Most everyone has heard of online sex predators that prey on the unwary. They alter their profile, their pictures, and even their words to lure in susceptible young girls (and boys) into a real meeting where the predator can then molest them. We’ve even heard of stories of mothers pretending to be their daughters and setting up sexual meetings with adult men! The perceived distance and thus the perceived protection of online dating is one of the dangers.
Here is a list of potential dangers of forming online relationships:
1. False sense of security. Because the other person is not physically present, there is a built in sense of security. You are talking to a stranger from the comfortable environment of your home. You can cut the conversation off at any time, and you don’t have to witness their anger, surprise, or pain at your rudeness. They can’t physically touch you. You don’t have to worry about molestation or anything like that. Thus you feel more secure, and when you feel more secure you let your guard down! That is the danger. Many people will miss key indicators of potential disaster because they are hiding behind their sense of security.
2. Tendency to be more bold and forward. Because of many of the reasons given in the first point, you will have a tendency to be bolder in what you say, text, or chat about with the faceless person on the other side of a digital signal. Many people find themselves more open with a faceless stranger than they do with family and friends. People will ask questions and post thoughts that they would never dream of asking or sharing with people they really know in their ‘real’ life. This is dangerous because it attaches you emotionally to a person who you have never truly interacted with.
3. Shallow emotional attachments. True emotional attachments can only be achieved through actual interaction with someone in a shared environment. You need to witness a person’s total behavior under uncontrolled situations to really begin to know him or her. Your emotional attachment to an online relationship is more about your fantasy than reality. You imagine what he looks like in real situations and thus your attachment is to an idea, not a real person. Without actual interaction in the same environment, you cannot possibly know the real person.
4. Degradation of communication skills. This danger seems, at first glance, to be a contradiction. If you are talking more and more to people online, how can that erode your communication skills? Because communication is not about text, chat, or video conferences. True communication is between two people within the same environment where the emotions, ideas, thoughts, and needs directly impact the life of the other. When you are forced to suffer the results of your words, your actions, and your interactions, that is where you become more conscientious of what you say. Over the internet, there is little fear of this and thus your communication skills become stunted, less refined, and shallower. What would a marriage relationship be like if the husband and wife communicated only through texting while sitting on the opposite side of the same bed? It would be absurd.
When it comes to dating online, these dangers are very, very real. Even if you don’t think you will be victimized by a sexual predator, these other dangers will haunt your online relationships. They must be taken seriously.
Dating, of any kind, is meant to explore the possibility of something more, something greater, something wonderful: marriage. Dating determines if you should or should not get married.
Pray tell, how can a person possibly learn this over an internet connection?
The following passage about Amnon serves to illustrate the dangers. Amnon’s sister was forbidden from him by reason of his relation—they were half brother and sister. Still, he fantasized about her, desired her, and built in his mind something he thought he loved:
2 Samuel 13:1-2 - And it came to pass after this, that Absalom the son of David had a fair sister, whose name was Tamar; and Amnon the son of David loved her. 2 And Amnon was so vexed, that he fell sick for his sister Tamar; for she was a virgin; and Amnon thought it hard for him to do any thing to her.
He loved his fantasy of her, not her. After he got her, look what happened:
2 Samuel 13:14-15 - Howbeit he would not hearken unto her voice: but, being stronger than she, forced her, and lay with her. 15 Then Amnon hated her exceedingly; so that the hatred wherewith he hated her was greater than the love wherewith he had loved her. And Amnon said unto her, Arise, be gone.
This same mental and emotional process happens over and over again with online dating. The distant love creates a fantasy that becomes the object of love, not the reality behind that love. Once the real thing is encountered, the love often turns to hatred.