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The upside of online dating: There's always a funny story to tell

By Polina Marinova, Special to CNN
updated 2:30 PM EST, Tue February 12, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • CNN readers shared their ups and downs of online dating
  • They agree: Expect the unexpected when you're involved with online dating
  • Some of these matches might lead to the altar
  • Be ready for curve balls -- "I forgot my wallet," one date said

(CNN) -- If Amy Joanne Lawson followed all of the advice she got about online dating, her username would be "ShoeDonut."

Lawson, a 42-year-old administrative assistant, checked out a library book about online dating before creating her profile.

The first step to creating the perfect profile is choosing a user name that reflects your personality, the book said. It suggested she combine two of her favorite things or activities.

"Shoes and doughnuts," Lawson said. "Those are two things I feel passionate about."

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But she didn't think "ShoeDonut" would strike the right chord. So she chose "SewBeachy."

"Then I realized it sounded like, "So B****y."

So began Lawson's adventures in online dating where selecting a user name is only the beginning of an often unpredictable journey.

Online dating and a formula for love

The online dating industry claims it's working. One in six recently married couples met on an online dating site, according to a study commissioned by Match.com in 2009. That year, more than twice as many marriages occurred between people who met on an online dating site than between people who met in bars, clubs and other social events, the study reported.

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But of course, all matches don't lead to the altar.

After the world learned that Notre Dame linebacker Manti T'eo's online girlfriend never existed, CNN invited readers to share their own online dating ups and downs. While none were quite as dramatic as the T'eo scandal, readers agreed: When looking for love in cyberspace, prepare for an adventure.

Lawson began online dating at the end of 2011 when she realized she wasn't meeting anyone her own age in Gainesville, Florida.

The lost art of offline dating

"When you're 43, it's tough," she said. "I had no idea where to meet anyone my own age in a college town."

So she turned to the Internet. She was serious about potentially finding a match, but she was willing to give most people a chance ... and have a sense of humor about it.

"I probably think about 'Star Wars' more than anyone should," Lawson wrote in her OKCupid profile.

Lawson remembers one date with a news director (or so she thought) with vivid detail. After talking to the man for a few weeks via text and e-mail, she decided to meet him at a sports bar. Even though they ordered the same kind of beer, Lawson did not think they were a match made in heaven.

"So the waitress brings our beers, and he reached around and he said, 'Oh I forgot my wallet,'" she said. "Thank God I had money in my account at that point."

Online dating: Messages you shouldn't send

When they walked out to the parking lot at the end of the date, he told her he didn't have a car. As Lawson drove him home, he also admitted he was unemployed.

"I'm really not materialistic, but I just didn't think it would work out," she said.

Lawson said her favorite part of the date was when she texted him later to tell him she didn't think it would work out between them. The text he sent her back read: "To think I gave you points for not wearing flip flops."

Shannan White met her ex-husband on a computer bulletin board in the 1990s when she still used a dial-up modem.

In 2007, White ended up online again without any romantic intentions.

How technology has changed romance

She started playing the Lord of the Rings online game using an audio-only option on Skype. White got close to one of the players whom she had never met. He was her shoulder to cry on as she was going through a divorce.

"Finally just one day on Skype, everybody else had kind of hung up and I said you know, I think I love you," she said.

White and her husband, James, got married in 2011, and she attributes her success to the fact that they told each other the truth.

"We got to know the real us, because we never lied," White wrote in her iReport. "I woke up and realized I was in love with a man that I knew better than anyone, yet never laid eyes on."

Though her experience had a happy ending, she's heard plenty of stories that did not work out well. White advised to be protective with personal information because it's easy to lie online.

"I've had tons of friends that have fallen for scams or had quote unquote 'buddies' who died and magically came back from the dead," White said. "It happens way more often than you realize. It's kind of ridiculous -- after 20 years, when I hear somebody [online] say, 'I have cancer' or whatever, my first instinct is 'Hmm, wonder if that's true.' If you fall for it, it's because you want fall for it."   

Within 24 hours of registering on Match.com in 2010, Barbara Hassan had three matches "who by all accounts were intelligent, good looking and well off." Too good to be true, she thought.

And she was right.

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One of her matches said he was "an architect/construction manager who built and designed a building in Nigeria for orphans," Hassan, a 48-year-old divorcee in Texas, wrote in her iReport.

They corresponded online for a few months, until the man asked Hassan to pay for his ticket to the United States. The total would only come out to $2,700. When she saw the e-mail asking for money, she had a good laugh.

Hassan had become suspicious long before he asked for money. When she asked the man, who claimed he was an engineer, a physics question, he got it wrong.

"He thought he had me hooked but little did he know," she said. "After I realized he was a scammer, I decided a little taste of his own medicine was due. So I let him get to the 'ask for money' part and then I shut the door on him."

But just when Hassan thought she was done with online dating, she met her husband in 2011.

"He looked at my profile, and I sent him a smiley face," she said. "Three days later, we had lunch."

They bonded over their online dating scammer stories and got married 14 months later. Even though Hassan was the victim of a scam, she said she was "extremely blessed" to have found her husband online.

"For some reason I kept that one profile up and now I have a wonderful man in my life," she said.

Psychologists highlight pitfalls of online dating

Whether people are looking to find their soul mate or just to have some fun, Lawson said it helps to go into online dating with a sense of humor.

"In online dating and in life, it's nice to have thick skin, let things roll of your back and move on," she said. "You have to be patient. You won't put your profile up and be struck by lightning with the perfect person for you."

Do you have online dating horror stories? Share them in the comments below.

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