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Find the perfect match on Yahoo Personals. Check out Malaysian girls on sms.ac. Join in ahmoi.com and be one of the top 10 popular personalities ranked based on the number of emails you are sent.

These are some of the emails which I have received and also captions which I’ve seen in my years of surfing on the Internet. Those days when the Internet was still at its infancy, Internet Relay Chat (better known as IRC) was what I used to be “addicted” to. I could spend my entire free time chatting with so called friends, and making strangers in the chat room into friends. It was a stimulating experience because you could become so “popular” in no time. Join a chat room, and immediately a group of friends will greet you, and then we would chat till the wee hours of the morning.

After a few months of chatting with several of my IRC friends (most of whom were girls – I was single then you see), I decided to whip up my courage to ask them out. And to my surprise, most of them did not even think twice before saying Yes (I admit, that boosted my ego a bit, but later I found out that they say that to all guys). And so I met a few of them for lunch and some for drinks. As I only knew them as their nicknames (like lollipop, angel17, gypsygirl etc.), it was weird to finally meet them, and put a face with the nicknames, and also find out their real names. I was pretty nervous especially when I didn’t know how they looked like and were not sure if they would turn up at the agreed venue.

Now, let’s now fast forward to the present. Did I find my love on IRC? No. Did I make lifelong friends from IRC? Yes, a few – I am still in contact with a couple of them out of the many whom I used to chat with, and we’ve become good friends.

I do however have a good friend (fellow chatter as well) who found his girlfriend via IRC. They somehow connected online and offline, and are still together as of today (6 years + and going strong), and possibly intend to get married in the near future.

Today, things are more advanced. If you go to websites like ahmoi.com, you can get a detailed biography of the person including picture and decide if you want to initiate contact with her/him. How technology has evolved to make things easier, and don’t forget, it makes it easier for you to get “preyed” on.

One disturbing thought was and is still on my mind. The girls whom I initiated contact then were so trusting and so vulnerable. How did they know that I was a decent (am I?), fun loving, and friendly guy just out to look for love in cyberworld? And not a screwed up serial rapist and murderer looking for prey # 15?

I did ask one of them this when she stepped into my car the first time we met. She just said, well, you sounded like a decent guy.

Well, things haven’t changed since my IRC days 7 years ago. Of course, I am no longer into chat other than MSN chat which I use as a great tool to contact existing friends who are geographically far away. However, I still have many friends who have just embarked in this cyberdating world, and the perception from the girl’s point of view hasn’t evolved much even in the light of so many date rape cases, and rape and murder cases.

My two cents worth of advice to you girls out there: Although the percentage of ill intentioned guys may be low, it’s always good to be cautious especially when you do not know the person except from a detailed biography on the Net. That can very well be fake for all you know. If I were a girl intending to meet with my “suitors”, I would do the following:

  1. Meet at a public place
    Meet at a crowded coffee place like Starbucks, Coffeebean, etc. This will give you the comfort to get to know him with a peace of mind that there might be others around who will discourage him from doing anything bad to you.

  2. Bring along a friend or friends
    This helps, but still follow rule (1) as well. A guy who has good intentions will almost always be happy to agree to your suggestion.

  3. Let your close friends know
    Telling a close friend about your meeting venue and time and that you would check in with him/her at a certain hour could also act as a preventive measure to ensure that action is taken quickly to locate you if anything were to happen, and not the next day.

  4. Never step into his car or put him in control
    I know of girls who have done this many times, but if I were them, I would be extra careful. By getting into his car, you are placing control over to him, and unless you would like to jump out of a speeding car, it’s difficult for you to a) get attention b) get yourself out of a difficult situation. Do always try to be independent transport wise, and that would also minimize chances of him knowing the location of your home (in case he wants to stalk you).

  5. Carry a pepper spray, or rape alarm
    Simple measures which could give you “running” time to get away from your assailant, and also to attract attention.

  6. Find out about him!
    Use the time to find out more about him, and when you meet him again in the chat room again, you can use the information obtained during your future chats to determine if his story is consistent. A person who is faking a story is likely to be unable to keep the story consistent. This will assist you to judge if he is sincere or out to get you.

I cannot help but be slightly paranoid and negative about his. My sister 7 years my junior got into the chat band wagon as well, and as big brother, I was obviously cautious, and at times, followed her to the cybercafes where she met her fellow chat friends. She’s made a few good friends from it too, albeit she didn’t find her love in cyberworld either.

As a fellow technology enthusiast, I definitely advocate the advancement of chat technology, and heck, it has saved me thousands of ringgit in overseas phone call charges!

However, as in everything you do, do find balance, and it always helps to be overly cautious and paranoid.

Happy chatting girls and guys, and I may just "bump" into one of you in the chatrooms one of these days (if I feel like checking out the scene there for fun).

by Ronald Khoo (a self-professed Internet addict)

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