I really do not want to drag this story out forever, but because I started talking about it before I really had time to process everything that happened with the guy who didn’t exist, I have some unfinished business that I would like to talk about.
Also, I was absolutely blown away at the amount of comments and emails I have received. BLOWN. AWAY. I was also blown away at the amount of people who have been through something similar, are currently going through something similar, or have a friend who is. Sometimes for YEARS. Honestly, I can’t believe it. I cannot believe the stories you are emailing me. I have read them all and I just can’t even wrap my head around the crazy that exists in this world. Almost all of them include some sort of tragedy; parents dying, siblings dying, the guy HIMSELF dying. And even a few men who have had something similar happen to them only it was a woman doing it. WTF is wrong with people?!
This is slightly off-topic, but I am going to tell you a story.
Last year around this time, I was sitting on the GO Train playing around on my phone when suddenly this overwhelming feeling of creepiness came over me. I didn’t know where the feeling came from or why it was happening, but I just felt violated all over and like someone very terrible was watching me. I looked up, looked around, and I made eye contact with a man across the train who was staring at me. He didn’t LOOK creepy, but his gaze made my skin crawl. I could FEEL HIS EYES. I felt it without even looking at him. When he noticed me looking at him, he didn’t look away the way most people do when you catch them staring at you. He just continued to stare.
It was a weird experience, but after I got off the train and continued with my day, I forgot about it.
A month or two later I was grocery shopping, and I was at the checkout. I had just paid for my groceries and I was concentrating on bagging them when suddenly, I had that same feeling. That same feeling of creepy that I had felt on the train just came over me, like a dark cloud of unsettling weirdness. I looked up. Two checkouts over was the SAME MAN from the train, and he was again watching me. I again could feel his gaze before I saw him. I was shocked. I bagged my groceries as quickly as I could and I got the hell out of there. I have not seen that man again, but I will never forget that feeling. I don’t even think I can describe it. It was just a feeling. It was an intuition. It was a sense that something was NOT RIGHT.
When you are just getting to know someone, all you have to go on is what they tell you and your general instinct about the person they are. When you are getting to know someone online, through words alone, your instincts are diminished. You are down a sense.
Obviously because of the creepy feeling that train/grocery store guy gave me, I wanted nothing to do with him and I would never talk to him. He set off every alarm bell inside of me. But if that same guy sent me a fake photo and emailed me beautiful words, how would I be able to tell he wasn’t genuine? I would be missing that sense that I would have gotten from him in person.
Because online deceit apparently happens to so many people (which I feel both good and bad about, good because I am less embarrassed because I am not the only one to fall for something like this, and bad because there are so many weirdos in this world and I hate that anyone else has had to go through this), I feel like I need to give some advice.
People lie all the time. Sometimes they are just little lies that don’t really affect anything or hurt anyone. Sometimes people are married for years and discover that their spouse has been lying to them about some major thing or having an affair or hiding some horrible secret. And I am sure we all know a pathological liar; someone who would lie about what they had for breakfast that morning, just because.
I am not a very good liar. If someone asks me a direct question about something, I will not be able to lie. And if I do they will know, because I have a very expressive face. It is the opposite of a poker face. You can see exactly what I’m thinking. So, this makes me a bad liar, and this also makes it very awkward when I run into someone I haven’t seen in a long time who has gained a lot of weight and I can’t keep the shock from registering on my face.
The internet has made it very easy for people to lie. Could I lie on the internet? Probably. I am incredibly stylish and trendy. That was a lie. If it’s not a cardigan I don’t know what to do with it. That was the truth (well fine, that was hyperbole based in truth to make it more funny, and that I have no problem with).
But the internet has made it very easy for people to tell incredible, elaborate lies. It has made it easy for them to become someone they’re not. It is the perfect opportunity for people to make themselves over, or give themselves an alternate identity, and completely mask who they really are. This is good news for sociopaths or people who have some sort of social, emotional, or physical issue that they feel the need to lie about. This is bad news for genuine people who somehow end up stumbling across the crazies and falling for what they say.
I cannot understand the reasons why someone would make up an elaborate story about who they are. I don’t know why they would put so much effort into lies for the sole purpose of luring in an innocent party, and go to such great lengths to make that innocent party love them. I don’t understand and I will probably never understand.
Someone just commented on my blog late last night and said this about it: “People like that have no linear understanding of truth, feel no shame, guilt, fear or empathy and get pleasure out of breaking social conventions and causing distress.”
That is very disturbing.
It kills me that this happens so often to so many people, and will just keep happening. Having been the innocent party who was lured in by someone like this, I know the signs that I ignored. So if I can help even one person from being duped, that is reason enough to post this.
In my personal experience, I do know that there are some ways to find out if people on the internet are legit.
1. Use the Google.
Google!!!! Google, Google, Google! I cannot stress this enough. I am a skilled Googler, and I believe I can Google pretty much anything, but when I Googled “Chris” nothing came up. Why? He didn’t exist. Most professionals will have at least a LinkedIn page, even if they don’t have Facebook (or have a private one). Did the guy you are talking to play sports in high school or college? His name will probably appear somewhere. Do you know the person’s company? Google it. Google their email address. Upload their photos into Google images and search for them. If those photos have appeared on a website, you will see it.
2. Question the tragedies.
Holy tragedies, Batman. My inbox is filled with them right now. I have never read about so many tragedies. Parents dying, siblings dying, entire families dying in car accidents. Freak accidents. Sudden illnesses and emergency surgeries. Losing limbs and genitals in war accidents. So many tragedies and weird sequences of events it is unbelievable. No, really, it is literally unbelievable, because these things did not happen.
Of course tragic things happen all the time, but how many tragedies can possibly happen to one person? And if one person has so many terrible things happening to them, all the time, do you really want to be involved with them anyway? Because I’d be questioning. Maybe they’re just a magnet for negative occurrences, but more likely they’re lying. These people are not emotionally connected to the things that they say, and they play on your emotions and use these tragic excuses because they know you cannot question without it being insensitive. Also, sadness and empathy are overwhelming emotions. Your immediate reaction when someone tells you their mom dies is sadness. You really feel for them. This can overwhelm other feelings you have, such as speculation.
If someone is legit about who they are, there is no reason for them not to at least want to try to video chat, even if they are not tech-savvy and have never done it before. Even if it doesn’t work out, there is no audio, the video is messed up, etc. etc. etc. if they are not willing to at least try, something is up. GoogleTalk video is the easiest thing in the world to use. My 98-year-old Nana could figure it out. If someone wants to be with you that badly, they will want to see you, and they will want to at least try to make that happen. And if they don’t? Something is up.
4. If they are not willing to meet, or your meeting date keeps getting pushed back, they are hiding something.
So maybe your beau lives far away, is moving here, or maybe something comes up to prevent you from meeting. Things can come up, for sure. But when things repeatedly come up? No. When things repeatedly come up and involve some kind of tragic accident every time? Lying.
If you are in this situation, think of yourself. How badly do you want to see this person you’ve been conversing with? Words can only get you so far. To take your relationship to the next level, you need to see them. You have probably been thinking about it and are incredibly excited about it. So what are the lengths that you would go to to make this happen? If they are as into you as they say they are, they will do what it takes to meet you, and if they won’t, something is up.
And what are the chances that something will happen EVERY TIME you’re supposed to meet? One time, maybe. Things come up. Repeatedly? I say lies.
5. Question their compliments.
It is hard not to believe someone when they are showering you with compliments and telling you how amazing you are. With “Chris” sometimes I would read his emails and think “No no no, this is too much.” I even tend to be complimentary with people. But the difference is that my compliments are a result of my emotions and I genuinely mean them. But even I don’t like cheesy compliments! One guy I went on a few dates with started calling me his beautiful goddess, and I was not down with that. It made me feel creepy.
Unfortunately, “Chris” knew the right compliments to get me. He read my entire blog. He could get a sense of the person I was, and ultimately used that against me. He commented on my personality and sense of humour, and those are the compliments that I appreciate, and I assumed they must be legit. But they were not. He said his words only to lure me in.
I’m not saying don’t meet people online. When you get to a certain age, I know how hard it is to meet people in person. For me, I was just looking to have some fun in the city, and I got a lot more than I bargained for. But people in this world are crazy, online and offline. Sometimes the crazy is obvious and really easy to spot, and sometimes it’s not. The internet makes the crazy difficult to spot. You cannot use all your senses to figure out who the person you are talking to is, so you need to get creative.
Bottom line, trust your gut. If something doesn’t feel right, don’t gloss over it. Question it and investigate it.
I feel like I got off extremely lucky here and dodged a huge bullet. Had I not questioned, I would have been stood up again, and I would continue to be wondering. But because I took matters into my own hands, I was able to find out the truth and actually get closure. I learned lessons from this that I will carry forward. If you are currently in the same situation, please protect yourself and do the same!
This is a heavy topic, so let’s all watch this cat video to make ourselves feel better about the world:
And, happy Monday? Sorry, I maybe should have picked a better day to post this…
UPDATE: I ended up finding the guy who was doing this. I had his IP address since he commented on my blog and my friend’s super techy boyfriend was able to track down “Chris” (I actually had three IP addresses for him, and they all lead to the same guy). I found his Facebook, Twitter, and also a blog that he had written a while ago. Nothing he told me was even remotely true. He’s about 10 years younger than he said, lives at home with his parents in New Brunswick, and as far as I can tell he does nothing but internet gaming all day long. Not married as I originally thought. But I did also find a blog post that he wrote that said he needed to “take a break from the internet because it is making me to unchristian things” (his exact words), so… that’s super creepy. And yes I feel violated… I did confront him, and so did the real Chris whose photos were being used (he said his FB was public a few years ago, so that’s how they were stolen), and he did not respond to either of us. I’m glad that at least he knows that I know. And that is that.