Tue | Jun 25, 2019

Technology in Focus | Finding love in a click -| At the heart of cyber dating , safety is key

Published:Wednesday | February 6, 2019 | 7:01 AM
Marlon Vickerman and his wife of nine years, Mahagany, whom he met via Yahoo Chat.

More persons are embracing online dating now than a decade ago. According to The Knot, a wedding website based in the United States, in a survey of more than 14,000 persons who were engaged or recently married, 19 per cent of brides said they met their spouses online.

The data says that meeting via dating sites has now surpassed more traditional and popular avenues, including through friends (17%); during college (15%); and at work (12%).

While there is no local data to indicate if this is a growing trend here, a number of Jamaicans use dating sites such as jamaicandating, which is part of the World Singles Networks; FirstMet.com; and Mingle.

For 34-year-old Marlon Vickerman, a Jamaican who now lives in the United States, online dating was never a thought for him, but he still found love in the virtual space. Although they did not meet through a dating website, he met his wife of nine years, Mahagany, through Yahoo Chat in 2004.

“I honestly did not see myself participating in online dating,” he chuckled. “Therefore, I gave it no thought and had no reservations about it. However, one day, I just happened to go online and met a girl. We kept in touch and then, the next thing I know, ‘BOOM!’ Love happened,” he related.

Marlon said that after speaking on Yahoo Chat for a few weeks, he and Mahagany switched to Skype, another online platform. They conversed for more than a year and a half before deciding to meet face to face.

They were both anxious to discover what the chemistry would be like between them when they met face to face. Mahagany, who lived in the United States, then flew to Jamaica to meet him.

“We were both nervous. We spoke on the phone, Yahoo and Skype almost daily since we met. Therefore, we had a good idea about who each other was as person, but meeting face to face was now different,” he said.

“After the first day or two, just being in each other’s company, everything started to feel normal. You then get a big relief to find out that the person is who they showed you or told you they were when you first met online,” he said.

THE LONG-DISTANCE HURDLE

However, it was not smooth sailing for them, as there was still the “long distance” to deal with.

“As with any long-distance relationship, we had a high hurdle to jump. Not being in the same physical space as the person, having to wait until they come online, or pick up the phone to spend time together, all that gets frustrating sometimes. Those were the biggest challenges for me,” Marlon related.

However, they offset the challenges by trying to communicate daily and made visits during the summer when it was feasible.

Marlon, however, noted there was some advantage to the situation.

“I believe that because we were so far apart and had to communicate via text and on Skype, we really got to know each other. We spoke about a wide range of topics – past experiences, future goals, pet peeves, shortcomings, you name it. We had no choice but to get to know the person on the other side of the screen and we got to know them very well,” he added.

Six years into the relationship, the two decided to tie the knot; and nine years later, the marriage is still strong, and they have produced three beautiful children.

No happily ever after for Rosemarie

But, for Rosemarie (not her real name), who met her ex-boyfriend online, there was no happy ever after. She met her friend via Facebook after receiving a friend request, which she accepted as he looked like someone she knew.

She said they started with small talk and she realised that she never knew him, but she had no issue and, at first, as he seemed to be okay. They were single, and both of them were Christians. rsations. After three months, they decided to meet in person; however, this was after she carried out background checks on him.

“Our first date was at Devon House. We talked, laughed and everything went well,” she related.

The interactions were now face-to-face; their relationship was progressing; and, they introduced each other to their respective families. However, after a year into their relationship, she realised that it wasn’t working out as he became “clingy”, and there were “trust issues”.

Consequently, she became withdrawn and moody, and they ended the relationship as it was not working out.

Rosemarie said while her relationship didn’t end in marriage, she was not averse to online dating, but it should be done with vigilance.

Cybersecurity no joke

However, Delecia Mair Grizzle, cybersecurity analyst at JN Bank, has words of caution for persons who plan to engage in cyber dating.

“Every now and then, a horror story emerges online about cyber dating because you cannot really know if the person will turn out to be dangerous,” she said.

For the first date, she advised, one should ensure that a family member or friend knows that you are going out, on a date, and arrange to contact them within a certain period of time.

“It is best to also meet in a public place or to double date,”she recommended, “or have a friend accompany you to the location and observe from a distance.”

Other additional tips, she pointed out include verifying information given about the person as best as possible and to avoid night dates.

For teenagers, she is urging parents to be observant. They could also consider installing software on their children’s phones to capture their conversations and messages.

For computers and tablets, she advises that parents should ensure that parental controls are in place on the devices to limit access to certain websites and also check their browsing history.

In addition, parents could also place time restrictions on when these devices can be used.