Pay it Forward: The corrupt commodity of online romance

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Unfortunately, the steady rise of online relationship scams indicates that we’re taking these tropes a bit too literally. ( Urban Isthmus/Flickr Creative Commons )

Unfortunately, the steady rise of online relationship scams indicates that we’re taking these tropes a bit too literally. (Urban Isthmus/Flickr Creative Commons)

Love makes us do the craziest things. Well, you don’t say! You can’t put a price on happiness. Oh, really? How about $143 million over the past year? Surely, you’ve heard these adages that excuse the sometimes irrational behavior of the love-smitten among us. Unfortunately, the steady rise of online relationship scams indicates that we’re taking these tropes a bit too literally. I understand that our emotions can get the better of us occasionally, and social media and online matchmaking platforms could do more to prevent such unfortunate occurrences; I also believe that by applying some common sense and communicating with strangers more cautiously, we can easily avoid getting duped by malicious figures.

Again, online romance scams are far too frequent. According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), “the number of reported romance scams has been going up — 8,500 in 2015, 11,000 in 2016 and almost 17,000 in 2017,” along with over 21,000 reports last year. Given that the median amount of $2,600 lost in a romance scam was “seven times more than the median loss for other types of frauds tracked by the FTC,” we seem to be especially charitable to those fraudsters who warm our hearts. Although some of us may become infatuated by a sense of mystery and our eternal optimism, perhaps we shouldn’t blindly trust strangers, especially those requesting money and personal information, refusing to reveal their face publicly, and using a phone number without caller ID. After all, the FTC classifies these romance scams under the same umbrella as those fake IRS and tech support calls, and certainly we don’t want to give those MTV producers any more fodder (although I’ll admit that Catfish is a guilty pleasure of mine).

As susceptible as we may be to online romance scams from fellow users, perhaps we ought to consider some of the online platforms themselves as instigators. In one of my favorite weekly columns from last semester, I discussed my mixed feelings about online dating apps, acknowledging that I wasn’t exactly the most qualified person to comment on the subject. However, recent events have given me a more informed perspective. Yes, as I’ve predicted, I’ve created my own dating app profile. About a week or two ago, two of my close friends pushed me into joining Tinder. I’ve tried to construct an appealing profile and give the platform a fair chance, but I’ve grown to fundamentally oppose several aspects of its design to the extent that I feel a bit cheated.

For instance, I understand the rationale of putting a paywall behind the ability to immediately identify interested suitors, for it incentivizes us to take initiative and continue swiping right as opposed to simply waiting around and browsing through those who like our profiles. But those of us (me included) who already find it nerve-wracking to put themselves out there could use a confidence booster and a greater probability of finding a match. Considering that I’ve modified some settings, yet still receive countless profiles from users who lie outside my preferred age range and geographical proximity and hardly have photos and bios similar to mine, Tinder’s wonky algorithm doesn’t appear too concerned with giving me matches, either. Lastly, I generally don’t feel so great when using the app. This might sound idealistic, but I just find something icky about judging women based on some arbitrary criteria, and then watching their profiles disappear from view upon rejecting them, as if their creators are completely worthless as a result. I mean, honestly, who am I to judge any of these women, most of whom I’ve never even met and are likely more multifaceted than their brief bios and small accompaniment of photos would indicate? I’ve been waiting all my life for someone to give me a chance, and I appreciate the opportunity to engage with others in my position (and to those two close friends I mentioned previously, I know your hearts were in the right place). Unfortunately, I don’t have much faith that this is any way for me to find that special someone, and I’m highly tempted to delete my Tinder profile altogether. In short, those who echo my sentiments might not stay committed to these ever-popular online dating apps unless their infrastructure departs from that of a romantic scam.

Ultimately, we can’t allow our emotional peaks and valleys to cloud our judgment in pursuit of romance, nor can online dating platforms multiply our struggles to attain it. It’s time to kiss these negative tendencies goodbye and embrace a free, clean environment for online matchmaking.


Michael Katz is a contributor for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email michael.katz@uconn.edu.  

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