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Jewish Journal

Is Online Dating Safe & Are Dating Sites Obligated to Protect Their Members?

by Ilana Angel

April 21, 2011 | 9:17 am

Yesterday I was contacted by Susan Haigh who wrote to say she was the statehouse/political writer for The Associated Press in Connecticut  She told me she was working on a national story about the legislative efforts in CT and other states to make online dating sites safe.

She informed me that the CT bill would require sites to post safety warnings to its members, such as don’t give out too much personal information or allow someone to pick you up at your home.  My name came up in her search of online dating and she asked if I would comment for her story.

She was lovely and we had a nice chat that lasted about 20 minutes.  Sadly she quoted me out of context which is a shame because it is an important subject and my take on it was important, yet her inclusion of me did not reflect what we had discussed about the actual issue she was covering.

It’s always a good thing when other writers contact me for a quote, or to share my thoughts for their pieces, and I am flattered by it.  That my little blog in The Jewish Journal has earned a name for itself, and people value my opinion is important to me, and I worked hard to get here.

The thing is, if you are going to go to the trouble of getting in touch with me, then quote me in the proper context and value what I am sharing, don’t build it in as useless fluff, particularly on a subject that is so important.  I’d like to clarify my take on this serious matter.

Online dating is time consuming, boring, painful, annoying and disgusting.  I could go on but it’s also a necessary tool in the dating process of 2011, and one that I use.  This blog has chronicled my dating life in great detail and it’s not all pretty.  In fact, it’s much more ugly than pretty.

Online dating is scary and I’ve been doing it long enough to know to be careful.  It’s not brain surgery and while I have certain expectations from these dating sites, it is our job as members and consumers of their services to protect ourselves and proceed with caution.

If you look at sites like match.com or JDate as examples, they are making millions of dollars every day and some of that money should go towards protecting their clients.  Running names through a national database of sex offenders is important, but I’m not sure how accurate that is.

We hear on the news all the time that registered sex offenders slip through the cracks and end up in places they are not allowed to be by law.  It’s not a perfect system, but if only one person is protected by dating sites doing this, it’s worth it and must be done by all sites.

My own experiences on both Match and JDate have been scary at times.  I have met men on Match that have made me very uncomfortable and resulted in dates ending abruptly, and I also went out with many lying married men during my time on the JDate hell train.

It is our responsibility to be cautious but we are paying for a service and as such, it is the responsibility of those sites who take our money to protect us, even if just a little.  Will warnings on a website listing dangers of online dating help?  Probably not, but it can’t hurt.

Plenty of Fish is free, and you get what you pay for, so there is no obligation for them to provide me with any form of protection.  Match and JDate however are taking my money and with that must come a certain amount of protection, just as it would with any other service or product.

When you buy an iron, it tells you not to submerge it in water while using it, so a dating site not telling you to be cautious while dating is ridiculous.  List the dangers, be bold and detailed, and don’t dumb it down or make it feel condescending or silly to the member.

I will happily write the warning page for all sites that want to list one.  I do not blame dating sites when I have a bad date, I do however hold them accountable when I come across someone who puts me in harms way.  If they can take my money, they can listen to my voice.

I informed JDate when I went out on a date with a man who was married, and they did not remove his profile.  I wrote when I felt in danger with someone I met on their site, and again, they did not remove his profile.  I was viewed a crazy member, instead of a helpful one.

Should you give out your address to a stranger?  No.  Should you invite someone to your home after one date?  No.  Should you leave your car at a restaurant and go with your date to another location?  No.  It’s common sense and everyone needs to take a minute to think.

MySpace removed 90k sex offenders from their site a few years ago so it’s not like it can’t be done.  There is no reason to not be offering some kind of safety catch.  If users don’t want background checks, they can go to a site like AshleyMadison where the risks are already high.

The AP quoted me as saying I went on 2-3 dates a week.  I wish!  Those of you who read my blog regularly know I have not been dating that much, and my last few dates have been disasters.  What I said was there have been times during the past 15 years where I dated that much.

They also said I commented that there were few other options to finding true love.  A little out of context because as I have said many times, the chances of my winning the lottery are greater than my finding true love online.  It’s a crapshoot and the odds are against everyone online.

That said, I may be jaded and skeptical, but I am still hopeful.  I believe in love and know I will meet my beshert one day, so if that is possible, I must also admit that it is possible I could meet him online.  At the end of the day we need to proceed with caution, and but still proceed.

People are always going to be misquoted, or their words taken out of context.  It happens.  I am blessed to have a platform to set the record straight which is a beautiful thing.  So to clarify, online dating is scary and sites have a responsibility to help us as much as they can.

People don’t date online because it is fun.  People do it because they are searching for something.  The trick is to be smart enough to be able to figure out quickly what that something is.  Be careful, but still be brave.  Don’t give up, and remember to kept the faith.

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