With around 4.5 million Australians using online dating every year, it is fast become the most popular way to meet a new partner.
Yet, along-side this super-convenient way to date comes potential dangers. Knowing what they are and how to avoid them is essential to having a fun, positive dating experience.
Here are our tried and tested tactics to date safely online.
12 TRIED AND TESTED TACTICS TO DATE SAFELY ONLINE
USE A TRUSTWORTHY DATING APP
There are heaps of dating apps available. Most online daters have their favourites, as well as a number of horror stories.
Our advice is to use one of the mainstream dating apps because they have the best functionalities and safety settings, as well as more choice. Using a paid app, as opposed to a free one, is generally (but not always) a safer option. 1 in 10 people who use free dating sites are scammers, whereas people who pay for an app are usually more genuine in their intentions to find love.
Further reading: Online dating apps: Paid vs. free.
BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU SHARE
Writing a profile for an online dating app can be hard, but it is key to being able to date safely online. You need to get across the right message about who you are and what you are looking for in a potential partner … whilst not sharing too much information about yourself!
The best way is to only share low-level information, such as your hobbies, yours likes and dislikes, fun experiences you have had and basic information about your height, religion, smoking/drinking habits etc. Nothing else is needed, especially as it might get into the wrong hands.
DOUBLE-CHECK YOUR PROFILE PHOTOS
Once you have chosen the perfect photos for your profile, look at them again with a critical eye.
Is there anything on them that gives away where you live or hang out? Make sure your children are not in the photos, even in the background. And ensure they don’t give-off the wrong impression of who you are as a person.
To date safely online it is best not to use the same profile photos as the ones on your Facebook or Instagram account. This is because all it takes is for someone to Google your photo to find out stuff about you that you don’t want them to know … yet.
GET TO KNOW THEM BEFORE MEETING-UP
Whilst there is a danger of getting into a textationship i.e. texting for months without actually meeting-up, it is important to get to know someone a little before arranging the first date.
We recommend moving out of the ‘text zone’ and instigating a phone conversation fairly early on and definitely before meeting each other. You can get to know a lot more about a potential date from hearing his/her voice and chatting, as opposed to a million texts.
Beware: If they don't want to meet with you, it could be a case of catfishing, so do your research and find out more about them.
DO A LITTLE STALKING
The reason it is so important to protect your identity online is because it is very easy to stalk someone. Yet that is exactly what we suggest you do!
If you’re chatting to a guy you like and are considering meeting him, do some detective work. First, Google him. You might find him listed on Facebook or LinkedIn. If his name brings up nothing of interest, then include any other information you have about him in your search, such as where he lives or where he works.
Note: We do not recommend crazy-style-stalking, just basic due diligence to ensure his story checks-out as a means to date safely online.
Talking of Google, you should also Google yourself and see what comes-up in the search results.
If I Google my name, it brings up lots of my photos and my online business. For this reason, I date online with usernames that cannot link back to me and only ever share my first name.
See what comes up if you Google yourself and use that information when you decide what to share on your dating profile or with anyone you are chatting with.
TRIED AND TESTED TACTICS TO DATE SAFELY ONLINE (CONT.)
LOOK OUT FOR RED FLAGS TO DATE SAFELY ONLINE
If you meet someone online who seems too good to be true, they probably are.
We all ‘recreate’ ourselves online to some extent, and this is usually harmless, but not always. Be alert for red flags that suggest things are not what they seem. These include being too keen, asking for money or signs they are already in a relationship. According to The Bittersweet Life:
“62% of people lie about their relationship status online, and 11% are already married.”
THE FIRST DATE LOCATION RULES
However many times you have texted or chatted on the phone, when you go on a first date, you are still meeting a stranger.
So. Be. Careful.
Ensure you meet in a busy social place, not at his home or yours. Ideally, meet in the day for coffee. A short date in daylight will give you lots of options to abort if things are not going to plan. If things go really well, suggest going for a walk after but again, do not go back to either of your houses.
To protect yourself if anything should go awry, download a personal safety app on your phone so you can get help if needed at any time.
Even if sparks are flying, you must protect yourself and your children in these early days.
BE FIRST DATE SAVVY
Always ensure you have back-up for your first date.
This can be as easy as letting a friend know where you are going and when you expect to be home. There are lots of personal safety apps available that allow people to check-in on you, some even allow you to raise an alarm by shaking your phone. Or ask a friend to simply track your smart phone to ensure your safety.
STAY SOBER TO DATE SAFELY ONLINE
Not only is it advisable not to involve alcohol on a first date, but it’s best stick to soft drinks when using a dating app.
Drinking makes us feel bolder and more daring. You might end up saying, doing or sending some things that in the morning seem inappropriate. Plus, your guard will be down and you might give away information that could put yourself or your children at risk.
If you want to date safely online, leave the wine unopened in the fridge.
It always pays to be honest. In online dating, it also saves a lot of time and anguish.
Plus, if you are honest about who you are, you are more likely to receive honesty in return. Dating with truth and transparency is much more enjoyable and a damn site safer.
REPORT ANYTHING SUSPICIOUS
Any dating app worth using will have a ‘report’ button. Don’t be afraid to use it.
We are all in this together and if someone is offensive or something doesn’t seem right, report them. You could be saving another person who didn’t see the red flags from a lot of pain and heart-ache.
Further reading: Ensuring children's safety when using discreet dating apps.