The real-life consequences of online dating

Maybe they don’t have this problem in places like New York and L.A., but mine is a small city by many standards, and it seems like every single person here is dabbling in online dating. On the surface, this is great — it ostensibly ups your chances for love if there are tons of people to choose from. But you also have to keep in mind that everyone means everyone.

So far, I’ve personally run across several the profiles of several dudes from middle school, a guy who works at my favorite happy hour haunt, a very close friend and one of my doctors. It seems like no big deal — and maybe it doesn’t have to be. But you have to keep in mind that stumbling across what is essentially a personals ad for someone you usually see in a completely different light can be jarring. It can make things awkward when you two meet again in person. And it can bring up issues you never thought about before.

Your single boss could stumble upon your profile and find out you actually hate your job — and him. You might hit on your son’s teacher, jeopardizing your relationship with someone you need to be able to count on. You could run into someone you recently rejected while you’re sauntering down the street and have to figure out whether to ignore him or say hi. Do you really want to see your ex’s profile? How about your roommate’s and your best friend’s?

In the age of Twitter, Facebook and myriad other social networking sites, we’re starting to learn that the question of who has access to your info –

– and even who is knows that you use certain digital tools — can really matter. If anything, it’s yet another reason to be cautious about what we send out over the Web, and maybe even another chance to reexamine how it’s affecting our real lives.

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