Tips to keep you safe when dating online
In the early days of the internet, parents would always tell their children not to meet strangers they’d only met online. Fast forward fifteen years, and meeting people online has become of the most common ways that modern couples meet and fall in love.
Unlike a hundred years ago when you probably would have met a date’s whole family before any romance, or even fifty years ago when you most likely would have met through a friend, the landscape has changed.
Now, it’s all about the apps where you post profiles, share texts and trade pics before deciding to meet face to face.
The truth is dating apps have changed how we meet others and opened up a whole new world of potential partners. That’s said, it’s also important to remember that they are based on individuals advertising themselves.
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In other words, what you see and what you get can be two different things entirely. Moreover, the lack of a safety net provided by mutual acquaintances makes it less likely for us to know who is really behind the screen.
When all you have to go on is a profile, what can you do to keep yourself safe? Here’s 7 practical tips to consider.
1. Never share sensitive personal information
While this might seem like common sense to many people, it is surprisingly easy to forget in an online dating context where you and your prospective date are trying to suss each other out before meeting in real life.
Chances are that the person you’re chatting to is genuinely looking for love, but keep in mind that there is a small chance they aren’t who they say they are.
Don’t share your address, screenshots which might contain bank information or other useful data and be mindful of sharing your whereabouts. If you don’t feel comfortable sharing something, tell them.
2. Assess your compatibility first
A lot of online dating platforms now provide systems for assessing your compatibility before you’ve even messaged each other.
Quizzes about your values, likes and dislikes will churn out an overall percentage match, but if you can see their answers or look at compatibility on themes, that can be a really helpful way to work out what you’re getting into.
If you have a high match percentage, but the areas where you differ are ones that are absolutely non-negotiable for you or might have implications for your safety (for example, their views on gender roles or equal rights issues), you can save yourself a lot of time and a potentially uncomfortable date by avoiding that person from the very beginning.
3. Always tell someone else about your plans
You don’t have to tell your friends or family members everything about your love life, but whenever you go out with someone new, you should make sure that at least one other person knows who you are meeting, when and where.
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Ideally, also send them a screenshot of your date’s profile. In the unlikely event that the date becomes something more sinister, at least someone will know who you were meeting and where you have been.
4. Meet in a public place
Many restaurants, bars and pubs have systems set up entirely to deal with anyone who feels unsafe with their dates. There may be signs in the bathroom telling you how you can seek help or get home safe, and you can take an opportunity at the bar to say something to the staff.
You don’t have this option if you’re alone with your date in an environment where it’s also difficult to get time alone.
Even if your date has a wonderfully romantic idea about seeing the stars in the middle of nowhere, you can always save that for later and insist on your idea instead, at least for the first date.
5. Set up a text system with a friend
When you’re telling your friend about your plans for the night, arrange for them to text you an hour or so after the time you’ll meet your date.
It gives you the opportunity to tell them if something isn’t quite right and arrange for them to help you leave early if that’s necessary. If they don’t get a response from you within thirty minutes, or an hour (or whatever works for you), they should try calling you instead.
It’s just one text message, and it’s for your safety; your date will understand. And if they are upset by the idea that you want to stay safe, that in itself could be a worrying sign.
Make sure to also let your friend know when you have arrived home safely at the end of your date.
6. Don’t go back to stranger’s home on the first night
Even after a few hours of talking, you still know very little about a person and you are going to be the least safe in their home.
In yours, you could find yourself in a position where you want them to leave and they won’t. In an ideal world, you might wait a little longer before being intimate alone together, but there’s always a possibility that you both get carried away.
If this is the case, and you really feel that you want to spend the night together, the safest way to do so would be to book a hotel where there are other people nearby and either one of you can leave easily if you choose to do so.
7. Trust your gut
Probably one of the most important things you can do to keep yourself safe is to trust your gut. Yep, we’re talking about your listening to your inner voice.
If the person you are communicating with seems sketchy or vibes out “weird”, it’s important to pay attention to that. Remember, you don’t owe anyone an explanation for not continuing a conversation.
If they keep pushing for dialogue even after stopping dialogue, don’t be afraid to block them.
The vast majority of people who use dating apps never experience problems. Still, it doesn’t hurt to implement the basics described above to enhance your safety.
Obviously, use common sense. Lean into your sense of intuition. Most of all, don’t engage in anything that makes you feel uncomfortable.