“Good night, sweet Angel,” he texts you, just before you turn off your phone for the night. You’ve found Mr. Perfect. Sure, he’s an online boyfriend who lives halfway across the world – but he’s the best guy who’s ever come into your life.
But is he?
According to a 2013 study by the market research firm IBISWorld, nearly 35% of married couples met online. This may be due to the fact that so many more people today are using dating sites, social networks and various online forums to meet and interact with new people.
However, with that increased trust in the online social experience to find a future partner comes an increased risk that you’ll come across a shady character who is not exactly what he makes himself out to be.
Here are a few helpful tips – from an “insider” male perspective – of 5 red flags you should keep an eye out for to spot a guy who’s trying to pull a fast one on you.
Becoming an Online Player
In my college days, many moons ago, I perfected the art of meeting girls online.
Of course, back then, “online” consisted of IRC chat rooms on the IBM Mainframe that connected together the University systems across the state, as well as the online email and electronic bulletin board system that all of the college students used to stay connected to one another.
This expertise was born out of necessity. I was painfully shy when meeting new people – bordering on some kind of clinical social anxiety disorder, I’m sure. However, I found when I introduced myself to a girl online, and they got to know my personality first, the first date would go smoothly.
Unfortunately, through a combination of hormones and immaturity, I learned to perfect this system into one where I could convince nearly any girl at all – from the shy bookworm to the bubbly cheerleader – to become fascinated enough with my persona that they would go on a date with me.
Now, over twenty years later, I’m going to spill the beans on the tried and true tricks that guys still use online today. The hope is that my two young daughters will read it some day, and become immune to these antics.
He’s Funny and Oh So Poetic
Girls love a guy with a good sense of humor. All it takes is a witty remark or flirty jesting to make a girl smile and break down any defensive shields around her heart. This is difficult to accomplish in person, because it requires very quick thinking and perfect timing. In a chat room or in IM, a guy can think for several minutes before typing a reply.
Guys that are witty stay winning?
— Soph (@sophipicchiotti) January 13, 2015
Worse, he can use Google. He can look up romantic lines from a movie, or very obscure, romantic poems to quote from. He can become as funny as Eddie Murphy high on speed, while in reality he might be about as humorous as a liver transplant.
Hot to spot him: Every joke he makes is really funny. He never misses an opportunity to show off his wit, but his responses are rarely quick. Seriously, time him. You’ll see.
He Talks About His Sister/Niece/Puppy All The Time
In 2012, the Huffington Post reported on a survey conducted by the makers of a mobile pet app, who found that certain breeds of dogs attract the opposite gender more than others. Bottom line: dogs attract potential dates.
Walk a puppy across a college campus, and you’ll see what I mean.
Why is this the case? Well, any guy who can express his love for a puppy or a child becomes insanely attractive to most women (especially women dreaming about starting a family).
John Grogan, the author of Marley & Me, explained that after he wrote his book, he was suddenly approached by the sort of women who never would have given him a second glance before. In a Men’s Health op-ed, Grogan wrote:
“…it’s all about the dog – and what that tells women: A man who can love, and be loved by, a dog is a man they can trust, a man with good odds of being decent and sincere and in touch with the soft center beneath the hardened shell.”
A player knows that this is a weakness nearly all women have. An online player manipulates that weakness skillfully. He’ll often describe how close he is to his dog, his little sister, or his young niece.
Hot to spot him: When the subject often returns to one of these hot-topics, it means he’s constantly probing for your weak spot. If he does it too often, you’ve got an online player on your hands.
He Gets You Coming and Going
There is a quote from The Great Hand Book of Quotes, that goes like this:
“Plant a good seed in people who have fertile hearts. When you are away, they’ll miss you. When you are coming again, they can’t wait!”
Every male player knows that the only way to grow the tree of desire in your heart is to plant a seed and water it often. How this plays out online takes time and dedication. He’ll text you first thing in the morning so that he’s the first thing you think about. He’ll text you a sweet “good night” message just before you go to sleep – so he’s the last thing you think about.
He may even be so clever as to learn your work schedule through conversation, and text you the moment you get home. If done in a way that isn’t too intrusive in your schedule, this online personality will ease his way into every aspect of your day – even your lunch break and your train ride home.
Hot to spot him: Impeccable timing with messages. Short messages throughout the day. He may even drag you into all-night texting sessions. Find yourself obsessed and dreaming of what this amazing man will be like when you meet in person? Let me save you the drama. Drop him and move on.
He’s Done Everything
You mention rock climbing. He claims he’s a repelling expert, with hair-raising stories to boot. You mention you’ve taken some photography classes, and he announces he’s an expert photographer with $15,000 worth of camera equipment.
You name it, he’s done it.
Rule of thumb is if he sounds too good to be true – if every one of your interests seem to mesh so perfectly into his – it’s probably not true. Reality is usually far from perfect. Some core interests may align, but not usually all. And if he’s only twenty or thirty-something, the odds are also pretty good he hasn’t had time to become an “expert” in that many things.
Hot to spot him: The “player” technique here is “mirroring”. In the book How to Persuade and Influence People, by Philip Hesketh, he writes that, “People like people who show a real and genuine interest in them. People like people who are like them.”
The online player is skilled at recognizing your “likes” and making sure to convince you that he has a lot to offer you in all of those areas. The catch is that it’s all just made up. What he really likes is simply the idea of getting you to agree to a first date.
The last move a guy usually makes while chatting with you online will be the sexual innuendo. This will come at a point in the conversation (or online relationship) where he believes you’ve developed a certain level of trust and attraction to him. It’ll usually start off small:
Man: “What what are you up to?”
Woman: “Oh, just laying in bed watching TV.”
Man: “Ooooh, what are you wearing? :-)”
It’s put up as humor, but it’s a passive way to test the waters to see if you’re potentially open to having more intimate or risque conversations.
Hot to spot him: Most guys absolutely suck at sexual innuendos. They’re usually overtly sexual, to the point of being outright disgusting. The skilled “player” uses very subtle flirtations – first dipping his toes into your pool and checking to see if the water is warm. The perfect test to see if he’s truly a player? Play along. Pretend that you’re interested. A player will think you’ve taken the bait, and may get a lot less subtle. That’s your cue to kick him to the curb.
What Women Want
I had three sisters growing up. I have a wife and two daughters today. Most of my friends growing up were girls. Yet, I still won’t claim I know everything women want. But, I do know what gets their interest.
I am not proud of the games I used to play online in my younger years, just to get a date. Ironically, I met the woman I ended up marrying at the very first social event (a college party) that I ever went to in person.
These tips are offered to help unsuspecting women identify and avoid these sorts of guys. There’s nothing wrong with online dating, but there’s no place for naivety when you’re opening your heart to a stranger.
Have you ever been burned by an online relationship? Do any of these “games” sound familiar? Share your horror stories in the comments below, and help other readers avoid the same fate!