Cautious Connecting

online-romanceOne of my true passions in life is connecting with people. It’s been something that has filled me with excitement and intrigue since as far back as I can remember. People are fascinating. Everyone has their own story, their own successes, tragedies, obstacles and loves. How can people not fascinate you? When I revived my blog this past January the connections I began to make, through my readers and other blogs, thrilled me more than words can express. Through blogging, the entire world feels like it is at your fingertips. I became intoxicated with it for my first month back.

Then something a little creepy happened. I met a blogger through comments he began leaving on my blog in response to my posts. He was gay, charming, well spoken and seemed genuinely interested in what I had to say. At the time, he also had a blog. I began reading his as well and we would comment back and forth on each other’s posts. Eventually we began emailing through our private emails. Here he was even more encouraging and pleasant. He was so congratulatory of my writing. He really made me feel validated in my decision to become a blogger. I really thought he was great.

The conversation did get a little flirty. Though he lived a far drive away, he began expressing interest in meeting up sometime.

Then, he asked for a picture of me. I replied with one in an email and I asked for one of his in return. He shared a total of three pictures of himself with me. It became very obvious very quickly that these were three pictures of three different people. This was so blaringly obvious that it was somewhat comical. This confused me. He had always seemed so open and honest with me about his life and feelings up until that point. Why would he lie about what he looked like? I politely inquired about these pictures in a follow-up email, which made me nervous because I did not want to insult him. Well, needless to say it did not go well.

strangerHe became reproachful to my questions. He was insulted by any insinuation that he would send false pictures. Suddenly, everything he said began to seem shady and like it made no sense. He even tried acting naïve by asking me, “Do people really do that? Share fake pictures of themselves?” Um…this is the Internet, of course they do. He suddenly tried to come across as ignorant of the web, even claiming that he is awful at taking selfies so he has very few, and could get me no others. This man who, only the day before, had seemed so learned about blogging and online communication had suddenly become a 95-year-old man confused by technology.

He disappeared shortly after the picture debacle, coincidentally becoming very busy at that point and unable to email any more. Interestingly enough, he has since tried to reconnect twice, each time seeming to have forgotten about this picture situation. He claims to be oddly forgetful about why we stopped talking, which in my opinion, either implies some legitimate memory issue or some noteworthy craziness. In the end, I view him to be a liar. I feel a gut instinct to distance myself from him.

This experience took somewhat of an emotional toll on me. I felt stupid for having opened up to a stranger so quickly. Did I invite, what could have developed into an unsafe situation by being too open too quickly with my personal information? Worse so, the blogging world felt somewhat dirty to me after this. My positive experience with my blog became slightly tainted and I felt a little violated. Not to mention, I began to feel slightly unsafe in this online community. Was I too naïve to meet people in this way online? Should I be less trusting and more guarded from here on out? Can we ever truly know who another person is online? I was honestly surprised by how much this had affected me.

This one particular experience, combined with some personal stuff in my everyday life, lead to me stepping away from blogging for a brief hiatus from March through June of 2014. Looking back, the break was probably a good thing: a good way to clear my head about blogging and my approach to it.

Moving forward, Gentle Reader, today I feel stronger and better equipped, not only as a writer, but also as an online conversationalist. I find my blog readers to be an extended and very caring family. Though this entire experience did remind me of a children’s book I remember my parents reading to me as a child. It was called Never Talk to Strangers and was written by Irma Joyce. In blogging I wouldn’t say never talk to strangers, but I would say cautiously talk to strangers.

never1Still this is a good lesson for us all. Be careful with your personal information online. Be trusting enough to make meaningful connections, but not so aimlessly trusting that you place yourself in any compromising or dangerous situations. The Internet, like anything else where mankind is involved, can be a tool for kindness and creation or for harm and destruction.

Please know that I am still passionate about worthwhile connections online. It’s these constructive friendships that make us stronger, so that we are not harmed by the would-be devils. I still encourage the connections. Just be cautious, as well as open, in them.

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10 thoughts on “Cautious Connecting

  1. Adam,
    So sorry you were hurt in that way. People are cruel but don’t give up. I have made great connections online from my first local relationship to a great friend across the country. Blogging is interesting and you do get a variety of people who read them, I agree. I hope this doesn’t leave you too jaded. We are not all like that! I have been following your blogs from back when you were barely out to not and you seem like a great kid with a good head on your shoulders especially to see the fraud that guy was and to confront him. Oh well, things could have been worse!
    Smiles 🙂 Laurie

    • Laurie! It is so wonderful to hear from you. I’m thrilled that you are still stopping by my blog. Your support has meant so much to me right from the beginning! Don’t worry, this definitely did not leave me too jaded. Moving forward, I am simply wiser. It’s exciting to hear that you found a relationship through your blog! Maybe some day I will meet a real, genuine, intelligent man to date through my blog. That would be so exciting! Thank you for your comment. I hope to talk more to you soon!

  2. Wow, that’s interesting. Of course, you’ve piqued my interest as to the identity of this blogger. It’s probably someone whose blog I’ve read. Glad that you’re back. I look forward to reading more and thanks for the reminder to be careful about what we share.

    • Hello, Friend! It’s great to see you again as well. Your blog is so well written and interesting. I’m flattered that you take the time to comment on mine. A reminder to be careful is always important. I wrote this post because the event obviously touched me and affected my blogging. That felt important enough to share with my readers. As far as the blogger’s identity, in my writing, he now exists as a metaphor. Any more detail would feel unfair. Where ever he is now, I hope he is only spreading positive energy to others, and not fake pictures.

  3. I know a few people who’ve been catfished like that. It’s awful but I’m glad you’re still open. I met my best friend through blogging 8 years ago and I can’t imagine my life without her.

    • Abbi, it really excites me to hear that you met your best friend through blogging. Good for you. That is wonderful. I hope I can be lucky to meet long standing friends through this blog. It goes to show that many positive connections can be made online. Yes, I am still open to this. So far this openness is serving me well. I am meeting extremely nice people like yourself… 🙂

  4. When I started blogging, my intent was just to maintain an online journal and really didn’t have any intentions of interacting or meeting anyone. Over time, I have met a handful of people and keep in touch with others. I’ve been fortunate that my experience so far has been positive. But I’ve also been very cautious.

    • I’m so glad that your experience has been positive. That is the way it should be and what I hope for us all. It’s interesting how blogging can start as just an activity to write about our experiences and can turn into a way to find meaningful friends and others with similar experiences. I wish you continued positives along your blogging path. Thank you for your feedback.

  5. Love this post and how you’ve reflected on what went wrong. Taking time away from blogging was a smart move, and it’s great that you came back with a clear head and were able to articulate your thoughts so well in this post. I agree that the internet is wonderful and has the potential to create so many meaningful connections, but at the same time we must be cautious about how much we reveal and where we reveal it. Hope you’re doing well and still planning on writing more!

    • As always, thank you, Thomas, for all of your kind words. I am doing very well now. You are right, sometimes taking a step away for a break and for self-reflection can be the best move. This felt like an important post for me to write. I’m thankful my personal outcomes were not more negative, but it’s a sobering reality. It can be so positive and ultimately I think this ‘blogging feat’ is worth the risk. 🙂

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