Based on photo by West Point Public Affairs under Creative Commons Licence.The damning video of Manti Te’o being scripted into his lies by his coach is as heartbreaking as his amorality in the Katie Couric interview is infuriating. “What would you do?”

This is an object lesson for online daters, the parents of online daters, and anyone who has ever Google searched anyone or anything. The fear is that someone will find something personal about you or about a child on the Internet and use it to exploit them. The reality is that people are generally participants in their own exploitation.

Demonizing the overgrown child Manti Te’o doesn’t change that. In fact it makes it worse. A comment on a local news source about an investigation at UNC stated was that if it were true 1 in 4 college women are raped, no one would let their daughter go to college. That’s why we don’t tell you when we were raped, duh. And that’s why your kids don’t tell you when someone approaches them for sex on the internet even though you need them to.

If you are outraged about people looking for sex on the internet I’ve got news for you: approaching people for sex is what the Internet is for. Millennials don’t even have to leave the house.  Knowing what your goals are, helping your children understand that they have to form their own goals, and acting in accordance with your goals is what makes online dating safer for you.  And incidentally more fun and less frustrating as well.

Here is someone who had a clear goal. (And she has a book.) But don’t appropriate someone else’s goal. I have a friend who just wants to email women and see how long they will put up with him. It suits the confusion and minor misogyny generated by his divorce and makes for good cocktail stories. When I was online dating my goal was to meet interesting people, so I wrote two new people every day so long as I had time on the calendar for meetings. That also made for good cocktail stories.

The word “dating” covers a multitude of goals.  When someone doesn’t have a goal, they meet random people and then get mad about their goals. The common complaint that “everyone online just wants sex” really means “I don’t know what they hell I want.” Most adults can’t tell young people to do online dating the way they do because they way they do online dating is stupid.  They don’t have a goal. A friend tried to develop a program for successful online dating, but what she found with her test subjects is that most people don’t want to be successful online daters. Is that because they are lazy? Or is it because they don’t have compelling goals which engage them?

(Here is an Excel tool for being serious.)

Once you have a goal, every action should drive toward it. Most people have a goal in the range of casual sex to marriage and that requires meeting people.  The people you meet develop who you are (check out this awesome post on dating chastely toward marriage), so your online dating goal is actually part of the goal of who you want to be.

This is how you meet people: don’t spend any more than minimal time not meeting people.  Maximum three emails moves to a max of 30 minutes of texting, two phone calls, meet. No emails when you are in the texting stage. No texting when you are in the calling stage. If you are under 35 you can skip that call and go straight from texting to meeting. Otherwise you are going to end up emailing my friend about science fiction for a month or talking about a dead girl who doesn’t exist.

If you have goals, if you are becoming the person your goals drive you toward, you will talk about your goals to your friends and mentors.  Sometimes called “the law of attraction,” talking about what you want makes it more likely to happen through a variety of means.  Assuming your mentors are not as venal as those in Notre Dame football, having goals and talking about them also makes you less likely to do something stupid and more likely to be safe and happy.

When I was online dating, this was the book I recommended to my friends:

icantbelieveimbuyingthisbook

I recently heard this author speak on the radio and look forward to reading his book:

loveinthetimeofalgorithms

Post by loafingcactus originally published on loafingcactus.com. Photo of some Notre Dame – Army game adapted from a photo by West Point Public Affairs under Creative Commons license.

30JAN2013 update: Added link to article regarding UNC & comment.

06FEB2013 update: An Excel tool for being serious about your dating goals.

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