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My cyber-romance has a fatal error; can I reboot?

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Dear Sexorcist:

She’s in L.A.; I’m in Atlanta. We chatted online for six months and I really fell for her even though we’d never met. She’d say profound things to me like “I love you,” or that she writes poetry about me. She was supposed to fly into Atlanta and have me pick her up. I waited and waited, but she didn’t arrive. I stayed at the airport for three hours before deciding to go to a friend’s house nearby to wait for her to call again. Somehow, she went to voicemail, saying that I’d stood her up, so she went back to L.A. Now she won’t return my e-mails, texts or calls. I’m crushed and I just can’t rest until I know why she ended it. How bad is it to ask for closure from someone you’ve never met? I mean, if you’re talking with her every night for months, doesn’t she owe you something?

— Crushed in Decatur

Dear Crushed:

Most online dating injuries occur when people like you fall from their desperation onto their IQ. For all you know, “she” was a 16-year-old boy telling his friends, “Watch this!” whenever you got online. You want closure? The better question is, “How can I reverse my lobotomy?”

It may be too late for you, but maybe I can warn off all the other pre-lobotomites. While I’m a big fan of online dating/hookups, it’s got a few sinkholes that’ll swallow you whole if you don’t pay attention.

First, nobody’s real until you meet her. If you haven’t had a face-to-face after some heavy e-mailing, texting or calling, hit the delete button. The other person’s either married or a narcissist who likes the attention but lacks the intention. But, most likely, her face will remind you of a wrench — one look and your nuts will tighten up. You can still meet her if she doesn’t live in Atlanta — through video Web chat. Insist on it. If she demurs, DELETE.

Second, everyone is guilty until proven innocent — of seriously misrepresenting himself, that is. You know those pictures that tent your jeans? Photoshopped to death. Ahem, just like yours. There are three rules of thumb when it comes to judging pictures: 1) People only look as good as the worst picture in their profile. 2) If they’ve only got one or two pictures, it means they’re so ugly they couldn’t get more without the camera battery exploding. 3) If they have no picture at all, they’re in a sensitive job or a rotten marriage.

Third, almost everyone lies online. In a study of online deception, a Cornell University professor found that nine out of 10 people lie in popular dating sites like Match.com and Yahoo Personals. Women tend to lie about their weight; men about their height. And pictures? Women were three times more likely to alter their photos than men. On average, women's photos were 18 months old and men's six months old.

Interesting factoid: Liars tend not to use “I” and “me” in their e-mails and IMs. It’s called “psychological distancing” — a strategy that keeps their identity separated from their lies.

Luckily, the study found that the magnitude of the deceptions was usually small, with most of them difficult to detect face-to-face. So why lie? Because if you don’t get too carried away, it works. If all she needs to hear is that you’re 6 feet tall, when you’re really 5-feet-11, what’s the harm in lying? A missing inch only hurts in the bedroom. The trick is to lie enough to get coffee, but not so much that you don’t get sex.

The point of going online isn’t to have endless phone conversations and weave chat threads into adorable little sweaters. It’s to meet. Women have substantial — and valid — safety concerns, but if, after connecting emotionally, you’ve offered to talk or meet through Web chat and she’s still stringing you along, DELETE.

And by that, I mean her profile, not your brains.

Got a burning or a why-is-it-burning question for The Sexorcist? Email him at Sexorcist@creativeloafing.com. Midtown resident Mike Alvear hosts HBO’s “The Sex Inspectors,”  blogs at mikealvear.com and teaches monthly blogging workshops with Hollis Gillespie.

(Photo courtesy RickyJames2/Flickr)

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