I have met some interesting people in my lifetime. I think it is safe to say that we all have met some great people and some not so great people. But how do you define good versus evil when it comes to the internet? How can you honestly know when a person is being completely truthful to you? You cannot.

You, might be the most honest person in the world, yet the person for whom you are engaging in conversation with could possibly be someone that he/she is not and you would never know it until it were too late! It can happen, it has happened and it will continue to happen as long as we allow it, and as long as we rely on the internet for that ever-lasting hope that we will find love, friendship, and truth.

I spent the last three months doing extensive research on various dating and community sites on the internet. I wanted to understand what really drives individuals to their breaking point; I wanted to find out what it took to get someone out of their comfort zone. How far they were willing to go and how far would I be willing to go to get them there. I had to be a nice girl, a naughty girl, a mean girl, a friend, a flirt, but I was never willing to meet them so I had to come up with excuses that would be believable and if not, I had to take it to a totally new level of argument and be willing to take whatever abuse they dished out at me. It was a horrible experience.

I had to become a friend to many, gaining their trust so that they would allow me into their world and the things I discovered about what is out there these days, is shocking! The expectations that men have for women, as well as what women want from men are extreme and the disrespect for each other is so outrageously obvious that I spent most of my time stunned and amazed at the behavior of both sides. The most shocking of all, is the amount of married men/ women on the internet, looking for companionship, conversation, attention, and cybersex. Many are actually going out of their way to meet with any willing man/woman to have physical intercourse behind their spouse’s back. What amazed me is the number of people willing to fall prey to this situation because of lack of self esteem, or because the guy/girl is ‘hot’, or they are receiving just the right amount of attention from that person and it is so obvious how these people know just how to manipulate until they get what they want.

I have witnessed men wanting to expose themselves to me on cam; I have witnessed men wanting to be friends with benefits only.  I have witnessed women asking me to spy on their boyfriends on the internet to see if they were cheating. I played a sixteen year old girl flirting with men over the age of thirty and was appalled at how many were willing to meet me. I witnessed a man begging me to turn my cam on so that he could show me what kind of underwear he was wearing at the time, and I was mortified and grateful for the delete button. What is wrong with people today?  Although this stuff has been around for many years, it has drawn more attention lately because it seems like people are bullying others into doing so much more now than they ever did before. What kind of message are we sending our kids about the internet? It isn’t safe to just ‘surf’ the net anymore. I say this only because most of the sites that I had been in are free to the public and are full of these very same freaks that I thought were nice people in the beginning but are lurking in dark corners, just waiting for some vulnerable child or woman to come along.

I set a lot of men up; I admit I am not proud of how I went about my research, or how I handled myself on certain situations. But I learned a great deal about myself, my strength and I learned from those who were willing participants. The worst part was getting them to engage in wanting more from me and as I would back away the verbal abuse would begin, and at one point I did take it to heart. There was one man that I spent a great deal of time getting to know by telephone, by texting, by daily contact on a particular site where we met, and by IM (Instant messaging). We were growing closer and within a week he was asking me to come to his home in the middle of the night (which was an hour away and out in the country) to sleep with him. We had never physically met yet and he never offered to come to my home-town to take me out to dinner, a movie, or any type of public activity. He jumped right into wanting to sleep with me and that was his focus from the beginning. When I began to back down, the verbal abuse began. My self-esteem fell, because I had never experienced such abuse from anyone.

The bad part of being on the internet like that is that people can be anything they want to be, they can be as strong as they need to be, they can be hurtful or they can be truly kind. Whatever the case is, they will be what is necessary to survive. You may think you are safe on the internet, but you are not! This person stalked me everywhere. He wore me down to the point that I had to shut many programs down because he would find me. He made me cry, he would text me endlessly into the night and then he involved a girl who claimed to be my friend and she began to harass me continuously for two weeks after. I had to shut my phone off and was about to change my number when it all fell silent. These two played the game that is played on these sites so many times over; bullying people into believing that they are nothing, worthless, ugly, and fat. Both were parents, and because of that I was stunned at their behavior! Since neither knew about the research project, I let it go, but I would never want that type of person in my life.

After that experience, I was baffled at my behavior and needed a break; I was just about to close down a particular site when I met a man who turned my life upside down. I have fallen in love with him but even that has been a rocky road because I still carried such strain from the previous experiences that I almost lost this person. I still have him in my life and I am praying every day that he will see the goodness in my heart and realize that I really do care deeply for him and am grateful that he is still in my life. I have not been able to get him out of my mind. The night he kissed me will be remembered until the day I die, because they say it is all in the kiss and I believe that now!

Now, remember that the internet can be your friend or it can be your enemy. Watch what you say at all times. Watch what you do at all times. Remember that every little thing you do is a reflection of you. Your job can be affected; your family can be affected. So always ask yourself, if I say this, or do this, can it harm me or someone closest to me in any way? If you answer yes to yourself, then you know you cannot do it but if the answer is no, then you are okay. Try to explain to kids the harm that bullying on the internet can do. Try to express the importance of not exchanging photos of any kind to anyone and I mean anyone, even if you trust them because that can come back to haunt you in the worst way. That boyfriend whom you think you will be with for the rest of your life, you suddenly break up with him, then suddenly you find your photos all over the internet, you know, the ones you intimately shared with each other, never thinking that he would do such a thing at the time. Come on people, use your heads! This has got to stop!

Always remember that when the internet bites back, and it does bite back; it isn’t always pretty but it can be prevented!