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Last updated: February 28. 2013 4:48PM - 361 Views

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Ah, young love. It’s a different world these days, isn’t it? Or is it?
With online dating seemingly more popular than ever, local college students say they know all about it, even if they haven’t done it themselves.
But if they were to have a relationship in cyberspace, they wouldn’t take it seriously without meeting the other person face to face.
That’s unlike Notre Dame football star Manti Te’o, who said he had a girlfriend he met online but never met in person.
The eyebrow-raising story gained national attention when it was learned her “death” from leukemia was a hoax. Te’o had been “catfished,” his defenders said.
Catfished?
The term came from a 2010 documentary, titled “Catfish,” about an online romance with someone who had created a completely a fictitious identity. A spinoff reality show on MTV has the same name.
Samantha Davidson, who said she doesn’t date online, said she has seen the show but could never maintain a relationship online without knowing the person.
“It’s hard to imagine trusting someone like that,” said Davidson, a 20-year-old Wilkes University sophomore from Shenandoah.
Wilkes senior Melissa Thorne, 22, of Stroudsburg, agreed it would probably not be smart to have a relationship online without meeting the person.
“It’s just ridiculous,” she said. “You can’t set yourself up.”
Tashianna Stockton, 18, a freshman at King’s College, said people in relationships should know each other, and that means meeting each other.
“Anybody could be what they want,” said Stockton, of Binghamton, N.Y., who is not looking to date online.
“There’s no common sense when you date online,” added another King’s student, who did not want her name used.
Bob Tuttle, a Wilkes University professor of sociology, said he doesn’t think a lot of long-term relationships come from people meeting online anyway.
“In general, what you find is people are certainly using the Internet more to meet people,” Tuttle said. “But, as far as developing long-term relationships, it’s not that prevalent.”
He said there’s certainly more communicating on social media, but as far as determining permanent relationships, it doesn’t seem to be that way.
Meera Patel, 25, of Quakertown, a Wilkes senior who said she just joined Match.com, didn’t know of anyone who’s had a long relationship online without meeting.
“I’ve seen people. They talked for a month or two then met,” Patel said.
She’s not afraid of being “catfished,” and if she goes to meet someone, she will do it in a public place.
Wilkes junior Jaleel Sterling, 21, of Linden, N.J., doesn’t participate in online dating but has a friend who did. His friend, however, did meet the woman in person.
“I think there are pros and cons,” Sterling said. “You don’t know if something is real or fake. I would definitely seek out to meet that person.”
Marissa Bartorillo, 20, of Harrisburg, a Wilkes sophomore, also had a friend who met someone online.
“They actually were going to become engaged, then they broke it off,” she said.
She also had a relationship online with someone she never met – when she was in seventh grade. But he was a friend of a friend who lived an hour away.
Kyle Wolfe, 22, a Wilkes senior from Bushkill, avoids online dating as well.
“It’s not something I would try,” he said. “I need the face-to-face connection.”
Brittany Battista has friends who talk to people online for companionship but don’t have relationships.
“I’ve seen ‘Catfish;’ the 20-year-old Wilkes junior and Pittston resident said. “It’s scary.”
She said pursuing a relationship online could be disappointing or dangerous.
“You never know what you are going to find,” Battista said.
King’s junior Joe Wescoat, 20, of Galloway Township, N.J., wants no part of an online relationship.
“I’d rather be out talking to people,” he said. “I’d rather meet people.”
OFFLINE SAFETY TIPS
Even match.com, one of the biggest online-dating sites out there, expresses concern for safe online – and offline – dating. Once an online relationship is established, and you’re considering taking it offline, the site advises:
Get to know the other person before meeting. Use the Internet and government resources available to everyone. This can include typing the person’s name into a search engine, reviewing public information made available by government offices or using a paid service to obtain a full background report.
Always meet in public. Meet for the first time in a populated, public location – never in a private or remote location and never at your date’s home or apartment.
Stay in a public place. It is best not to go back to your date’s home or bring them back to yours on the first date.
Inform a friend or family member of your plans and when and where you’re going. If you own a mobile phone, make sure you have it with you.
Stay sober. Keep a clear mind and avoid doing anything that would impair your judgment and cause you to make a decision you could regret.
Drive yourself to and from the first meeting. Just in case things don’t work out, you need to be in control of your own ride – even if you take a taxi.
Keep personal items with you at all times. You don’t want to risk having personal information stolen. If you’re drinking, keep your drink with you at all times so it can’t be tampered with.

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