Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Online Dating: is it all in my Head?

Being a student of the human condition, I have spent many intriguing hours watching the series 'Catfish'.  If you're not familiar with it, it's worth a watch. Two chaps (one of whom had his own Catfish experience) trawl America looking for people who are in online relationships with people they have never met.  And mostly, have never even Skyped with.  A 'Catfish' is someone who misrepresents themselves online and engages in relationships for personal gain, unbeknownst to the 'victim'.  They would ingratiate themselves with the victim until the victim imagines themselves in love with this person, whereupon they begin to tell stories of great misfortune and the victim is prompted to send money or other things.  By now we have all heard stories of at least one person who has fallen prey to such a scam.

In the Catfish series, people who are in what feels like committed online relationships, but have something 'off' about it, ask for these guys to help them out.  They arrive and apply some basic internet scraping skills to try to unravel the story behind the story and sniff out whether the deal is fake or legit.  It often ends in the team heading to the 'mysterious person's' hometown and creating a face to face meetup between the two. Sometimes the meetups are horrible - all the lies are revealed and the person is NOT who they said they were for various reasons, or, joy of joys, they ARE who they said they are, and everyone is thrilled at the meetup.

I've always been amazed that people fall so deeply in love with someone they've never met face to face. They are often DEVASTATED when they come face to face with the 'Lie' the person has created, sometimes over the course of YEARS, and experience the real loss of breakup and betrayal. It leads me to ponder the real nature of love.  We meet people and fall in love with them.  Over time we begin to realise that we fell in love with a picture or projection of them we created in our head, and not necessarily the real person at all.

I know I am guilty of that: I feel like perfect prey for the Narcissists out there - I'm so ready to believe the picture they present of themselves and also so happy to fill in the gaps with projections of my own.  I fall in love with how I feel about myself when I'm with them, I think, and just give them the benefit of the doubt for the rest.  So like the Catfish victims that have always fascinated me, am I not doing exactly the same thing? Falling in love in my head, with a projection, rather than the person themselves?

I'm thinking about Berlin again.  I cannot tell you how hard I fell for him in such a short time.  We met online on Ashley Madison and the sparks began to fly almost immediately.  I could feel so much of myself being drawn instantly to him, but I hardly knew him at all!  I was suddenly addicted to my phone, and waited and pined for hours when I knew he was out at meetings, just waiting for more time to connect and be with him, albeit online.  I tried to get him to send me photos of himself, but he claimed camera shyness and I bought that.  We did Skype and chat on hangouts, so I knew I wasn't falling for a crazy-assed lesbian convict on death row, but I still have to acknowledge I knew very little about him for the amount of 'falling' I did.  I even remember him saying to me 'hey, be careful what you project onto me'.

Because he was in Europe at the time we met, we had 2 whole weeks to wait before we could meet face to face.  But our intention was to meet immediately.  I was sure he was 'the one' I would be able to be with. We even discussed getting tested for STDs as soon as he returned so we could have unprotected sex because we both prefer that.  Of course, none of that came to be, as I have described in the other blogs.

But I can so identify with the 'Catfished' victims in the show.  When he disappeared I was devastated.  Like I had lost a real person in my life. Not just a fantasy guy that I played with online for a bit.  I was surprised at how hooked my heart had become in those couple of weeks.

And I am now equally surprised at how 'Meh' I feel now that we're chatting to each other again.  Where is the connection?  The sparkle?  The magic?  What happened to that bubble of joy that we had created together?  We're boring.  Ugh. The broken trust moment between us seems to have shattered all of that - NO idea whether it's repairable.

After Berlin disappeared and I discovered he was out hunting online again for other girls, I decided to try and heal myself by reigniting some of the other chats that I closed off when Berlin and I got intense.   I found 'James' and began chatting to him. Soon started recognising those same connected 'projection' feelings coming into play.  He kept trying to initiate online sexting and I kept on trying to stall that, realising how not real they can be.  I did get sucked into it a little one evening when I was probably feeling too horny for my own good.  So I then insisted on a face to face with him the very next day.  SO glad I did.  There was nothing for me.  No chemistry at all. I found it quite embarrassing actually, knowing how much of myself I had revealed to him the night before in our online sexting chat.   Nice guy. Kind and gentle.  And he was in danger of heading down the same path of 'imagination' with me as I had been on with Berlin.  And he really didn't deserve to be hurt.

So as soon as I got home,  I sent him a message to say that I really enjoyed his company, but that I didn't really feel the connection I was looking for in a potential lover.  He was sad, and hurt, but he handled it like a gentleman.  I felt like a heel, but I also realised I was sparing him that horrible feeling I had felt when Berlin switched us off.  He tried one more time to initiate some online sexual chatting with me - sent me a naked shot.  No. Couldn't do it. Just turned it into a lighthearted conversation and headed him off.

I suppose everyone has their own unique agenda for hooking up online.  Berlin told me he was in it to find sex, but that 'meeting' me had made him think he may be after more.  Not sure where he's at with that now. James wanted a full time, one relationship lover, but not to leave his wife.  I'm looking for intimacy and connection - I don't really want one night stands and careless once-offs.  But I also understand that I have to start somewhere.

So keeping my heart safe when I eventually venture back into that world will be an important thing after my 100 days of Solitude (Day 37 today...long way to go).  And for now - just arms length stuff.  Observe me. Observe the people I'm talking to.  And learn as much as I can about living healthily in the crazy world of human relationships!  Online or otherwise...

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