There is still some debate about online dating but there is absolutely no doubt that it is here to stay and has never been more popular. One of the reasons why some people are still reluctant to try it is the fact that they worry about the safety aspects of meeting strangers online. This is a natural response but it is worth pointing out that conventional dating is not without it’s own set of dangers: meeting and striking up a conversation with someone you have only just laid eyes on for the first time obviously requires a degree of caution and even with ‘friend of a friend’ type matchmaking, you really don’t have a true idea of who the person really is.
To some extent, online dating may actually be safer if used properly; you can start to get to know someone a little before you actually meet and this could end up saving you time through being able to filter out people who don’t fit the profile of what you’re looking for. Obviously, though, safety is a concern and so we have compiled a list of recommendations to help keep your online dating experiences as worry free as possible.
Play it cautious in the beginning
Although many online dating sites have built-in safety features that can hide parts of your profile information, as an online relationship starts to develop, you still need to think about what and when you reveal about yourself in more detail. In the same way that you probably wouldn’t want to give out information about yourself, like your phone number, social media contacts or where you live to anyone who asks when you are out and about, the same kind of care should be taken online. What you do reveal will be a value judgement on your part and there are things to consider.
Don’t tell them your name
This may sound slightly paranoid but there is appoint to think about here. Consider how much information there is out on the internet about you already; a Google search of someone’s name with a rough idea of where they are from or live now can often turn-up some surprising results. For example, maybe your local newspaper has paid tribute to the charity fund raising work you have been involved with from your local bar. They have then published a nice picture of you and your team at that bar, with all of your names! This has then been put in the online version and Google have kindly shown this up in a search. Unlikely perhaps but not impossible. It is well worth Googling yourself to check what is out there. Not telling someone your full name to start with during the dating process is a good way to avoid such things if it’s a concern.
Social media is not always your friend
Social media platforms are another area to beware of. We know a couple who run a very successful group of businesses (online and offline). When they are recruiting, they always as a matter of course look for candidates on social media to verify information given on CV’s and in interviews. Those interests listed on a job application as “reading, meditation and walks in the countryside” do not look as accurate when your Facebook page is full of tales of raving and being unable to make it to work on Monday mornings! The same can be applied to the dating game where someone who can find you easily on social media could easily spot any inconsistencies in your ‘story’ or, far worse become a nuisance in some way. Again, erring on the side of caution is highly recommended.
Taking the contact to a safe but more personal level
You may well feel that after some initial online messaging between you and a potential date you want to move the communication between you on to something more intimate. This could be through emails, some kind of direct messaging platform or even phone calls. Again, this is going to be a value judgement in terms of how and what you do. If you are concerned about this, here are some options you might consider:
- Set up a new email address that can be used for contacting those potential dates you are meeting.
- Get a google voice number (https://voice.google.com/u/0/about) to be able to receive calls on your device; this allows you to take control of who contacts you and when, without jeopardizing your actual number.
- Start a new Skype account which can be great for video calls and also has messaging and file sharing.
Obviously, there are lots of other options but it is certainly worth thinking about doing something like this before you actually meet for the first time.
Having now got to know each other a little better, the time must surely come where you will want to meet for the first time. You may be able to engineer this into some kind of situation where others will be present if you want to do so. However, if you feel that this unnecessary or inappropriate and that you want to meet with a little more privacy, you should still take care on a first date. Choosing public places is the obvious thing to do here so you are not entirely alone: pubs, bars and restaurants could be good choices but even a busy park or shopping mall might be a suitable place depending on what you expect from your first liaison: just make sure it’s in public. If you feel confident that all is going okay, you will have plenty of time to make your meetings more intimate. Also, don’t feel embarrassed to arrange subsequent public dates if you’re still not sure.
This issue is particularly relevant to women but by no means exclusive to the ladies out there. While it may seem like a kind and generous offer for someone to pick you up in their car (or even by taxi), this is not a good idea on your first date. You could be revealing where you live or work without really thinking about it and there are lots of inherent dangers about being alone in a vehicle with someone who you are meeting for the first time.
Get yourself there by whatever form of transport you want but make sure you meet at the agreed place, and telling someone where you are going is also a must. Announcing that a friend or family member has agreed to collect you later at an agreed time is also another good safety measure, with the added advantage of being a good way to get yourself away from a first date that is not going quite right! You can always cancel that arrangement if you want to.
It’s turned into a nightmare
If, by a dreadful stroke of luck, the worst possible scenario has turned into a reality and the date goes horribly wrong in some way, take action. If your date is displaying any signs you feel uncomfortable with, such as aggressive, controlling behaviour or suddenly appearing too drunk, get yourself out of there – remember this is a first date and signs of such behaviour should be a major warning sign. There are loads of ways you can make your excuses to leave, such as feeling sick or receiving a message that requires you to be somewhere else urgently. If the situation really gets out of hand and you are starting to feel afraid in anyway, tell others around you like the bar or restaurant staff, other customers or passers-by if you have met outside somewhere. Get yourself away from the situation as soon as you can. If it’s possible you may want to get in touch with the admin on the site where you met and flag-up your concerns so they can take action to avoid this person accessing others through the site.
Be safe but not scared off
The reality is that, as with any kind of dating, there will always be dangers involved. However, from our many years of experience with this industry, these dangers do not actually occur that often, particularly when you consider the huge number of people who are now using online dating services. If used with caution and in a sensible manner, it is possible to enjoy online dating without experiencing too many negatives.
The final word here really is just taking a little care not to rush in too fast. Be careful of your personal information and how much and how fast you reveal it at each stage of the way the relationship develops. Being totally secretive about going out to meet people for the first time is not recommended, so tell a trusted friend what you are up to. Setting up alternative ways to communicate on a more personal level in the early stages is a good way to avoid the risk of having to change things like a phone number or email, if someone you have just met should turn out to be some kind of pest or stalker.
Relationship expert. I like to write articles that helps people get back on the horse and start dating again. I have been writing for blogs since 2003