You’re peacefully watching TV as you suddenly feel your phone vibrate with a new notification. You pull your phone out wearily to see what it is. “Congratulations, you have a new match!”. You swipe your phone to see which guy it was, and you realise it was him! The cute guy with the adorable bio on how he’s working his dream job, has his life together and is currently looking for the one. You pause for a second, contemplating whether you should be the one to reach out to him.
Ping! You get a message and it’s him who has reached out to you! You smile and converse with him for an hour or two. “Fancy going for a drink tonight?” he asks. You hold your breath and immediately think of what he might be like… but then you realise that you have no clue who he actually is.
Online dating is an exciting and thrilling experience, yet there can be so many dangers attached to it. The reality is that you hardly know this person, where they are from and whether they are genuine. Unfortunately, I have heard too many stories of my friends meeting up with guys from online dating sites or apps and they have turned out to be complete stalkers. They are fine now of course, but if there is any advice I could give to anyone before they meet someone, it would be the following tips on safe online dating.
1. Get to know each other
Don’t just speak for a couple days and then meet straight away. Obviously, this works in some situations, but you lessen the risk of meeting up with a dangerous person. When speaking to each other, you can take the time to get to know them and if there are any warning signals that this person is unsafe, these will only flag up if you have been speaking to them for a little longer than a day.
Taking time to get to know someone will actually show whether they are genuinely interested in you or not. Rather than a spur of the moment drink date, it would be better if you both spoke together for a couple of weeks, to see if you are both compatible. Honestly, this is the perfect time really get to know someone.
2. Add each other on social media
Of course, not everyone likes to give away their social media details and if you don’t want to give away your Facebook, that is perfectly understandable. However, attempt to befriend them on some other form of social networking platform apart from the dating app or dating site. If you do, have a little nosy on their page and see if they have any friends, photographs, shared posts etc. This means that you can do your own research and see if this person is being honest and legitimately safe to meet.
Social media is also a great way to find out common interests! If you’re using Facebook, you can see what type of music they like, what events they like to attend and other things that generally interest them in daily life. If you add each other on Snapchat, you can watch their Snapchat stories and see what kind of things they like to get up to. Although beware of Snapchat, as they will still be able to mask secrets about themselves. The best social media platforms I would personally look out for are Instagram, Twitter and Facebook, as these can give some indication of this person’s life and whether they are being genuine.
3. Arrange to meet in a public place
This is self-explanatory really. Make sure you meet him in a public place where there are lots of people. Secluded areas could potentially be romantic, but they can also be the perfect place for a murder scene. Meeting someone in an obscure location is pretty much how many horror stories begin. Even if they are not a murder or serial killer, stalkers would rather keep you away from crowds to have you for themselves.
Going for a coffee or a lunch during the day is a perfect little date. There is not a lot of pressure than a dinner date would have, and they would not last as long. These little dates are perfect if you want to get to know someone to see whether they are a safe person to meet and speak with. Of course, if lunch or coffee dates are not your thing, a dinner date of drink date would be another good option. However, do ensure that it is in an area that you know well, with other people in the surroundings.
4. Tell a friend
Always tell a friend where you are going and keep your contact between each other constant so they know you are okay. My mates and I used to have specific code words we would use to signify different things – so if it is going well, have a code word for that. If it is going badly, have a code word that. If you are feeling uncomfortable, have a code word for that! Especially if you leave the original destination to continue the date somewhere else, always be sure that somebody knows where you are.
Some people don’t tell their friends because they are embarrassed about online dating, but in this day and age it is outdated to feel like that. In this world of overgrowing technology, it is getting progressively harder for people to meet someone the “old fashioned” way. In that respect, online dating can be beneficial, as you will be able to match up to someone who has the same music taste, political views, taste in food etc.
5. Don’t go back to his house and don’t invite to yours
As tempting as it may be after a few cocktails, try not to forget safe online dating tips and go to his house. Although many people tend to indulge in sex on first date, going back to a strange man’s house is a bad idea. What if you get a taxi to an area you have never been to before? This situation is extremely dangerous, especially if you are drunk. It would always be best to stay safe and tell him that you enjoyed the date, but would like to call it a night. If he gets funny about it, then you know straight away he is not the one!
It is equally as bad if you invite him back to yours as firstly, you are letting him know where you live and secondly, he will be given access to all your personal belongings. What’s to say this guy isn’t someone who likes to meet good looking ladies off the internet and steal their possession during the night? Imagine a situation where you have children and you bring a stranger back to where you all live. Could you risk putting your children in danger for the sake of a date ?