talker is now engaged to man we were friends with in there so many years ago. Another set of friends from a chatroom I frequented later are now married. A friend from Second Life just married her husband last year after meeting him in-world several years ago. And in May, Chaz and I will celebrate our 15th wedding anniversary.
There are happy endings out there. Anything can happen.