Meeting partners on social media has been “en vogue” for some time now, in spite of piles of stories about frauds – like the extreme case of Leah Palmer, exposed by BuzzFeed. Of course, that case of the woman-that-never-really-was offers a good opportunity to discuss the pros and cons of searching for a match among the masses online.
Beyond the trite “too good to be true” warnings, it is important to realize that with the exception of most of the people that “over-share” information on social media, the vast majority of people out there look at social media as an imaginary wall separating them from the masses. Worse than alcohol, the keyboard and monitor can also cause many people to lose inhibitions, from the illusion of anonymity and very real geographic distances that can be involved. The latter can be very important, when setting up expectations for online romance sparked on social media in particular.
Unlike on dating sites, the people on social media may or may not be truthful about their relationship status, for starters. Like just about anywhere else online, it can be treated like a game, where a person may craft a character to interact with others as a form of escapism. While Leah Palmer was an extreme case, even some of the people that tried to find out who she really was admitted that they had created false accounts themselves. Jezebel suggested that people should consider failure to use video calls a red flag, and they are absolutely right if you are looking for a real romance.
While it is possible to meet someone worth dating on social media, it’s unrealistic to set high expectations. In general, it might be a good idea to be wary of people that do not have multiple local friends. Also, it is a good idea to engage with people that have actually met the person you are interested in seeing offline. Be up front about that, and make it clear that it’s not about stalking – it all about learning about the person you are interested in meeting and dating. Yes, it is another red flag if someone is totally unwilling to have you associate with anyone that knows that person in real life. That’s common practice for people in the public eye, but not for everyday people.
Finally, bear in mind that there are plenty of experts in self-defense, and cyber-security that warn people – particularly women – to be very protective of personal information. More than other relationships, it may be necessary to work very hard to earn enough trust to get close to someone, and conversely, someone that shares way too much information too easily is either not being completely truthful or may not be the best person to get involved with for other reasons. It’s likely you’re not the only person that is getting all that information. Sadly, the best advice is to set fairly low expectations at least at first, and assume that while you may make a few interesting friends, it’s not likely you’re going to find your soulmate on social media.