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Close Encounters of the Electronic Kind

Barbara was not a flamboyant divorcee, but what she was, was tired of being single. In her small town, available men were as scarce as unindicted politicians, so she struggled along with two teenaged children, a mediocre job, and a mortgage. Then, she discovered online dating.

Friends cautioned her, but loneliness being aggressive and painful, she began searching online for a compatible and handsome man, preferably one with deep pockets.

Not many weeks after, she arrived at work, excitedly waving an airline ticket, round-trip, sent by a presumedly compatible handsome man with deep pockets. “He wants me to come for a week!”

“Oh, Barb, are you sure this is wise? He could be a mass murderer! At least leave your family his profile and a phone number.” There was no dissuading her, and the next week off she flew. True story. The good news is, she returned to relate the following strange encounter.

Upon their meeting at the airport, Mr. Average Not-So-Deep Pockets drove her in total silence to a remote cabin deep in the wintry north woods, where for the entire week he never so much as spoke to her.

Each morning he left early, returned late, ate in silence, and went to bed. Barbara spent six days huddled under a blanket, feeding the inefficient woodstove and reading whatever she could find — Bow Hunter, Field & Stream, Outdoor Life? No electricity. No indoor plumbing. No cell phone service. No transportation. To his credit, Mr. Average N-S-D-P did deposit her at the airport unharmed.

Believing she had learned a cheap and valuable lesson, her co-workers were stunned several weeks later when she announced she was going to the east coast to visit a young midshipman she’d met online.

The midshipman did not waste his time. After meeting her at the Greyhound Bus terminal, he went out to bring his car around, and never returned. That was the last anyone heard from Barbara about online dating.

According to Pew Research, most Americans feel online dating is a good way to meet others. The number of 55 to 64-year-olds using online dating services has doubled to 12% since 2013, but only about 5% of now-married online daters met their spouses through a dating site.

Eharmony.com reports that 20% of current relationships began online, with more male users than females. They also report that at age 26, women are pursued more than men. However, at age 48, men have twice the pursuers as women.

Findings also reveal that more than half the people lie about their age, height, weight, and income. Many women use photos of their younger selves, and men lie about their jobs. Eharmony points out that the best chance of finding love is still through friendship.

There are hundreds of dating sites, some catering to specific ages and interests. Always exercise caution, don’t provide personal information to a stranger; meet only in public, preferably for coffee or lunch where it’s easier to get away if necessary.

Keep in mind that of 3.5 million profiles scanned by a monthly screening company, 500,000 proved fraudulent. And the FBI reports romance fraud as second only in dollar amount to investment fraud.

To quote Sgt. Esterhaus of TV’s Hill Street Blues, “Let’s be careful out there!”

– Constance Watkins