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f - Animals/Nature


The invention of the Internet has opened the door to interaction with people from all over the planet. It's been the key to long-lasting friendships around the globe, new insights into a wonderful variety of cultures, and a greater understanding that wherever we live, we're all pretty similar when you get right down to it.

For anyone who previously found it difficult to socialize, due to illness, a busy lifestyle, or shyness, the Internet provides an excellent opportunity to meet likeminded people. It's even helped some to find their perfect partner. Unfortunately, where there are upsides there tend to be downsides, and that's certainly the case with the Internet. That lovely lady you've been chatting with for months may turn out to be a man playing a fictional character. And that attractive guy you met on a dating website could well be a scammer hoping to get some cash out of you.

It's understandable, therefore, that some people avoid online friendships. They're concerned that it's unsafe to get too close, and they may in turn be cautious in revealing who they truly are. This isn't strictly necessary - a lot of people online are genuine and friendly enough - but it is wise to tread with care.

If you are a member of a social networking website, and you're thinking of adding people outside of your trusted circle of friends and family, it's best to share as little information as possible in your profile. Phone numbers are best left out, as is your email address and any other personal information, including your full date of birth. Make sure your security settings are tight even if you're only thinking of adding those you know - quite often, if you don't change your settings manually, anyone on the Internet can stumble across your data!

If you've been in contact with someone for a while, and you're thinking of meeting up, it's crucial to be as careful as possible. Even if the other person is the same gender as you are. Let family and friends know that you're meeting up with this person, where you're going and when you should be back home. Take your phone with you, and you may even want someone to give you a call at some point during the meeting to check if everything's alright. Meet in a public place. If all goes well, that's wonderful, but if you feel uncomfortable at any point during the meeting, don't hesitate to say goodbye and head home.

Some forums and website communities have meet-ups. These organized events are a great way of meeting other people in a safe environment, especially if they've been organized before and are seen as a success. Many people who go to meet-ups are shy at first, so don't let that stop you. Read up about the previous meet-ups, look for feedback, check out pictures. It will give you a feel for what you can expect. Again, though, it's good to let family and friends know where you're going, or if you can, drag someone trusted with you!

Dating websites can be helpful in the search of that certain someone, but some have been infiltrated by people who aren't after friendship or love. They're after your money instead. There are a few telltale signs, though patterns do change. The people in the pictures tend to be very attractive. They'll often initiate contact, and they'll be utterly charming. They'll try to get your email address almost straight away, or will try to get you to speak with them through a messenger program. They often pretend to be rather well off, and they may even send you flowers or chocolates. They'll proclaim their love and dedication to you as soon as possible.

Then, tragedy will strike. They're on business in another country and their visa has expired. They've had an accident. Their son or daughter is very ill and needs medical care. They've been working on this big project but they haven't received payment yet and it's their child's birthday. They need a ticket home, or over to you. Please send money or expensive items and they'll be with you forever. Except, they won't. You've just been scammed, and they'll keep scamming you until you get suspicious, after which they will move on to the next person. Unfortunately, people have fallen it.

In the light of this, please be cautious when looking for a partner, and don't be afraid to let any interaction be on your terms. If you do find someone who seems interesting enough to meet up with, it's wise to take the same precautions as above for meeting up with a friend.

Not everyone will want to meet up, or even be able to. You may want online friends but may not be interested in seeing them in person. This, of course, is absolutely fine. It's great if friendship grows, and it can be very rewarding. With a bit of care, long-lasting, genuine connections can be made.

The Internet can be a daunting place, but you never know... with any luck it will give you a smile or two, possibly because of someone you would have never met otherwise.


Kit Marsters is an author on http://www.Writing.Com/ which is a site for Writers. She is lucky enough to have made some wonderful friends online, met up with a few and still lives to tell the tale.


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