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Law still leaves online dating a wild, wild West

Jeff Ward

Jeff Ward

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Updated: October 4, 2012 6:08AM

Will someone please tell me what the heck’s gotten into the water in Schaumburg? I’ve been wondering about those folks ever since my Streamwood days. Perhaps that persistent meatball odor wafting from Ikea makes ’em all a little crazy.

In another case of the truth about Illinois lawmakers being stranger than fiction, on Aug. 24 Gov. Pat Quinn signed a bill that requires Internet dating sites to disclose whether they perform background checks on their lovesick members. If they do, but allow convicted people to participate anyway, then they have to warn users that this “due diligence” is far from foolproof.

Of course, this new law was sponsored by state Rep. Michelle Mussman, D-Schaumburg, who apparently believes that no one has ever hidden behind an online alias.

Please, please, please tell there isn’t a single person within the sound of my voice who fails to comprehend that is the ultimate crap shoot. C’mon! It’s the quintessential Forrest Gumpian box of chocolates, where you really never know what you’re gonna get.

And the prospect of a “beau” with a criminal record may well be the least of your worries.

According to Online Dating Magazine, the bible of the industry, 30 percent of the folks who sign up for an Internet match are either already married or in a committed relationship. When I mentioned that statistic to “Left, Right and You” WRMN Radio co-host Tim Elenz, he said the number is probably closer to 50 percent.

So even if we split it down the middle, what that means is there’s an excellent chance that your online Romeo is simply looking for something on the side.

For argument’s sake, let’s say you’re the lucky one who manages to comes up with an unattached Juliet. Now you have to contend with the whole “gilding the lily” phenomenon.

In a study of online dating profiles reported in Science Daily Magazine, researchers found that 80 percent of our lovelorn hopefuls lied, and that the fudging ranged from minor fabrication about height and weight, all the way up to a fully fictitious background.

“Almost everybody lied about something,” the researchers said. And if they did lie about their appearance, the study found their profile photo was, as Science Daily put it, “less than representative of reality.”

And we all know what happens to a relationship that begins on the basis of deception.

Before we continue, please let me clearly state that I’m eternally grateful for having found the one woman on the planet who’s willing to put up with me. But if I were still single and, having temporarily taken leave of my senses, went the online dating route, forget about the criminal background check. I’d want a full medical workup.

I understand, with the exception of the enhancement of physical characteristics, these perils are a problem in the non-virtual dating world as well. But as Gavin de Becker pointed out in his book “The Gift of Fear,” human beings have a built-in early-warning system that kicks in whenever we come face-to-face with someone who doesn’t add up.

But online dating renders that instinct obsolete.

Not only that, but while searching for your online soul mate is a solitary endeavor, in the real world we tend to have peers who look out for our best interests whenever we’re blinded by that fast flush of infatuation.

So as far as Internet dating goes, just don’t do it. Join a health club, become more active in your church, take a class, or volunteer — anything but resort to the Net to find your future spouse. It’s not worth the risk.

Regarding this new law, while I’ve never been one to pay heed to all that GOP political nattering about a “nanny state,” I will admit that, this time, I found myself thinking, “Where’s a Republican when you really need him?”

Don’t get me wrong; I’m sure Rep. Mussman’s heart was in the right place. But her misguided effort to mitigate the myriad of online dating dangers will only provide a false sense of security for folks seeking virtual love.

I’m all for allowing natural selection to run its course, but our politicians probably shouldn’t hasten the process.

No matter how much you wish it were true and how hard you try, you cannot legislate stupidity out of existence. If you could, I’d start with Springfield.

Jeff is at

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