Two recent news items about life in today’s digital age caught my attention:
News item #1
Recent studies of more than 11,000 people revealed that one in six marriages are now between people who met through an online dating site – more than twice the number of people meeting at bars, at clubs and other social events combined
Additionally, the studies show that one in five new committed relationships, including marriages, are between people who met on an online dating site.
News item #2
Divorce lawyers claim the explosion in the popularity of websites such as Facebook and Bebo is tempting to people to cheat on their partners.
Suspicious spouses have also used the websites to find evidence of flirting and even affairs, which have led to divorce.
One law firm, which specialises in divorce, claimed almost one in five petitions they processed cited Facebook.
Digital technology and the Internet have created a parallel form of life. We could call it Cyberlife.
Cyberlife is built on information—which may be enlightening, misleading, authentic or fabricated. Words on a screen may be true, false, or subject to interpretation. Images and videos may depict actual occurrences—or they may be staged, cropped, edited or Photoshopped.
In Cyberlife, information available instantaneously. Information that was once inaccessible may now be found. And information—whether correct or inaccurate—lives forever in digital caches, located wherever Google and other archives keep it.
So what does all of this mean when it comes to sociopaths?
Sociopaths live by exploiting people. The Internet and other tools of digital technology give sociopaths another avenue for exploiting people. And it’s a powerful one.
Internet fraud is a huge growth industry. Here are annual dollar losses due to Internet fraud reported to the Internet Crime Complaint Center:
- 2007 – $239 million
- 2008 – $265 million
- 2009 – $560 million
For sociopaths looking to exploit individuals in romantic relationships, the Internet and online dating sites allows them to fish in a very big pond. They can troll for victims 24/7, around the world. They can bait their hooks with fictitious profiles. They can work multiple targets at once, to see who actually bites.
Yes, the digital age gives sociopaths a lot of tools—but it also provides tools to the rest of us.
Lovefraud is proof of that. Lovefraud provides information about this personality disorder, enabling people stuck in the fog of manipulation and confusion to finally understand what they are dealing with.
Besides general information about sociopaths, the Internet allows people to acquire specific information on people they meet. Websites like DontDateHimGirl.com, Womansavers.com and Ripoffreport.com allow readers to post names of people to be avoided. Exposure works—many people have been saved from predatory relationships by finding the case studies on Lovefraud.
Seduction in the mind
One of the fascinating things about Cyberlife is that it brings into sharp focus how much of our lives take place in our own minds.
Lovefraud has heard of several cases in which people were involved online relationships, to the point of severe emotional trauma, with people who didn’t even exist! Some sociopaths play this cruel game. The sociopaths don’t get money, or sex, or a place to live. But they send flowery, romantic texts and emails, promising future happiness that will never happen. They manipulate their victims, just for fun and entertainment.
These situations are extreme, but every relationship that starts online starts in the mind. All you have is digital information. You don’t see a person across a room and feel a twinge of animal magnetism. You don’t fall in love with the sound of their laugh. So what happens?
As the Internet Threat page on Lovefraud.com explains, 65% to 90% of human communication comes from nonverbal cues. When communicating online, therefore, 65% to 90% of the meaning is missing.
What do we do when reading email and text messages in communications with a potential romantic partner? We indulge in our hopes and dreams. We fill in the blanks with what we want the communication to mean. We fall in love with our own fantasy.
Yes, our minds can trick us. Awareness, however, is also in our minds. We can educate ourselves that these predators exist. We can learn the warning signs of exploitative behavior. We can read about the experiences of others. All of this can be done online—that’s what Lovefraud does every day. As we say here on Lovefraud, knowledge equals power.
In the end, therefore, the information revolution, the Internet, digital technology—it’s all just a conduit, and the conduit can be used for information that is either helpful or hurtful.
But we do need to understand what happens in Cyberlife, and how messages on the conduit can be manipulated. Digital technology is a tool. How the tool is used makes the difference.