Online dating in SC
By Taylor Halle
Kiber Selig recently bought a subscription to the online dating service Match.com because she figured a dating site that required payment and more online tools would give her "a better chance of not finding creeps.”
A recent study about virtual matchmaking suggests the 29-year-old Columbia native may be right to take care when swiping through dating apps in search of a date on Valentine’s Day or any other day.
The study rated South Carolina the sixth most dangerous state among the 50 states and the District of Columbia for online dating. Washington D.C. was the most dangerous, according to the study.
“Most of the experiences I’ve had on Tinder were not good,” Selig said. “They were just all about sexual stuff, and I think the weirdest experience I can’t talk out loud about.”
Although there are plenty of anecdotal stories about the pitfalls of online dating, many people that have tried out the apps or websites say they have had enjoyable experiences as well.
“I used Tinder for a couple of months and went on one date, and it was actually really fun,” Mary Mitchell, 19, said. “Then I never heard from him again and that was my only experience.”
18-year-old Ashley Burgiss, another app user, has tried out both Tinder and Bumble.
“In the beginning, I was on it a lot so I made a lot of matches. A couple of the guys weren’t very nice, but for the most part they want to converse with you about ideas other than physical stuff, contrary to my belief before I used the app,” Burgiss said.
The home security system Safewise and the Internet package provider, highspeedinternet.com, conducted the online dating study, analyzing statistics on sexually transmitted diseases from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control along with FBI statistics on cybercrime.
In the Midlands, the Richland County Sheriff’s Department was concerned enough about an uptick in crimes related to online dating that it issued an advisory in August of 2015.
“It has been a problem here and that’s why we sent this [news advisory] out to media as a way to alert citizens to be safe and remain vigilant,” sheriff's department spokesman Lt. Curtis Wilson said.
In the advisory, Sheriff Leon Lott said the department has investigated several strong armed robberies in which internet predators used fake identities to trick people into meeting with them or revealing personal information.
“Even if one crime is committed in this fashion it’s too much, but unfortunately it happens frequently,” Wilson said. “We have suspects out there whose sole purpose is to lure victims in only to assault them physically and steal their valuables.”
As technology advances, so do the tools predators use to trick their victims. Having a fake identity over the phone has become just as easy as behind the keyboard. Voice changers can drastically change the way people sound, so much so that a male can take on a female’s voice and vice versa.
But even with the knowledge of potentially phony profiles, singles continue to turn to dating apps and websites in order to find love.
A Pew Research Center study found that most people continue to feel positively about online dating. However, it also found that 45% of online daters do believe the method is more dangerous compared to other ways to meet people.
Paul Eastwick, a University of California, Davis associate psychology professor, focuses his research on initiation of relationships and has published pieces related to online dating. He believes people with good intentions outweigh the bad characters on most dating sites.
“Although there is some amount of fraud on online dating sites, the vast majority of users tend to be real people who are looking for some sort of relationship,” Eastwick said in an email. “Representative samples have found that approximately 25% of relationships these days are formed online.”
But why do some app users still end up single? Andrew High, an assistant professor at the University of Iowa, researches interpersonal communication and computer-mediated communication. He explained that the ease of crafting the ideal presentation of one’s self is one of the most appealing parts of online dating sites.
“People have the potential to build themselves up on these dating sites, and that’s not always who they are in real life,” High said.
He suggests being careful and to make sure the person online is the same you’re meeting in person. Eastwick agrees that meeting in person is the best way as long as it’s done safely.
“It tends to be most effective when people use online dating as a means to meet potential partners face-to-face,” Eastwick said. “In other words, it is hard to determine whether or not you will click with someone from a profile – it’s essential to meet them safely to assess interpersonal chemistry.”
He also suggests leveraging existing social networks and having friends introduce their single friends. In some cases, going the traditional route - meeting people at the gym, outdoor clubs, book clubs, church functions, etc. - might be best. Whichever method one chooses though, one key element will always be in-person interactions, rather than conversing only through a screen.