Catfish, predators and worse are out there, but I still believe love can be found online.
Mary Kay Beckman found someone she was interested in dating. After going on a handful of dates with Wade Ridley, she decided that he wasn't a suitable companion. Unfortunately, this did not go over well with Mr. Ridley, and he began harassing and threatening Ms. Beckman through text messages. Circumstances escalated and one night when she arrived at her home in Las Vegas, Mr. Ridley viciously attacked her and almost killed her.
And as if that wasn't enough, this same man continued his search online. A few weeks later, in February 2011, he found a woman to date in Arizona - and killed her. He was caught and sent to prison. He died in prison last year, but his wrath and his toil still linger on as Ms. Beckman continues to recover emotionally and physically.
Ms. Beckman has filed a lawsuit against the online dating company for negligence for failing to warn daters of the dangers of online dating. She is suing for close to ten million dollars and is also requesting the company including a disclaimer issuing a warning about the dangers of dating online.
As a woman and strong advocate against domestic violence, this story is heartbreaking. What these women had to endure under the guise of finding love is unfathomable. It's a fair assumption to think that Mr. Ridley used online dating as a vehicle to find his victims.
As the owner of a dating site, this story hits extremely close to home. It's maddening to know that even when the intent is good and true, there are still vicious, vile and criminal individuals who will muck it up for everyone else. At FindYourPlusOne.com, we truly believe "Everyone Deserves a Plus One". This is something we wholeheartedly express to our clients. We believe in love, friendship and compassion. We also believe that the Internet can be a safe place to date online.
It seems there are Lifetime movies every week based on true stories of online dating gone wrong. The Craigslist Killer, The Wife He Met Online and Talhotblond are just a few that have recently aired. Catfish, originally a movie about a young man being tricked by a woman on the Internet, is now a popular MTV show featuring daters coming face to face with who they think they are falling for online. And in most recent news, Norte Dame's college football player Manti Te'o has revealed he is a victim of a catfish - falling for a woman who died - but ultimately did not exist.
With all the bad news and horror stories, why would someone even consider online dating? Often portrayed in a negative light, why would someone like me who believes in love, suggest such a questionable way for people to meet, connect and fall in love?
I liken it to watching the evening news. In a matter of thirty minutes, stories flash by on the TV that are inspiring, exciting, devastating and mundane. There are an unknown number of stories that happen every day, but only the most sensationalized or the local highlights make the cut - similar to love. There are love stories happening every day - good and bad. There are first dates and last dates, engagements, weddings and divorces - every single day. Love exists and although we don't always see or hear about the good stories, they are the ones that I find inspiring and exciting. The stories that are devastating and mundane, I look to those to find answers or offer help so people can get closer to finding a better partner.
Safety in online dating is of great importance to any dating service, be it online, matchmaking or speed dating. We attend seminars, workshops and conferences that specifically address safety and dating protection. I know many site owners who have invested a great deal of time and energy to making sure their clients have an understanding of the predators that exist.
Ms. Beckman's story and other women and men who share similar stories are the reason why I chose a technology company that could offer a line of dating protection for our clients. FindYourPlusOne.com offers DateGuard™. The features of DateGuard™ are listed on the front page of our site:
"How well do you know the person who you are chatting online with? It is better to be safe than sorry. DateGuard™ allows subscribers on your dating website to conduct background checks and ID verification on other users online. It allows clients to set their privacy settings, allowing them to control who may view their profile and how. As an added security feature, users are also able to register a date with DateGuard™ which will monitor their offline meeting. It will track who the user will meet and the location of the where they will be introduced. Once the meeting has concluded, the DateGuard™ user can rate the date and provide feedback for their face to face meeting."
By no means does DateGuard™ imply that someone like Wade Ridley could slip through the cracks. But, it does mean that we would have knowledge of knowing that you two were spending time together or had recently went out. If something unfortunate happened during the date, we would have pertinent information to provide.
Does a safeguard like this reduce the number of spammers, scammers and catfish that may register on our site? We think so. Does that hurt the revenue stream? Yes. Do I care? No. What I care about is providing a safe, secure and eventful online dating environment for people who are looking to find their plus one.
I have built this site as a place where I would want my girlfriends to date online. This is a site that I would want my best guy friends to look for The One. This is where the girls from Sex and the City or the six singles from Friends would log on to find friendship, a date or love. This is where I would go to date if I was single. I found an amazing love of twelve years and I want others to do the same.
I believe that life is busy, people are disconnected, bar scenes are challenging and it's just not easy to wait for Mr. Right or Mr. Right-Now to show up at your door because he's lost and looking for love. There is a place in this technologically advanced world for online dating. The convenience of mobile dating makes it even easier to search for a partner. Choosing a site that offers dating protection or a help hotline are added layers of protection for your security. But when you are dating online and in real life, it becomes your responsibility to be aware of red flags, irrational behavior and things that just seem 'off'. Tell your friends and family where you are going, what you are doing and if someone is harassing you or threatening your life, we want you to contact us and contact the authorities. Don't dismiss bad behavior as someone having a bad day. If you feel someone is dangerous -you must let someone know.
The weirdos are still going to get in. The crazies are still going to create profiles. The jaded, scarred and heartbroken will exist. But so will the hopeful, the fearless, the loving, the kind, the compassionate, the dreamers and the believers - like me. I believe in monogamy and in love and I believe in helping others find their plus one.
Contributed by Kimberly James, Founder, MatchMaster & Dating Expert, www.findyourplusone.com