Before Christel found her soulmate, she was on the online dating scene quite a bit. During this time she learnt to be cautious about who she gave her personal details to—and who she was willing to meet in person.
Here are some safety tips for online dating that she’d like to share with you in this guest post, by Christel Coetzer.
So you’re looking for the one.
Many people are flocking to online dating sites to connect with their soul mates. To be fair, some are simply looking for company. The fact remains, online dating sites are becoming popular modern meeting places.
From 2013 to 2015 the amount of young adults who use these platforms tripled.
But don’t think the sites’ popularity only attracts young people. People of all ages love this unique way of making new friends. For some it doesn’t develop beyond friendships. Others meet up, get together and even marry.
The sites’ popularity means this may be the place quality companions are spending their time. Have you tried it out yet?
Whether your goal is friendship or meeting someone special, caution is advised.
I’m not trying to frighten you. On the contrary, I met my husband online!
But what I did learn is a necessity for safety.
In hindsight I made a lot of mistakes. Luckily they didn’t have repercussions. But I realise that much could have gone wrong.
Prevent this from happening to you. You can enjoy the online dating scene even more when you know you have safety measures in place.
Let’s get you ready.
The Perfect Profile
Your profile is what determines your success in the online dating scene. Friends can help you write the perfect biography, but this may not even be read.
Unfortunately photographs can also make everything turn sour.
My husband didn’t have my real name or contact number until we met face to face.
Why did I do this?
One over friendly acquaintance made me realise how easy it is for someone to force himself into my life.
From then on I exercised more caution.
Use a nickname or pseudonyms on your profile so you know you can’t easily be found online. You can create an anonymous Email address for communication so you don’t have to give out your number until you trust someone.
You don’t have to lie. Be frank about the fact that you’re using a fake name. You don’t owe strangers anything except honesty.
These guidelines ensure that predators can’t access your information or enter your life when you block them from your profile.
Limit the Amount of Photos
The reason people prefer online dating sites is the measure of privacy it affords. It’s supposed to be safer than chatting on social media platforms, since you can limit the information your matches see.
Are these sites as private as you think?
You’ve seen facial recognition software in an action movie, but this is not fiction anymore. Someone can find information about you through similar software. Do you want to expose yourself in this way?
Someone can find your Facebook or LinkedIn profile if you use the same photograph as the one on your dating profile.
Limit the amount of information people can find about you by using unique photographs. These shouldn’t be on any other social media platform or website.
What Do Your Photos Say About You?
Some of the dangers with online dating start with inaccurate expectations. If you use provocative photographs or ones showing revealing clothing, you may come across as someone wanting a quick fling, as many online daters do. Is this your goal?
But then if you want to take it slow and your date only realises it during the first meeting, it can cause conflict.
You don’t know him or her yet. It’s better to prevent this situation altogether.
Become a Detective
So you’ve got a possible match. Now you have to play detective. The internet has many tools to help you gather information about your new ‘friend’.
Make sure the information your match gives you is true. If he or she lies about one thing, it’s bound to happen again.
By confirming some facts about someone’s life, trust is built and your friendship can grow faster. It’s also a precaution so that you don’t spend time with someone who lies or turns into a stalker.
No, don’t become friends on Facebook right away. At the start it’s important to keep boundaries in place.
You can try to view his or her profiles on:
Gauge their interests. Make sure the person you talk to correlates with who he or she is online.
A dating profile can be nothing more than a bunch of lies. Do your own background check so you can make sure you don’t waste time on liars.
Many businesses these days showcase their employees on their websites. Ask about your new friend’s work. If he or she is evasive it could mean they’re lying. If they do mention a company, visit the website and confirm facts.
Beware of not becoming a stalker yourself. Don’t contact the person’s office. This crosses a personal boundary. You wouldn’t want that person visiting your office unexpectedly, would you?
Know what you Want
You know what you like and prefer in a life partner, so set the bar of expectations.
Some people will say you’re too picky. Don’t listen to them.
Know what you’re looking for in terms of:
- Future plans
If you know what you’re looking for you’ll recognise a winner quickly.
You’ll also identify frauds and scumbags. They’re out there. I know this is a harsh word, but unfortunately applicable to some online daters.
Danger can be of a physical or emotional nature. People who are dangerous will usually fail in one of the aspects mentioned above. But if you haven’t made your list, you won’t be able to identify the risk.
What’s your Weapon of Choice?
Yes, I think it’s prudent to take a weapon along to your first date.
This can save you from the wrong type of suitor. It also puts my mind at ease to know I’m not at the mercy of someone. Having a defence mechanism in place puts me more in control of the situation.
Lethal weapons include knives and guns. While these can protect you, they also carry risk. If you’re not used to handling one it can easily be turned on you during a struggle.
If you do hurt someone with a lethal weapon you can face criminal charges. Proving self-defence isn’t always easy.
It’s legal to protect yourself with items such as pepper spray. Alternatively you can even use your deodorant spray.
Another option is a taser. Make sure it’s easily accessible.
It’s unfortunate that you must go to such extremes. But if you know you’re prepared for anything you’ll ultimately enjoy the date more.
Remember what your Parents Taught you
It’s such a cliché to think you have to be as cautious at 25—or 55—as you were at 15. Unfortunately it’s necessary.
I never gave out my address and always met new acquaintances at neutral public places.
Parents usually want to know exactly who their children goes out with. This same rule should apply when you’re an adult, except you can tell a friend rather than a parent.
Tell someone about the person and the place you’re meeting at. Give them a picture and contact details.
There are many stories of assaults happening at the hand of familiar people. How can you put yourself at the mercy of someone you’ve never met in person or only known for a short while?
Don’t Accept Gifts
The old cliché says you shouldn’t accept gifts from strangers. This is very fitting in the online dating scene:
- Any small item such as jewellery, a keychain or box can contain a tracker. You don’t want a stranger knowing where you live and work. Don’t accept gifts during the first dates; stay in control of the situation.
- Any food or drink items can contain drugs. During the first few dates only consume food items you receive from waiters. If you don’t want to be rude, accept a gift but take it home rather than eating it during the date.
You’re Never Too Paranoid
Humans tend to be drawn to extremes. To showcase courage some people may not put any safety measures in place. In contrast, you may be someone who is overly cautious. Are you often called paranoid?
When it comes to online dating, it’s better to stick with the latter.
If your gut tells you something is wrong, listen. There are many stories of people surviving dangerous situations by acknowledging the small voice inside.
Because it’s your life that’s at stake, you’re allowed to be paranoid in terms of:
When something doesn’t feel right to you, walk away.
You may want to act properly and not insult your date. Why?
You have no responsibility towards someone you barely know. People with manipulating personalities will try to make you feel guilty. This is the first sign that you need to get away.
If anything makes you feel uncomfortable, leave.
Ask about Previous Relationships
You’ll be surprised how much you learn from talking about previous relationships.
Asking about them is quite fair in the online dating scenario. Both parties are most likely talking to multiple people online. This makes all topics open for discussion.
Yes, you heard me. The topic of exes is fair game!
Listen closely to what the person says about previous partners. This can give you an idea of your new acquaintance’s qualities:
- Does he or she criticize the other party excessively? You don’t know the other person’s story. In most cases there is blame on both sides. Make sure you don’t start dating someone who always shifts blame onto someone else.
- What type of comments are made about previous partners? This will show you what’s important to the person. The increased knowledge can help you build a relationship. But if his or her priorities are not in line with yours, it may be a sign to end communication.
- Does he or she mention violence? If this was present in a previous relationship it’s bound to surface again. Do you want to take a chance of it happening to you?
Phone a Friend
Someone must always know where you are.
In today’s society anyone can turn into a predator. You don’t want to be the next news headline about someone who got hurt or went missing.
If you don’t think this is a possibility with online dating you’re being naïve.
You should have a friend on standby during your first date. Here are some practical tips:
- Agree on a word that will signal problems. You simply have to text this word to a friend and he or she can come help.
- Ask a friend to call you every hour. You can excuse yourself without causing a fuss. If you feel as if you’re in danger, you can ask your friend to fetch you.
- Organize the first date at a venue where you know the staff. You’ll feel comfortable asking them for help the moment something feels wrong.
Too Eager? Red Light!
You may see it as a compliment when someone urgently wants to meet you in person. But for now, stop feeling flattered ad start feeling cautious.
I mean, why does someone want to meet you the day after you start chatting online?
Whether you’re looking for friendships or a relationship, the foundation should be built on knowledge of each other. These types of conversations can happen via the dating site or email.
I learned that people who rush into dating tend to have emotions that escalate quickly. While you’re still getting to know them, they may expect a committed relationship.
A sense of urgency early on can easily switch over to obsession at a later stage.
Online dating is an adventure, but it’s one you must plan for. These tips should give you a realistic perspective so you can prepare. Following them will place you in situations you’re able to handle, instead of being at the mercy of an unfamiliar person. A cliché but true: Rather be safe than sorry.