Is ‘ghost dating’ the newest trend in online dating?

Have you ever been on a first date with someone you met on an online dating site, and wondered why the person sitting in front of you seems so different from the person you've been emailing the past few days or weeks? The answer might be simple: the person on the date is not the person you've been messaging online.

Wait. What?

"Ghost dating" is becoming a thing, reports the Toronto Star. No, not dating the spirits of those who have passed on, but hiring a professional matchmaker to impersonate you online when your own email or online personality doesn't quite match up to the outgoing, effervescent person you are in real life. Some people have trouble effectively communicating their fun sides in the online world, says the story. So, for anywhere from $1,500 to $20,000, a professional can do it for you, similar to the way a ghost writer pens a book for someone else.

Also see: Tom Cruise's divorce raises questions about interfaith marriages: Can they really work?

The matchmaker reveals herself to the potential dates at a critical juncture in the communication, the Star reports. But do all matchmakers do the same?

Margaret Hicks, a Toronto-based couples and sex therapist says the ghost dating phenomenon just highlights the fact that people should always be very careful about who they choose to communicate with online and not to get too hung up on those early stages in the dating process. The reality is, you never really do know who you're talking to or even how they will appear in person, even when your correspondence has gone so well, she says.

"People have a lot of fantasy and a lot of build-up through email, and then when they see the person and there's no physical attraction, or no chemistry, it doesn't work anyway," she says.

Also see: 1 in 3 singles would rather give up sex than their favourite food

Hicks says if ghost dating gets some people through the dating door, she sees it as a positive. But she dismisses the idea that a shy person might need a ghost dater, claiming most shy people are better at communicating through writing than they are in face to face meetings.

"I think it may be laziness," she says, pointing out that online dating can occupy a fair bit of time by creating a profile, creating searches, and constantly sending and replying to messages. She suggests serial daters — people who use dating sites to meet a large volume of dates rather than that one special person — might make use of a ghost dater. A person's willingness to spend that kind of money on a ghost dater should be a red flag to potential dates, she says.

"I think it's opportunists and using resources to exploit," she says of those willing to use a ghost dater.

Check out the video below for some horror dating stories.