Keeping it Real: 5 Ways to Avoid the ‘Perfection Illusion’

Here’s a post I wrote a while back for a men’s dating site…

Friday night. You log in to the site and there’s a message sitting in your inbox. It’s a reply, and not just any reply. It’s from HER. She’s funny and interesting and totally gets why Kirk trumps Picard every time. For a while now she’s listened to you, laughed at your rubbish jokes, heck – she’s even started finishing your sentences. You fall asleep thinking of her. You wake up thinking of her. You hear a song on the radio and think of her. Yep. Undoubtedly this has been the BEST 6 days, 3 hours and 47 minutes of your life so far…


If this is you, you’re already becoming the latest victim of the ‘Perfection Illusion’. Your poor little heart has become enchanted by a faultless, wondrous stranger who inhabits a flawless virtual reality. Except it’s not faultless. Or flawless. It’s a perceived illusion of perfection perpetuated by a well-written profile, some entertaining messages and an overriding desire to believe that she is indeed ‘The One’.

Now I’m not a cynic, but let’s look at the facts – it’s probably nigh on impossible to really know someone after 6 days, 3 hours and 47 minutes (this is the Internet after all, and who hasn’t heard at least one “Busty Bonny was really Balding Brian” story?), and more importantly, you haven’t actually met her yet to know if the attraction is real.

Steering Clear of SimCity

The online world is a very different place to reality. You can be anonymous; confident. There’s no blushing or suddenly becoming very aware that you use the word ‘absolutely’ too much. Way too much. Messages can be edited and re-edited until you become as suave and as witty as James Bond meets Chris Rock. “Hey, I’d even date myself!” you think. Instant spontaneity becomes premeditated perfection. And therein lays the problem. All the annoying little quirks and habits disappear and before you know it you’ve got a deep and intimate connection to what is essentially a mere fantasy.

It’s true, online dating can be thrilling, exciting and fun, and there is nothing wrong with two consenting adults partaking in some light flirtation when chatting. The danger comes when the chatting and flirting become an intrinsic part of daily life, all sensibility goes out the window, and you wind up feeling like you’re falling for your virtual ‘soul mate’.

So step away from the PC for a few minutes and take note of these 5 ways to ‘keep it real’ and avoid falling for ‘The Perfection Illusion’. It might just save you a wasted journey down the road to disappointment…

  1. People Are Fantasists

Now I know this seems obvious, but always remember that when people use dating sites they aim to project the best image of themselves possible. Not many people like to admit they work as a supermarket cleaner or they live with their parents at 40 or they have 3 failed marriages behind them. And in all honesty they shouldn’t have to. You probably wouldn’t go on a first lunch date and reveal your inner-most thoughts, secrets and deepest, darkest desires (unless you happen to be Christian Grey of course). Similarly, you wouldn’t bare you soul, warts ‘n’ all, on a dating site profile. Knowing someone comes with time and trust. But in the meantime, if she says she’s a Playboy Bunny or he discloses his million-a-year salary in the first message, be wary.

  1. The Camera Can (and does) Lie

As we’ve discussed here before, people can look completely different “in real life” to a selection of photographs. Add to that the possibility that your new friend might be a wizz on PicMonkey or Photoshop and its clear where the illusion begins. So view any photographs with a pinch of salt, and look forward to meeting the real person, well, in person.

  1. Not Everyone Is As Nice As You

The question of morals is a big issue when it comes to online dating. Not everyone you meet will be as careful with your feelings as they should. The motivation for joining an online dating site can simply be boredom and the need for attention. It’s a sad truth that many men and women use dating sites to embark on extra-marital affairs. They should be easy to spot though. They often turn down your invites, refuse to give you their number, or insist you meet for drinks at their out-of-town (read out-of-the-way-of-other-people) hotel where they are staying on ‘business’. If your potential match has been sketchy on details, or you are suspicious about anything they’ve told you, walk away. Move on to someone who will be as upfront and honest as you.

  1. Some People Have Ulterior Motives

It’s a reality that a number of people who use online dating sites get scammed. Whether that’s emotionally or financially, it still sucks. It’s easy to be drawn into a story about a charitable act, a sick relative, or an apparent desperate situation. After all, you know this person. They’ve trusted you enough to tell you everything. No you don’t. And no they haven’t. The best – if somewhat clichéd – advice here is not to let your heart rule your head. Never, ever part with money. Don’t fall for a sob story only to find out you’ve just paid off someone’s credit card bill or sent them on a lovely 2-week vacation to the Bahamas.

  1. It’s Not Real Until You Meet

So you’ve chatted online for a few days, had a giggle, and you’re pretty certain there’s a spark. Now is the moment to arrange that first date. And trust me on this, the sooner the better. Before you become lost in a comfy, un-risky virtual world and build your potential match into Mr. or Miss Perfect, bite the bullet and make some plans. There’s nothing worse than meeting up (expecting to fall into each other’s arms and talk non-stop all night), only to have a terrible time filled with shifty side glances and awkward silences, and all the while wishing you’d done this 2 weeks and 43 messages ago. And if your new friend declines the invitation or seems hesitant and non-committal about a get together, then re-read through numbers 1 – 4 and move on. Time is precious so don’t waste it chasing an illusion.

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