Virtual Reality or Insanity? Do you know your online boo?

I distinctly remember the last words I said to a gentleman I had met online. We dated briefly but I became more and more irritated by the fact that who he was online and in emails was not who he was in person and on the phone. In fact, I would go as far as to say that he deliberately misrepresented his true self for as long as he could. Thankfully, it did not take me long to figure it out. So while standing in a parking lot outside of a jazz lounge in North Dallas, I summed up my feelings on the entire thing. "I don't think I ever knew you at all. And what I've gotten to know… I do not like. Have a nice life." And with that, I turned on my heel (twisted my ankle) and limped off into the humid Texas night. Yeah, I'm never that girl who can make the graceful exit.

Anyway… the truth was. I did not know him. I knew the person he had shown himself to be. In retrospect, I'm a little amazed at how much effort he put into the fake persona he showed me. And I wondered how long he thought he could keep it up? It had to be exhausting spending so much time as someone else.

I can be identified online as OneChele, Michele Grant, BnB, Michele MyGovernmentLastName, and Black 'n Bougie. I'm have two Facebook accounts, two twitter accounts, a blog for me, a blog of my book, a website as my author page and a blog talk radio profile. That's a whole lot of Micheleness up and through these internets. But no matter which iteration of Michele you encounter, guess what – it's all me. A little bit smart-ass, generally good-natured, lover of wine, seafood, books and bougenificence. If you talk to me on the phone - I'm still that girl, meet me in person – still that chick. My godmother, who has known me since the day of my birth started reading my book last week. She called me laughing, "You write EXACTLY like you talk and that's a good thing." Since she's one of the smartest, realest women in the universe, it was a compliment that I treasure. I share this to say that I am who I am. Unapologetically in any medium.

Unfortunately, not everyone is the same way. In fact, I would lay odds that over 50% of those twitter/Facebook/ personalities are complete and total fraudulent representations of the real person clicking away on the keyboard. And I don't just mean a super-flattering picture or a change of relationship status. I'm talking about people who know they have crappy personality traits prettying up their prose for the purpose of online hoodwinkery. Yes, I'm making up words.

Let's take my friend Kevin. He met a lady on Twitter. She was smart, witty, her picture was cute. She became his twitter-boo. They elevated to an instant messaging system, then texts to phone calls. He described the phone calls as awkward but chalked that up to "I don't really know you" vibes. Finally, it was first date time. He went to pick her up and found her apartment in an area of town that did not match the standard of what she had described. But he was okay with that. He knocked on her door and a young child answered. Turned out she had three kids she had failed to mention, but he was okay with that. She came to the door and looked not one thing like her picture and was quite a bit older than he expected but still… he was okay with that. He had been charmed by her personality. He escorted her out to his car and onto the restaurant. By his description, this was the most awkward and painful 97 minutes of his life. To this day, he cannot figure out how the woman who dazzled him online turned into the unruly person he struggled to get through dinner with. I suggested to him that she had a ghost-tweeter… someone smarter handling her online game. He was appalled.

A female friend of mind met a gentleman on Yahoo Personals who was everything we was looking for. Romantic. Articulate, gorgeous, employed, no kids, smart. Loved The Wire and the Lakers with the same intensity she did. He cooked, he cleaned, and he was (by her account) brilliantly gifted in bed. She said it felt like perfection and it was oh-so-easy. Now here's the difference between her and me… when things are going too perfectly my conspiracy theory radar perks up and I start looking for flaws. I don't believe in perfection. I need flaws to know it's real. But this isn't about me. Moving on… three months into the good times, old boy went completely stalker. And by stalker I mean he had her cell phone cloned to check her ingoing and outgoing messages, he wanted to know where she was 24/7. When she got up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom, this ninja told her to keep the door open so he would KNOW WHAT SHE WAS DOING?! He joined her church, switched to her dry cleaners, and started shopping at the same grocery store. überStalker. A new apartment two cities over and a restraining order later she is free.

Some interesting stats: This weekend, I was treated to some twitter-tales of love. Apparently there have been a number of hook-ups, relationships and even marriages from the twitterverse. I was not aware of this. Facebook is now listed on pre-marital surveys as one way engaged couples learned more about their intended spouses. Online dating is now the number 2 way (behind introductions from friends) that people meet their mates. We are living in a plugged in, online, 140 character or less world… date at your own risk. I heartily encourage those of you who look for love in the twitterverse, blogosphere and online dating portals to place a premium on what you learn offline rather than what you think you know online. I'm also not against a background check. Folks is crazy. Because I love this song and it's relevant, here's Virtual Insanity by Jamiroquai (dance break):

And we're back… I also wonder whether chemistry that is manufactured online translates to "real-life" chemistry. I've had experiences (re-visit my eHarmony FAILS) where the chemistry did not translate and others where it worked (for a minute). So I wonder, what are your thoughts about online dating or hooking up with your twitter-crush? Who has tried it, how has it worked out? Has your Facebook profile helped or hindered your relationships? Is there any way to really know who you're chatting with without the face-to-face 'look you in the eye' factor? Maybe a broader question, do you ever really know who you're dating?