In the past ten years, online dating has moved from a somewhat fringe concept to the primary way that people meet and connect with one another.
Around 44 million people are estimated to use dating sites. Almost 27 million use smartphone dating apps. The number of people who use dating websites is expected to grow to 53 million by 2024.
While using apps and dating websites is no longer a new concept, and these are widely accepted options, that doesn’t mean that safety risks don’t still exist.
If you date online, considering safety factors is extremely important. The following are some of the ways you can protect yourself and make sure you have a safe experience.
Do Your Research
One thing you can do to be safer when you meet people from apps or websites is to check them out online first.
At a minimum, if you feel weird about digging too deep, make sure that you verify their identity. You can use search engines and online background check tools to figure out if the person is who they say they are.
You don’t have to do a deep dive before your first date with someone, you can save that for when you’re thinking about spending more time with them. Just take a look at the basics that are on the internet.
If you go too far in your pre-date research, you might make things awkward because you can seem like you already know everything about them, or you could come off as bored during the conversations because you already know the answers to questions you ask.
You also have to keep in mind that you could end up finding information about the wrong person, especially if they have a somewhat common name.
As long as you don’t find any glaring red flags, go into your date with an open mind and without preconceived notions, even when doing a little background research ahead of time.
If you do some social media research, it can help you feel assured you’re not being catfished as well, which can be a risk with online dating.
Online Safety Tips
In general, there are things you can do online that will help you be safer when you’re in the dating world.
First, use different photos for your dating profile because otherwise, it’s easy to do reverse image searches. If you have a dating profile with the same photos you use on LinkedIn, Instagram, or Facebook, it’s easier for someone to track you down.
Don’t connect in any way with suspicious profiles. For example, if you match with someone who doesn’t have any linked social media accounts, this is suspicious and could mean it’s a fake profile.
Choose the right dating app for you too. There are thousands of apps, so start by reviewing the available safety features. Any app you use should have safety guidelines and go beyond that with built-in ways to promote a safe user experience.
For example, Tinder has a photo verification feature. You can take a photo of yourself in real-time, which is then matched with your profile to help you avoid catfishing. Then, when the photos are verified, Tinder adds a blue checkmark to the profile.
Look at the available features for reporting and blocking someone who’s inappropriate or toxic.
Hinge has a zero-tolerance policy for any type of harassment or threats, for example.
Some apps will let you determine how much visibility there is for your profile, so the less you can expose right away, the better.
You probably don’t want to receive unwanted messages, so you can find sites or apps that don’t allow messaging before a match.
When you’re talking to someone, keep your conversations within the app so that you don’t have to worry about someone having your cell phone number if it ultimately doesn’t work out.
Before you meet in person, you might want to have a video chat, and if the other person isn’t agreeable to that, it could be best to avoid a date. Another way to verify their identity is to interact on Snapchat.
Safety If You’re Meeting in Public
If you do plan to meet someone from a dating app, follow your gut. If any part of you feels uncomfortable about the idea, there’s likely a reason, and you should go with your instinct. If you are comfortable with it, there are still things you should do to protect yourself.
- Meet in a public place. This is a must. Don’t go on a first date with someone you only know online at their house or anywhere where plenty of other people won’t be around. Don’t just meet in public—during your first date, stay in public the entire time.
- If it makes you comfortable, maybe you suggest a group date. This can help you stay safer, and it can also take some of the first-date pressure off if you hang out with a group of friends.
- Tell at least one person where you’re going and who you’re going with. You might also turn on your location sharing.
- Send a screenshot of your date’s profile to someone close to you, like a parent or sibling.
- When you’re going on a first date, either drive yourself or take an Uber.
- Don’t drink too much. You want to stay mindful of what’s going on and if you’re worried about being in a situation where you could drink more than is ideal, suggest a first date that doesn’t involve alcohol, like going for coffee. If you drink too much, you also won’t be able to drive yourself home safely, so it’s a big thing to think about.
- Keep in contact with a friend or someone during your date. You can text someone and let them know how it’s going and periodically update them.
Finally, never be afraid to leave a date if you feel like you should. You can make up an excuse if that makes you feel better, like saying you have to pay for parking. If there are red flags, just go.