A PERSONAL JOURNEY INTO PARANOIA
In a fit of existential angst I decided to subscribe to e-harmony. A friend who is a sociologist suggested I do so. Her advice was that I probably would not find a partner but would make some male friends. Stupidly I did not research all dating websites. A friend who is an environmental scientist said he thought it would be okay and being a tech whizz helped me fill out the very detailed questionnaire on who I was and what I was looking for. I was very honest and did not present a persona. My photo was not a posed shot although it had been taken in a studio. I was dressed modestly and declared my true age.
The question sequence seemed illogical at times and I became perturbed. My friend reassured me. He had assumed from advertising on the site that it would be free! That was the company’s implication. Of course, it wasn’t free which became quite explicit several pages in. I subscribed for a year.
The sequence of questioning haunted me. I already had doubts; felt uneasy.
Two or three days in I received a response from a guy who had not provided a headshot. He claimed to have a tertiary qualification and asked a series of questions relating to holiday destinations!! I responded that I could not communicate until he identified himself through a photograph. He did not do so. He then sent a message including his mobile number requesting I SMS him!
My mind went into overdrive. I presumed that he required my number in order to trace me. I perceived that he had ulterior motives in that I live in an affluent suburb and he may have incorrectly concluded that I was quite wealthy. His messaging continued even though I did not respond.
I reported him to e-harmony but the company did not dismantle his profile immediately so he continued messaging. I reported him again and after a week the company took action.
Meanwhile I send a brief message to a guy who supposedly had a doctorate. I asked him what was the subject of his doctorate to which he did not respond. A day later his profile had been removed.
Three days later i received a message from a guy who claimed to have a master’s degree. He was asking weird and inane questions to which I did not reply. In his photo he was pictured in front of a library of books. I sent a message asking him what subjects the books related to? There was no reply. Two days later his profile was removed and e-harmony sent an email to me advising me not to contact him should he try to reach me. This was strange considering I had not raised any concerns with them. It implied that I had been under surveillance. I came to the conclusion that conversations on the site are monitored which left me feeling uncomfortable as I found it personally invasive.
The above situation was repeated with another male claiming extensive academic qualifications.
I had had enough! It was clear that there was a lot of misrepresentation on the site and that I had been foolish to subscribe. I should have known that it would be similar to social media postings where virtually everyone creates a persona. I believe also that I may have been subjected to scammers.
I decided to request from e-harmony that my profile be removed. In trying to locate their contact details I inadvertently reached a page devoted to female subscribers in my age group. A lot of these women were in poses that indicated they were quite egotistical and to put it bluntly “full of themselves”!
To have one’s profile removed is a long involved process which takes days and means that your photograph is still on display and that you will continue to receive nuisance messages from male subscribers. E-harmony makes it very difficult to withdraw, constantly anticipating that you will change your mind and renew your subscription.
Once your profile is taken down you then have to cancel your account. This again is a drawn out process purposely designed to test your endurance and with the intention (again) of you resubscribing. The closing of the account took many days in which I threatened e-harmony with legal action.
I presume e-harmony rakes in at least a billion dollars globally and employs manipulative, psychologically-proven methods to retain subscribers. It is exploitative.
Males subscribing are not subject to any screening and could easily have a criminal record. I suggest that the men who contacted me representing themselves as highly qualified may have had criminal records and that this is why their profiles were eventually removed.
I guess it’s a ‘buyer beware’ marketplace and not for the faint-hearted! One must have stamina and resilience to endure such a site as e-harmony because it has the potential to be psychologically disturbing. The company has majored in manipulation and to a certain degree preys on the vulnerable. It pays to be discerning! It certainly pays to be empowered.
The experience has made me value more highly the set of male friends that I have already.
Apparently there are more legitimate dating websites where women can dictate the terms more appropriately, excluding males who are entirely sexually motivated or focussed on treating women as commodities through which they can enhance their market value. I won’t be researching them!
Footnote: Later, through an interview for an article, I encountered a mature-age woman who I perceived as vulnerable who had been subjected to scamming on a dating website recently. Fortunately, she would not release her credit card details to the offender. He had successfully groomed her over many weeks by intensive examination of her profile which allowed him to create the persona of the type of male for whom she was looking. She had almost fallen for him. They groom, then request large sums of money. The photograph on their profile is probably not them. They target mature-age women who may have substantial assets.