Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Love on the Line: Romance on the Internet Can Be Risky

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Love on the Line: Romance on the Internet Can Be Risky

Article excerpt

John Cooper got burned by the Internet.

One day while spending time in a chat room on America Online, he and a friend struck up an electronic conversation with a woman from Oklahoma who said her name was Mandy. She described herself as twentysomething, single and "looking for love."

Cooper chatted on-line with her for a month. Things looked promising. Then, he discovered the truth - the woman's real name was Paula, she was in her 50s, married and a mother. When her irate husband called, Cooper learned an important lesson about meeting over the Internet. "There's a lot of desperate people out there," he said. "You have to take what you see with a grain of salt." Cooper, 29, is not the first person to be duped on-line. Many computer junkies praise the Internet as a great way to make friends, but they say it can be an unpredictable place to find romance. "The anonymity of the Internet can be either an advantage or disadvantage," says Linda Anneling, president of the Iowa Student Computer Association, which has an on-line chat service with 40,000 subscribers. "People feel freer to express themselves on-line," she says. "A normally shy person can really open up. "You can also play a part on-line, be an actor. For instance, if a person has a really horrible temper, you can hide that on-line. But if you meet them in person, they probably won't be able to hide it for long." Anneling met her husband, a Norwegian, through the Internet. Initially, neither was looking for romance. They began chatting on-line while she was studying in Germany as an exchange student. When she was traveling around Europe by train with friends, Anneling made a brief trip to Norway to meet him. They kept in touch, and a few years later her future husband moved to Iowa to go to school. "Some people have fallen in love on-line," she says. "Ours was more of a pen-pal thing." Betsy Webster, a graduate student in broadcast journalism at the University of Missouri, says an on-line dating service gave her a convenient way to connect with people when she came to Columbia. After she moved to Missouri from Boston, Webster says, she made a promise to herself not to date anyone from her program. …

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