Modern Mating

When Technology and the Sexes Collide

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Dating vigilantes





Infidelity happens. But if a woman should discover – by whatever means – that her boyfriend or husband has cheated on her, she can expose the philanderer. DontDateHimGirl.com was created by Tasha Joseph, herself a victim of infidelity, as a forum where the wronged woman can vent. The database includes the man’s name, age, location, and juicy details of what went wrong. Sometimes there’s even a recent photo of the offender.

In an article in the New York Times, Tasha Joseph describes her website as being like a "dating credit report." If you want a voyeuristic kick, read the entries. If you're a woman, the website is bound to make you feel better about your own relationships. If you're dating a cad, you know where to vent about him, and if you're with someone who's even just OK, you can be grateful you're not the women who wrote:
“He's been unfaithful to his ex-wife, unfaithful to his girlfriend/s and has a restraining order against him. He's a liar, very unstable, lazy and has even stolen proprietary information from his employers. He's only skilled at one thing - manipulation. WARNING-do not invest any time with this loser.”

“PLEASE watch out for this guy!! Over the two years we were dating exclusively I found out he dated and slept with several other women, including one he got pregnant. He neglected to tell me about the other woman and the pregnancy, during which time he asked me to marry him. He lied and covered up the existence of the other woman until after the baby's birth! When he finally broke down and told me, I promptly called off our engagement. He has also walked away from his child and the baby's mother. He has several different internet dating websites he frequents including match.com and nerve.com. He is a total scumbag and a habitual liar.”

Of course, if you're a man, you might find the experience of reading these screeds very unsettling. The women remain anonymous, while the men are revealed. The potential for malice seems very high.

A different kind of grass-roots effort occurs on sites like TrueDater.com. Though the big dating sites like Match.com and Yahoo personals have codes of conduct, and ask that the profiles and photos be accurate, some people misrepresent themselves. There are frequent reports of married people representing themselves as single, unattractive people representing themselves as attractive, and people saying they want a relationship when all they want is to get laid. As a result, sites like TrueDater.com have sprung up to put the liars on notice.

TrueDater.com was begun by Mark Geller, a single man in California’s Silicon Valley who was wary of dating sites because of all the horror stories he had heard. His site gives the users of dating services like Match.com and JDate.com the opportunity to review the people they have met through the dating sites. Anonymity is maintained. The site asks the reviewers not to reveal any identifying information like real name, phone number, email address, about the person being reviewed. Instead, the reviewers provide the dating site the subject of their review uses, while also providing the subject’s “handle” on that site. TrueDater asks the following of its users:
“We encourage users to be fair, accurate, and objective in writing reviews-- for example, reporting that someone is 4 inches shorter than they claim or that they have gained 20 pounds since the picture they posted. We discourage you from entering reviews of the person themselves or their personality or telling stories about your date since these kinds of subjective judgments can be hurtful and may not be helpful to other people who are thinking about meeting this person.”

While most of the reviews on TrueDater.com deal with questions of age, height and weight. However, there are many cautionary reviews dealing with issues of marital status and honesty:
“He lied to me about being divorced. He's really married!”
“This man is a pathological liar! He is married with two kids - he lies about everything including his age really is 48 pretends to have a bit of success but is an accountant with a fixed low income. He dates around on match- and yahoo his real first name is paul, uses alias last names.”
“I met this person on line with Match...he seemed great...had a job, business card, house and nice car...I never paid for anything...after a couple of weeks...there were things not adding up...I called his office...he has been out of a job for 4 months...next day I checked my checking account and realized he had stolen my cc and paid his phone bill on line...He lied about everything!”
“She's rude, crude, selfish. Admittedly so. Just remember, she gives you fair warning in her profile, so if you get burned, you have no one to blame but yourself! Good luck!”

Why are online daters so sensitive to being misled? It's related to the medium. It's incredibly easy to open yourself up to a stranger in the initial get-to-know-you emails, which can lead to a heightened sense of emotional investment. And when the witty, charming, exciting person you thought you knew turns out to be someone quite different. Someone shorter, dumber, fatter and more married than initially thought, the sense of betrayal and embarrassment can be very acute.