Can I just start this post by saying the whole thing was just one big mistake? It was never really meant to be a date. I was just being kind. I never thought that this girl would actually want to meet up in real life — our conversations were never with expectations. It just happened. This wasn’t Plenty of Fish, nor Tinder; Bebo was the offending social site. Way back in 2004 when the site was still functioning as a semi-decent social network, before Facebook was open to the public. At the time I was quite religious, sharing ill-informed views about UK news. It was before anything about PR or digital marketing had entered my mind. Although I was a keen programmer who ran several gaming related websites. Little did I know that this knowledge would serve well as a fulltime paid career in the future. I was just fooling around with websites and code.

It attracted the attention of one girl. Naturally one thing led to another; Bebo to MSN Messenger (remember that?). She clearly had confidence issues, that was certain. You know the type; searching for flattering comments at every conversational turn. I was happy, but hesitant to oblige. To me she was another username, another internet user — the thought of her being an actual person seemed nonsensical. This isn’t meant in a weird misogynistic way. I genuinely did not keep in mind that she was a real human. Imagine my surprise when she wanted to meet up locally, in Sutton. Over my school years a large part of my education was about not trusting strangers. “Don’t get in people’s cars”, “Don’t accept strange gifts, especially food or drink”, or “If you do meet, always do it in a public place”; so this is exactly what I did. If I met this strange internet based girl in Sutton high street then surely this would save me from being murdered? That’s how my brain worked anyway.

So we met and she was kind, but sadly there was no connection and regretted meeting in real life immediately. What had I done?! What was the point? I don’t even find this person attractive. Still, make the most of it and I tried. Then she asked me surprisingly innocently “So, when would you like to have sex? My place is close”. My blood ran cold. I had to GET OUT. It got worse. She started asking about baby names and families. People often blame the internet for being an unintelligent hive mind of stupidity. At this very moment I realised that this was just one very stupid, possibly mentally unstable, mind. The internet can be a very good mask for hiding who we really are. I made an excuse to leave which she bought — it had been an hour or so.

Heading back to the bus stop using the shortest route available, going through the graveyard. It was at this point a gang of around eight guys, most on BMX bikes, surrounded us. Whatever the lead guy was on — it wasn’t legal, he wanted a fight. Continuing to walk, moving faster. That’s when I felt it. A hammer was thrown straight at me. By lucky chance the handle only hit the square of my back, just a couple of inches short from the back of my head.

In hindsight, being found dead in a graveyard having met a stranger on the internet for an accidental date wouldn’t have been the most suitable of deaths. The guys really wanted to fight — kept following, egging on, provoking. Even then I had a fairly thick skin and I knew a fight was not the answer. Mostly because 8 on 1 isn’t fair. Even if it was 1 on 1 I would probably lose. My skill was doing internet wizardry, not fistycuffs. Eventually we got away, heading back to the high street as fast as my tiny little 2004 legs would carry me.

I never met that strange girl from Bebo ever again. This happened a long time ago, when I was 14 years old. That’s enough though. Never will I do internet dating again.

If you’re interested then Bebo is now back! After the site started shedding users after AOL’s $850 million takeover in 2008, the original owners bought back the site for $1 million in 2013.

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