How To Meet People Online Ch. 02byEmeliaBell©
Ok. So now you've found someone you like online.
They're cute – going by the picture at any rate and, like Goldilocks' spoon, they're not too big and not too small. You have exchanged a couple of fun, flirty messages and they seem to understand your sense of humour and appreciate it and you. Now what?
Now for the run up to the big RL...That is: meeting up in Real Life.
Don't be scared, you don't jump straight from the flirty messages to a stranger in a bar, there's an in between bit which, if you follow correctly, could save you a lot of hassle.
First things first... the Instant Message.
This is a clever little programme that allows you to have a typed conversation with someone in real time, ie- they see the text as soon as you type it and vice versa. This allows for a much more free-flowing conversation and gives you a chance to get to know them a little better.
Now, much as I hate to do this, because it makes me sound like I'm being sponsored by some of the companies and because it recommends at least two major, industry dominating companies, I am going to give you a brief run down of Instant messaging programmes I am familiar with
That's right Ladies and Gentlemen. I am a Microsoft whore.
MSN Messenger – a nifty programme beloved of most teenagers and young adults, hence why I use it – because most of my friends do. That's the thing with Instant Messaging – it only works if the person on the other end has the same programme as you. MSN is speedy, reasonably reliable, allows you to check hotmail accounts easily and has a wide range of emoticons. It also allows you to use webcam and voice protocol, but that's another paragraph. If you want to try downloading MSN messenger (or any of the following programmes) then just search for it on Google.
AOL – This one is probably the most popular with Americans as the majority of them have an aol e-mail account and this is what's required to use the IM programme. You can get it if you don't use aol, but unless it's changed drastically in the last year there are other programmes with better capability. Its main draw is the number of other people (Americans anyway) who use it.
Skype - Actually designed as a Voice to Voice Protocol (in English: a way of talking to other people online using voices instead of text) you can also use this as a text chat programme and web cam in the same way as msn. However most people use Skype for voice chat, so be aware this might be expected of you.
Google Chat - This is a new chat programme attached to gmail or google mail, the mail programme attached to Google the search engine – it's like the search engine had babies. This is a very basic messaging programme, but it's a pretty good way of initiating chat with someone – only catch is you both have to have a google e-mail address.
There are other programmes available, such as Yahoo instant messenger, but the main thing to bear in mind is: what does the person I want to talk to use?
If that all seems as clear as mud, fear not... I am about to make a recommendation.
Go with Skype. You can use it for text chat, then move it on to voice to voice, just like a phone call and then use web cam. MSN is a good alternative. All I can tell you about is my own personal preferences and those are what I use.
Right. Now you've got them on IM (instant messenger) it's time to have a chat.
The best thing to do is instigate a little game of 'Twenty Questions.' You each take a turn to ask a question, then answer each other's question and your own.
The questions can be as dull or as intimate as you like, though obviously the intimate ones break the ice faster – but choose the questions based on the type of relationship you would like to develop. There's a fine line between 'flirt' and 'cyber-whore.' That line is usually somewhere around the difference between asking the length and asking for a picture... if you get my drift?
Once you've fired out a list of questions you can generally figure out if this is someone you'd like to talk to again and if the answer is 'yes,' it might be time to move it onto voice stuff...
The thing about voice to voice is that you can get a clearer idea of their personality. There's no time to sit back and compose witty answers or edit what they've typed – you get the un-edited version.
If you decide to do this, then you have a couple of options. If you're going to give out an actual phone number, then I would always recommend a mobile (or cell) phone, because it's much harder to pinpoint location and you have the option of barring their number – at least you do on my contract.
The safest option, but something only feasible if you have a fast connection, is a Voice to Voice, like Skype. It should be untraceable and it's very easy to block people.
Ok, so you've been talking to someone for a while. You get on really well, they have this sexy voice and once or twice you've even had a late night conversation. Then one of you suggests meeting up in real life – are you ready?
This is a question only you can answer. The long and short of it is that no matter how careful you've been, or how long you've spoken to someone online or on the phone, you cannot be certain that they're not a raving nutjob.
But wait – there is one last option to try that might rule out pretenders and weirdos. The webcam.
It is possible for people to get hold of photographs of someone more attractive, or even to use incredibly flattering photographs of themselves that bear very little relation to the real thing.
If looks are important to you (and hell – if this is going to be a sexual relationship then they probably are) then see if you can get a little web-cam action going. Try it, you might like it.
You get to see the other person as they chat to you, so you know they are who they say they are and you also get to see them in motion and at various angles.
Must mention first, though, that this isn't always reliable.
You remember I said I was moving in soon with someone I met on the net? From their photos and on web cam I thought they were hideous. Ok, not hideous, but not my type. I turned up to meet him all prepared to be friends and was bowled over by good looks and sex appeal.
I'm just saying – it can work both ways...!
Because of the fact that nutjobs can sometimes escape the traps you set (and let's face it, if they've got this far they're probably a more intelligent – and therefore dangerous – breed of nutter than the ones you weeded out already) I urge you to exercise all possible caution should you decide to meet up in person.
I am now going to be very boring and list the precautions you should take, even though you've probably heard them all already, but pay attention.
1- Meet in a public, well-lit place
2- Make sure someone you trust knows you're going to be there and why. If you can, get them to come with and sit, discreetly, somewhere nearby.
3- If they don't accompany you, set up phone checks – either they phone you every half hour, or you phone them and if you miss a call, they ring the police immediately.
4- Just be sensible. Don't let your date buy you a drink unless you're with them and able to watch. Don't leave your drink unattended. Don't go home with them the first night and don't let them drive you anywhere. Just basic 'don't talk to strangers' cautiousness.
5- Expect the worst, or at least – don't expect too much. Always better to get a nice surprise because you under-estimated than be badly disappointed.
Last, but not least, enjoy yourself.
There's a whole world of people out there who you may never meet except through the internet. There are no more psychopaths online than there are in the real world, they just get more publicity, so stay safe, but have fun.
Coming soon... The girl's 'How To' on putting on a good webcam display...