I confess that I have occasionally acted as a behind-the-scenes social connector. Having watched many of my single friends struggle to meet partners, I introduced a longtime writer friend to one of my former newspaper editors, a delightful fellow who had suddenly found himself single again. As if to illustrate the power of three degrees, I then received this email from a friend of my writer friend:
Jan, at whose party we met a while ago, mentioned that you occasionally ventured into matchmaking, and from her latest report she and Bruce are coming along very nicely. And that’s why I’m writing to you. I would love you to help me find a match. Let me know when we can talk and I can tell you everything I’ve tried.
We met at my local café on a rainy afternoon. Like millions of other people around the globe, one thing she’d tried was on-line dating—venturing into the questionnaire-heavy waters of PlentyOfFish (POF), eHarmony, OkCupid, and Yahoo Friends. Her best prospect, “Vic,” whom she’d met on POF, seemed promising after some online and telephone banter, jibing nicely with her list of requirements: over six feet tall; currently employed; no health problems; liked the arts and, in particular, photography.
But she ultimately discovered that he was mainly interested in phone sex. “I kept saying, ‘Tell me where you are and I’ll meet you.’ But he wasn’t interested in a face-to-face. All he wanted to know was, ‘What room are you in now? Why don’t you describe your sheets to me?’ And that’s the thing about online dating. You can have the most wonderful email exchanges, but then the guy doesn’t turn out to be who he says he is.”
If there’s one constant on the Internet, it’s dissimulation. On Second Life, for example, your (much more attractive) digital avatar can have an affair with another avatar, or a one-off with a virtual prostitute. Catching him doing just that is what sparked David Pollard’s wife, Amy Taylor, to file for divorce in 2008. The British couple had met online and married—twice. First their avatars married; the well-toned, topcoat-and medallion-wearing “Dave Barmy” wedded “Laura Skye,” a svelte and busty six-foot-tall DJ clad in a skintight purple gown. Their vows were exchanged on a tropical fantasy island. For Part II of this tale, read this article.
Somewhat later, the flesh-and-blood couple married in real life, at the more lackluster registry office in Cornwall. But when Taylor, an unemployed waitress originally from London, woke from a nap one afternoon to find Pollard’s avatar having virtual sex with a prostitute on Second Life, it was the beginning of the end of their real-world marriage. “It’s cheating as far as I’m concerned, but he didn’t see it as a problem and couldn’t see why I was so upset,” Taylor told The Times of London.
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