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New rules for online dating

OPINION

  • Should online dating sites perform background checks?
Should online dating sites perform background checks? (Chicago Tribune )
January 31, 2012|By Ana Fernatt, For RedEye

With the amount of time we spend on social sites such as Facebook and Twitter, online dating is far less taboo than it was even a few years ago. It's a great fix for the busy professional who wants to be more efficient in finding that special mate, or for someone who's shy or needs a little push getting back into the dating scene. I've even given it a shot a few times.

With that societal shift inevitably comes government regulation: Illinois lawmakers are considering making it a requirement for online dating sites to prominently display whether they perform background checks on their members.

This sounds like it would make sense. I like all the checks and balances I can get. But, to be honest, I'm a lot less worried about meeting Mr. Craigslist Killer than I am about winding up with Mr. Sexts His Ex.

If you're paying for a service such as online dating, it would make sense that the company would want to put safeguards in place to protect its clientele. That's just good business. But we all have our histories. Should someone who has turned his or her life around really be barred from finding romance? And who's to say someone who doesn't have a past criminal record can't have a future one?

I can understand how online dating sites could be used as stalking grounds for dudes who will drug your drink or try to give your bank information to an exiled Nigerian prince. I mean, I've watched Lifetime. But that can happen at the bar on Friday night, too. You have to use common sense when online dating, just like you do in real life.

Yes, there are a lot of creeps out there, but I'm not sure "can't commit" or "will hit on your roommate" is going to come up in a police record. I'd like to see a dating site that casts safety nets against those types of situations.

Just like texting, online dating makes it easier to be a little more ballsy. You can ask out someone you think might be out of your league without fear of being publicly shut down, a la any '80s high school movie. On most sites, you don't even have to send your sexy target a message. You can just "wink," "smile" or "poke" your interest as if to say, "Come on ... just look at my profile. COME ON! But I'm not THAT interested ... so let's start the bar low."

I had a friend who would go on 8 to 10 different online dates in a day. Another friend brought home a guy who put his arm around her while making a play for my knee with his other hand. I want to have some sort of guarantee that these are situations I can avoid.

This could be by restricting the amount of people a dater can contact at any given time or by asking that their members pass regular current events quizzes. If I'm paying to go that extra mile, the site should too.

We all go into this dating game with almost uncharacteristically innocent and hopeful expectations. We probably take a few more risks than we should, but that's all part of the deal. With every first date, there's a little thrill of anticipation. "Will this launch me on some great adventure?"

I honestly believe even the jerks are looking for love in their own messed-up way. I just don't want them to be messing with me, if I can help it.

ANA FERNATT IS A REDEYE SPECIAL CONTRIBUTOR.

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