Dating can be an important part of your summer experience. Whether you’ve been single for a while or are just now stepping out onto the scene, online dating tends to be the go-to move for a lot of people, young and old. According to a study by Pew Research, about 27% of people aged 18-24 use online dating apps and 59% of Americans would agree that online dating is a good way to meet people.
These types of statistics make us feel a little better about perusing through online dating sites. If everyone’s doing it, how unsafe can it be? However, even though messaging and talking to people online has become normalized, we should still remember the warnings from our childhoods! Not everyone you meet online will be exactly who they present themselves to be, so we’re here to give you some tips on how to avoid tricky (and even dangerous) situations in the world of online dating.
Tip #1: Google your date and be smart.
A little research never hurt nobody. You can find all sorts of lovely (or maybe not so lovely) things when you look up your date! There’s a lot of good and bad information that is easily accessibly to the public. We suggest you take a brief glance and see if anything significant shows up. Don’t obsess, but if an article comes up from a police report, well - you know what to do. If you notice any conflicting details that makes you feel uneasy, it’s also never too late to cancel. Do what makes you feel safest.
Does this person have 20 Facebook friends and seemingly no other online presence? He or she could be shy and more offline, or they could be catfishing. Reverse image search on Google also works well for these tricky situations and when you’re trying to understand if the person you’re about to meet is who they say they are. Again, raise the red flag if something tips you off.
Verify further. Beyond checking friend counts, make sure the story checks out to a certain point. What’s nice about grandiose claims is that they tend to be easily fact checked. If they sound too good to be true, they might just be.
Tip #2: Meet soon and in public.
We (hopefully) all know this by now, but meeting in a public place is your best bet. Try to meet in not only a public spot, but a relatively safe, happening area as well. For example, maybe don’t meet in the park on the outskirts of your city, but rather at a cool coffee shop you heard of in downtown.
Meeting “soon” after matching might sound a little counter intuitive, but hear us out. There’s only so much you can find out about someone through online messaging. If they’re hesitant to meet up or will only meet under certain, possibly unreasonable circumstances, you should be getting a little suspicious. If you’ve checked them out as best as possible, we suggest cutting to the chase and setting a date to meet. Meeting soon will save your time and feelings in the long run.
Text a friend your whereabouts and a photo or name of the person you’re seeing. If you’re close with this friend, you could also share your location (via iPhone) until the end of the day. This will also give you the peace of mind of knowing that someone is looking out for you. Take some of the pre-date stress off and phone a friend beforehand!
Tip #3: Be honest and, if needed, impolite.
We appreciate a gal or guy with a bit of attitude. Stand up for yourself and don’t be afraid to hurt some feelings if the situation starts to feel unsafe. If you feel pressured to go somewhere or leave the public area you met in, then make a firm statement. If you feel that there could be some retaliation, you can excuse yourself to the bathroom and maybe call that friend you texted earlier to phone in an excuse. There is no reason you have to take a chance on someone you have just met. Any reasonable person that you would want to continue to see can and will understand your hesitations!
Even with all of our lovely technology, there’s something about human instinct that is almost always on track. We have to listen to our gut, if nothing else. There’s tons of research on the subject, but essentially, some part of you will pick up and recognize when something is off in an individual. We can sense danger. If you feel that dizzying uncertainty, we suggest you follow it. Again, be mean if needed.
Similarly, be honest with yourself. We love to make excuses for other people’s behaviors in an effort to give them the benefit of the doubt. We ignore red flags and all of the other small, seemingly insignificant warning signs that we notice clearly in hindsight. Red flags are often signs that our boundaries are being pushed. It is as if this unsavory person is showing a side of them self and asking you “will you allow this type of energy in your life?” Save yourself the pain by being truthful about what you want. If he makes a weird, sexist joke, you don’t have to sit out the remainder of the date. If she’s rude to the waiter or makes off color comments about other people, you’re not required to be there or go on a second date. Honesty with yourself, especially when dating, is the only way to be.
Have any fun, sweet, weird, or crazy online dating stories? Send them our way! We’d love to anonymously share your stories and spread the knowledge! Send these in to email@example.com.
We want you guys to have fun this Summer and, as always, stay safe!