It’s no secret that the online dating world has explode over the last decade. Gone are the days when you were relying on meeting someone in a bar, or club, or coffee group, or through a hobby, now it’s all about Plenty Of Fish, Grindr, Tinder, Match.com, etc. In lots of ways these apps and websites make it easier to track down your ideal partner, because they’ve done the sifting for you and divided the wheat from the chaff. Enter your details and preferences and away you go! Then the standard procedure is usually to meet for a coffee and see if you ‘click’, if so then further dates are definitely on the cards. If you don’t, then you’ve not lost anything and you can make your exit after half an hour if you want to. But – be warned, this isn’t the golden ticket that it might seem at first. You’re not guaranteed to find someone that you like, despite going on frequent dates; they might be too tall or too short for your personal preferences, or have completely different lifestyles or hobbies. In other words, you might have to kiss a lot of frogs to find your prince. And not only that – you could be putting yourself in unwitting danger. It might seem an exaggeration, but it really, really isn’t. There are dangerous people out there and you could stumble right upon the wrong pathway. So, here are a few tips to keep you safe and make sure that you get the best out of online dating.
- 1.Be careful who you connect with. It’s usually pretty easy to spot the fakers, look out for few details, are they claiming to be Tom from Hertfordshire but have no photos or personal details. You wouldn’t go out with someone who seems completely anonymous in real life, so apply the same logic to people you meet online.
- 2.Have a few chats before you arrange to meet up. You don’t need a War and Peace style document on them, but it’s a good idea to get to know them a little bit.
- 3.NEVER give out your personal details online. Things like your number, your address or even the road you live on. If you decide to meet them and you feel comfortable giving out your mobile number, that’s one thing, but giving someone access to your personal life whilst you barely know them is a big no-no. There are unscrupulous people out there who will shamelessly attempt to hack anything of yours that they can. Facebook probably isn’t a disaster, but online banking details might be. Just tread carefully and be cautious.
- 4.NEVER have your date come and pick you up. If they do, then they know your exact address and probably who you live with. If you live alone, well, we don’t need to spell out the potential consequences of that one. Drive, or take the train, or have someone you know drop you off, the extra effort is well worth it to keep you safe.
- 5.Arrange a first date somewhere which is busy. A coffee shop, a popular park, somewhere like that, where the chances of you coming to any sort of harm on your first date are dramatically reduced. You might feel safe somewhere quieter, but that you’re familiar with, but we don’t have to look very hard at how people have been snatched or murdered in seemingly safe places to recognise the potential harm.
- 6.Stick to a no-alcohol rule. Alcohol famously lowers your inhibitions, which is fine if you’re with a group of friends having fun, but not if you’re on your own with someone you don’t know. It also raises the chances of having your drink spiked. There are a few videos online which show how easy it is for someone to slip something into your drink, even if you think you’re being careful. It only takes a matter of a couple of seconds whilst your head is briefly turned to sneak rohypnol into your diet coke. So save the wine for another time.
- 7.Always tell someone you trust implicitly where you’re going, who you’re going with and what time you’ll be back. And then casually make sure that your date knows this, because if they do have nefarious intentions that then that might just be enough for them to change their minds.
- 8.Arrange a ‘get out’ excuse, so you can leave safely if things aren’t going to plan. Getting your friend to ring you is the usual one, but you could also make sure to drop into conversation that you’re planning to go to an art gallery after this, or bookshop, or to meet another friend – whatever works for you.
- 9.This might be getting ahead of yourself slightly in your early dating days with someone new, but if you think sex might be on the cards then always take your own condoms, NEVER rely on someone else’s, even if they’re the same type and brand that you have. One mistake could end up in STIs, and/or unwanted pregnancy. Plus, if you choose, then you also get to pick whether you want flavoured, stimulating, tingling, extra-lubricated condoms, etc., etc. – there’s a plethora of choice out there!
It doesn’t take a lot to protect yourself as much as you can when you’re online dating, but it is essential to do what you can. Don’t be fooled into a false sense of security by a handsome, charming stranger who offers to drive you home after your date, or insists you come back to their house for champagne – it just isn’t worth the risk.