EDITOR’S NOTE: WTVR.com is partnering with the “iPadJournos” mobile and social media journalism project at VCU’s School of Mass Communications. Students from the project reported the following story.
RICHMOND, Va. – Had it not been for Facebook, Amit Vohra and Priya Lall would have probably not fallen in love. The VCU students used the popular social network as a way to meet each other.
“He was oblivious to everything. I had to trick him into asking for my number. It was the hardest thing. I sent him a message over winter break,” said Lall.
The venues of online dating are everywhere now through social media. With platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, reaching out to strangers is easier than ever.
But with incidents such as the scandal surrounding football player Manti Te’o and shows like MTV’s Catfish, the risks of online dating have taken a center stage as well.
Catfishing has become a phenomenon on social media and dating websites. Internet predators fabricate online identities and entire social circles to trick people into emotional and romantic digital relationships over a long period of time. With recent publicity around catfishing, more people realize the potential harm and impact of online dating and abuse of social media.
But even with all the risk of online dating, happy endings exist for some. Rachel Machacek, relationship blogger and author of The Science of Single, has been dating her boyfriend for two years. She contacted him through a friend request on Facebook.
“I purposely friended him on Facebook even though I did not personally know him at the time,” said Machacek.
While she found her boyfriend through mutual friends on Facebook, she had explored the possibilities of online dating websites before. Machacek said she was in her early 30s, living in Washington, D.C. and running out of people to date in her circle of friends.
A friend suggested to turn to online dating nine to 10 years ago. Machacek was initially skeptical about online dating, but was also equally unsatisfied of her dating situation. She turned to online dating sites such as eHarmony to jump start her love life.
“I found online dating to be a pretty safe environment. I never felt fearful going on a date with someone I met online,” said Machacek. “When someone doesn’t ever want to meet you and engage with you outside of an online relationship that is a red flag. I think it’s really unfortunate that people look down on online dating, but I think people can be duped in real life just as easily as they can online. Online dating is a great way to start the dating process.”
The changing pace of dating also makes for an interesting new wave of human interactions from a psychology perspective, according to Dr. Micah McCreary, an associate professor of psychology at VCU. He said the impersonal nature of the internet is to blame for the shift in online dating.
“It’s personality, the word for it is persona or a mask,” said McCreary. “So, when we are in public we have to put on a mask and put on a front to present myself in my best self. If I’m not in your face and I’m online, I can put on whatever mask I want to. I can become whoever I can become and try out new things.”
This story was reported by the “iPadJournos” mobile and social media journalism project, a cooperation between WTVR.com and VCU’s School of Mass Communications.