A recent story about a man who flew from the Netherlands to China to meet his “dream girl,” whom he met on a dating app, reveals the dangers of taking what you see in the digital world at face value.
The man ended up waiting at the airport for ten days for a woman who never showed. He eventually had to be taken to the emergency room to be treated for complications due to his diabetes being aggravated by his airport stay.
In this case, unlike many others, there actually was a real person behind the online profile. She claims she was getting plastic surgery in a neighbouring province during her Dutch suitor’s prolonged sojourn at the airport, and had turned off her phone and not been online during her recovery.
This incident is an extreme example of a common social media occurrence. Lonely guys looking for a shot at love in foreign locales finding themselves scammed by their would-be lovers. There are success stories out there of meeting someone on a dating website or app and finding a life partner. Just enough to keep the grist mills turning in what the poet W.B. Yeats once called “the foul rag and bone shop of the heart.” But for every success story, there is also an equally potent story of bring scammed or, at least, disappointed when the reality does not match up with fantasy version of the person online.
And it is not just the dating world where these types of problems occur— get-rich quick scheme testimonials, false charity stories such as cancer victims without actual cancer or quack remedy spokespersons— all are out there, and many cruising online continue to fall for the snake oil these creatures are peddling.
Why are human beings so gullible? Probably because we want to live out the fantasy, and have fooled ourselves into thinking the fantasy is the reality. It’s hard when caught up in the throes of an emotion to inject some rational thought, realistic perspective or common sense into the situation. Famous circus man P.T. Barnum coined the phrase, “There is a sucker born every minute,” because he understood this basic, central fact of human nature: We can impose our own reality on almost any circumstance if that is what we are emotionally inclined to do despite a thousand warning signs screaming out the contrary.
None of us are immune. We are all willfully blind or a bit gullible at times, but if it reaches a point where you are being asked to spend thousands of dollars, (or find yourself waiting ten days in an airport in China for a lady who never shows), some elementary sense of survival should kick in at that point to burst the bubble on our grand delusion. Nothing online is exactly what it seems; some prudence and caution needs to be exercised before you suffer a broken heart, an empty wallet or a general loss of faith in humanity.
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