Online dating is a great way to meet people — that's a given. But it also comes with the potential for some downright creepy situations. So if you're thinking about signing yourself up for Tinder or Match, remember to make your safety a priority while dating online.
Just a few years ago online dating was considered this taboo thing that no one wanted to admit to doing. But now it's a totally normal and acceptable way to meet your future betrothed. In fact, according to Match.com, more than 40 million Americans use online dating services. That's a whopping 40 percent of singles in the U.S.
Clearly the internet is doing something right, but there are drawbacks. With online dating comes the potential for stalkers, liars, and downright shady people who are out for all sorts of negative gains. Of course that's true for more traditional dating, but it's way easier to hide behind a computer screen and do all sorts of nefarious things.
There's no reason to be scared of online dating, and most situations end up just fine, but you should definitely look out for yourself when it comes to meeting up with strangers from the Internet. These tips are a good place to start.
1. Don't Give Away Too Much Information
We all remember from our AIM chat room days that you should never give a stranger too much information. After all, that super cute girl you're talking to might not be who she says she is. And that's precisely why you should save revealing your phone number, address, and even your last name for once you really get to know someone. As noted by Terri Orbuch, Ph.D., in Psychology Today, "It is best to use your first name only during initial conversations and provide more detailed personal information only after you've met in person and gotten to know one another well. Legitimate online daters will understand the reasons for doing this and will be doing the same themselves."
2. Be Choosy With The Photos You Use
Your profile photos can reveal a lot more than you realize. Don't post a photo of you, say, standing on your front stoop, or in front of your office. In fact, you might even want to take safety precautions a step further by only using generic photos that you took specifically for the dating site. According to Shani Silver on XoJane.com, "It is my opinion that your online dating images should be used only for online dating. Take a separate set of images, selfies, whatever and only use them in your online dating profiles." Silver argues that profile photos can be dropped into Google Image Search, bringing up all sorts of identifying information (scary!). So it's best to take a whole fresh set of pics, instead of reusing images from Facebook, Instagram, or your company bio.
3. Don't Rush Out To Meet Them
If you're in a dry spell, or feel like you're quickly clicking with someone, it can be tempting to rush out for a date after only one or two conversations. But resist the urge to move too fast, lest you find yourself in a sketchy situation. According to Orbuch, "Studies show that relationships develop faster online. My advice is to wait at least one week before you meet face-to-face. And, before you meet in person, move the conversation from online to phone. During a phone chat you'll get a better sense of whether your personalities click. Also, by taking it slow, you are more likely to see inconsistencies in their behaviors and actions."
4. Meet Up In A Public Place
So you've been chatting online for a few weeks, you've made your initial phone calls, and everything seems legit. Now's the time to meet up with this person and have your first official date. But do keep in mind a few safety tips. First of all, you should drive yourself and arrive separately. That way, if this person ends up being less than desirable, you can easily leave on your own accord without having an awkward (and maybe even dangerous) shared car ride home. You'll also want to meet in a popular bar or restaurant that has the potential for larger crowds. It's much safer than a lonesome walk in a park, or a date that involves getting stuck in their house. No fun.
5. Don't Let Your Date Walk You Home
Sure, it's incredibly romantic. But unless you know someone well, you shouldn't let them walk you home. It's a sad thing, but not everyone has your best interests at heart. And that's why you don't want them to know where you live until they've been vetted by you and your friends. According to Silver, "Odds are this guy is totally nice and well intentioned, and I get that you don't want to put him off. Afraid of being rude? Say your feet hurt, you're exhausted, anything to just politely hop in a cab and head home on your own, even if it's only a few blocks away." Basically it's better to be overly cautious than to find yourself in a dangerous situation.
6. Remember It's OK To End It If You Feel Uncomfortable
Whether it's in person or online, it can be tough to leave a situation when it starts to go downhill. Maybe you don't want to be rude, or you feel like you owe the other person your time. In reality, you don't owe anyone anything. If you want to dip out of the bar, or delete their messages, go ahead and do it. According to Robert Weiss in Huffington Post, "If you're feeling uncomfortable, something is wrong. Period. So get out. It doesn't matter how charming and attractive the other person is, if the situation feels "off," it probably is. Remember, under no circumstances are you obligated to continue a date or an online interaction."
So many people have turned to the Internet to score themselves an awesome SO. But for every awesome person on a dating website, there are even more creepy people. Don't let it turn you off to online dating, but do take care of yourself and keep your life as private as you can until you really get to know someone.
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