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Adulterers take note: Unless you want to be found out, cheating in cyberspace is a bad idea. Privacy is never guaranteed, as 36 million cheaters and wannabes found out this week when the notorious cheating site Ashley Madison had its data leaked — including user profiles, phone numbers, email addresses, and (gasp!) sexual desires.

It’s enough to make you want to join a convent or monastery and give up on dating and marriage entirely (36 million people!). But at least now you can check to see if your boyfriend, ex-boyfriend, husband, or soon-to-be wife has ever used the site. Although, I don’t know if that’s a good or bad thing?

The hackers, a group called Impact Team, have set up an incredibly simple and well-designed site for folks to see if their profile (or a current lover’s) is part of the Ashley Madison broken family. I haven’t put anyone’s email address into that site and never will, but there’s some power in knowing it exists.

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Earlier this year, I downloaded the Tinder dating app to my phone. I wasn’t really wanting to “date” I just wanted to see what all the hype was about and why people were so hot and bothered over Tinder.

The first time I ever actually witnessed a Tinder hookup take place was during a trip to Amsterdam in March. We were stranded (if you can even call it that) at a hotel because our flight back to the U.S. had been cancelled. So of course we bellied up to the hotel bar where we found a few other Americans from our plane soaking up the last hours in the Netherlands with a beer. One woman we were sitting with had been glued with a grin to her phone all evening; a guy she met on Tinder was going to meet us at the bar.

“Tinder?” I said. “What’s that?”

“Oh, it’s this dating and hookup site,” she told me still grinning.

It all sounded very dangerous — just like those things your mother warns you about: Don’t talk to strangers. Check your Halloween candy for poison before you eat it. And never meet men on Tinder.

Less than an hour later, the Tinder match walked into the bar and sat down beside us. He wasn’t horrible. Or scary. Or even that weird, from what I could tell (in the dim light, without much sleep, and drinking).

Twenty-four hours later I was back in Texas. And I think the woman at our table took the guy back to her hotel room that night. Maybe that was the plan all along?

I’ve been Tindering for a couple of months now. And I have to say, it’s a genius app design. You can set up your profile in minutes. It requires zero commitment. No money. And you’ll never get rejected, because the only time you “match” up with a guy is if you both swipe right, which means he liked you and you liked him. From there, a conversation could ensue.

I’ve only actually met two guys in person that I found on Tinder. Both were sweet, sane, and fun to date. I’ve talked to many more, but even those conversations have been rated PG, casual and easy.

The beauty of online dating is you don’t have to do anything. You don’t know the person in real life and if you change your mind you can just fade away — and many Tinderites do. The level of intimacy is up to you.

But I know now, more than ever, that my Tinder profile (as modest as it may be) could be hacked and splattered all over the web just like the profiles of the poor suckers from Ashley Madison.

Online dating gives you the freedom to cast a wide net and dip your toe into the dating pond (cesspool) without much effort or commitment. But it lacks the same level of privacy found from old-school blind dates set up by friends or well-meaning mothers. Don’t you just love those? But really, there’s something to be said for meeting a friend of a friend or reconnecting with somebody from college without the aid of the Internet. Of course, I don’t do that — yet— but I’m open to the idea.

But no Ashley Madison aficionados please.

As always, please write to me with your questions on love, relationships, and life at: xsandoscolumn@gmail.com.

XOXO

Sarah

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