Don’t be Fooled by False Familiarity

How Well Do You Really Know Me?

I have found that the internet and all of our virtual communication has spawned a dangerous falsehood. All too often we are led to believe that we know someone far better than we actually do. This has become grossly apparent to me in dating. I am finding more and more often that even after just a couple of email exchanges and a phone call or two, when I am meeting a guy in person for the first time, he is about a hug and a kiss. As Charlie Brown might say, “Blech.” I don’t know you that well!

Last week this was hilariously horrifying. I met a gentleman (so I thought) for dinner (I don’t do drinks or coffee, if I don’t get enough of a feel for you by phone to invest a couple of hours over dinner, it isn’t worth it.) I walked into the restaurant and clearly extended my hand. He took it but instead of giving it a firm and friendly shake as I wanted and anticipated, I was mortified when he pulled me to him for a hug and a kiss. I couldn’t figure out a way to stop it without embarrassing us both a great deal so I simply extricated as quickly as I could. Being very careful to avoid any close contact the remainder of the night, including veritably bolting for my car at the close of the evening.

Now, lest you think I’m some sort of cold fish, far from it. In fact, inside a relationship (by the way, I am a serial monogamist) I am very affectionate. Heck at risk of ruining the professional illusion you have of me (oh and I know you do have that illusion) I’ve been known for the occasional grand display of PDA with someone I am truly and genuinely involved with. There now you know too much! LOL.

But honestly, here is the rub. The internet whether it is dating or business gives us all this false illusion that we “know” someone when in fact we don’t. Don’t make this mistake either professionally or personally. Each of us has personal boundaries (and if you don’t, you need to create some, it is healthy!) Until you learn what those are in someone else, don’t try to breach them, wittingly or unwittingly. It is better to err on the side of professional and friendly instead of personal and intimate when it isn’t warranted and may not be welcome.

On a level, I don’t even look at my first dates as dates. We’ve never met before except virtually. There is no basis for physical contact beyond a handshake. And, yes, I am old fashioned, and while I appreciate that it can be very confusing today for Mars and Venus, if in doubt, ask before you hug, (and unless you are truly “dating” skip the kissing all together.)

What have you found to be true of virtualships vs. real time relationships?

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  1. says

    How very true. To even think of how many people worship certain celebrities, and think they even know them! Puh-lease. Then turn it around into how many people think they ARE celebrities because of the internet. The internet certainly does weird things to people.

  2. roanna martin-trigona says

    i agree with the illusory “i know this person” of the internet. one must be careful, and how….

  3. says

    This is something people need to be mindful of when getting into JVs etc with people they ‘knw’ from Facebook etc. I am going to tweet this post and put it on my Fb status – I really think it’s that important.

  4. says

    Because my monthly blog, “Design Visions” gets a lot of traffic, it is sometimes uncomfortable when people that I have never met seem quite familiar with me. . . at least my work. They refer to me by name as if we are long lost buddies. But, I have no clue who they are !!! It was comforting to finally realize that it is not my mind that is failing!!!LOL Melissa, I am sure you have run into that a lot!

    • Melissa Galt says


      Your mind is absolutely fine! I have had this occur at live events with folks that knew me online but unfortunately their picture was several years old, preventing recognition (designers too!)

      Yes, familiarity can breed a kind of “I know you” that really isn’t accurate.

      Hugs, Melissa

  5. says

    Hey Melissa,

    Brilliant piece. You are dead-on … social media has promoted the illusion of instant (but often false) familiarity that often makes even me uncomfortable (although at 6’3″, 220 lbs and considered to be an extreme extrovert this would surprise many people).

    If I know someone only through a few tweets / FB exchanges, I’m not prepared to tell them my intimate secrets of family, personal likes and dislikes, etc. nor do I need to know theirs unless I know the relationship is going somewhere.

    I also get uncomfortable with people who consider me a lifelong friend or sign their messages with terms of affection when an email or twitter is the first interaction I have had with them.

    I’m not a prude … but they should take some time to make sure I am not an idiot before assuming I can be their best friend. After all .. that’s what I am doing. :-)

    • Melissa Galt says

      Hey Harry,

      Very odd, I just found this entire string of comments. Glad to find them but mortified that I was unaware and will be checking with my tech.

      Yes, there is that lifelong feeling when in fact they know us priceless little. (Hmm, am I mixing metaphors?)
      I like to move peeps to personal email and voice to voice as a better way to get to know. Funny because if I invite this online, no one ever takes me up on it!

      Hugs, Melissa

    • Melissa Galt says


      The tricky bit is that contempt is dangerous with online peeps. They can spread messages, true or false, about you if you tip them the wrong way.

      Always proceed with caution.

      Hugs, Melissa

  6. says

    I love your term, “serial monogamist”!?!?!? Seriously, though, while I enjoy hugs, you just shouldn’t do that to someone you’ve never even met in person. Save it for either a close friend or someone who clearly invites the familiarity.

    • Melissa Galt says

      I agree, so spread the word among the men you know that not all of us ladies like to be hugged at a first meeting!

      Warmly, Melissa

  7. says

    You are right! I don’t walk up and hug strangers on the street. Why would I hug someone I have never seen in person? Awkward! I do hug everyone I have known personally for longer than a few months. Unless you just ‘click’ with someone, there should be a ‘trial’ time period before hugs! :) Enjoyed reading this!

    • Melissa Galt says


      Well put, I think between us girls or long lost family it is okay. It is when it goes between men and women that it gets tricky about crossing lines.

      Hugs, Melissa

  8. says

    Yes indeed Melissa. Virtual life can easily take over real life if we’re not careful and often is mistaken for the real thing. Very sad and in my view a tad dangerous too. Great input from you, thanks. BP

  9. Clay Franklin says

    Great article. I have met some nice people on Twitter and later in person. A handshake seems appropriate. I am ok when a woman hugs me, yet I do not go for the hug myself in most all cases. If I was dating, I would put on the charm and open the door and pay the tab. If dancing was involved, you get a chance to have natural contact and a hug after a night of dancing would probably feel natural. I’m married so no kissing for me.

    • Melissa Galt says


      Good to know gentlemen with boundaries exist! Your behavior is a model for many men today.


  10. Louise DiSclafani says

    Great point! It is a business mantra that we do business we know and trust. I don’t think that has changed even with all the following we do online. I still want to talk with the person to build that relationship and then our working relationship. We shouldn’t so often try to fix what isn’t broken.

    • Melissa Galt says


      Well put, nothing beats an old fashioned voice to voice or face to face when geography allows.

      Hugs, Melissa

  11. says

    Hey girl! Sorry that one didn’t work out so well! Ha ha… let’s just say ewwwww! You know what gives me the creeps too? A guy who, when I extend my hand for a shake, will KISS IT!! What am I the freakin’ Queen of England? Blecchhhhh! Dude, get your lips off me. It’s so contrived and just… well, weird.

    • Melissa Galt says

      I know what you mean, that always makes me uncomfortable too. Kind of smarmy and very affected.


      Hugs, Melissa

  12. Michael says

    Yes, the internet is a great way of communicating with very many people instantly, but as most of internet communication is in the written format, (while great for communicating facts), the internet is a poor means of communication for certain other types of information – including human relationships? The best form of communication is face-to-face and psychologists tell us that body language says far more than the words we speak. Body language is missing on the internet.

    • Melissa Galt says


      The challenge is generational. The younger gens, like Y and sometimes X, don’t need the body language like boomers do. In fact they don’t know how to use body language effectively or voice inflection since they grew up in this digital age!

      Hugs, Melissa

      • Michael says

        You are probably right about the younger digital-age generation, but God help them if they don’t understand body lanugage. The internet may be fine for making initial contact with someone, but there is so much our body lanugage says that we could not possibly communicate otherwise. Regards, Michael.

  13. Laura Dean Mooney says

    I couldn’t agree with you (and commenter Kass Wilson) more regarding people thinking they “know” us just because they want to connect with us on LI or Twitter or FB. Serving the last 3 years as spokesperson of a national nonprofit (with high name recognition) has caused many people to “friend” me when I don’t have a clue who they are. Figuring out the balance point of “virtualships” is a bit tricky. Love your posts!

    Laura Dean Mooney

    • Melissa Galt says


      Great to get your comment, funny timing too. I just got a request this morning from a contact on LI that I didn’t recognize, she is asking for a recommendation. How on earth can I recommend anyone I don’t know well enough recognize and why would she send this out generically to her contacts rather than ellicit something so important on a one on one basis.

      Relationships in real time do seem to be a lost art.

      Hugs, Melissa

  14. Dani Fredo says

    I guess I am out in the wilds of the Internet, but it seems to me that my online life contains all the same attributes as my offline life. If I meet somebody for the first time in a restaurant, I better know them really well. I would hug.

    • says


      Since I go on “blind” dates that I may or may not have spoken to but traded an email or two only, I don’t necessarily feel a hug is appropriate at that stage.

      I like to wait until I know them a bit . . .

      Hugs, Melissa

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