While history has a certain sense of romance, living in the 21st century offers a set of perks unique to the development of the internet and the convenience culture created by endless apps designed to offer an easier way to buy groceries, hail cabs, and meet your soulmate.
The days of coffee shop meet-cutes and blind dates set up by friends have faded to make way for the norms of modern dating. Instead of waiting for the love of your life to appear, you can now swipe through hundreds of locals (or non-locals if you’re willing to pay for a subscription, according to Tinder) on dating apps on a Friday morning to find a weekend date. It’s all gloriously convenient, but all of this convenience does come with a set of risks.
When you find a potential partner using a dating app, such as Bumble, Tinder, or Hinger, you can’t be sure who, exactly, is on the other end of the flirty messages you’re exchanging. However, there are steps you can take to feel safe and at ease when you’re getting to know a stranger and meeting up for the first time. Here are some online dating tips to keep you safe and having fun.
Do take your time to get comfortable
When you first start talking to someone online, you might feel an urge to take your romance from online to IRL as quickly as possible to confirm the sparks. While meeting a potential boo is exciting, it’s best to give it a little extra time (via ADT).
Everyone who has used an app has received a message that says something along the lines of, “Not looking for a pen pal,” or, “I’d rather talk in person, let’s meet up tonight.” This can make you feel pressure to meet up before you’re comfortable, but if someone is truly interested in you, then they won’t mind waiting a few extra days (and exchanging a few flirty messages in the meantime) to get some face-to-face time with you.
While you’re getting comfortable, don’t be afraid to do a little research on your end. With the introduction of the internet came social media, which has resulted in people uploading a whole archive of information about their lives over the past couple of decades. Don’t be afraid to ask for social media accounts. If a potential date tells you that they don’t have social media, you might consider this a potential warning that your wannabe date isn’t exactly who they say they are. If you want to go the extra mile to confirm the validity of what your match has told you, ask for a pre-date video chat to ease your mind (via Safety.com).
Don't be alone with a first date
Once you’re ready to meet up with someone, always be sure to do so in a public place with lots of people around (via ADT). Even if you’re just in the online dating game for some Netflix-and-chill, meeting up in a bar or restaurant is a great way to ensure that you feel safe and secure. Tinder recommends staying in public for the entire duration of your initial meetup as well as leaving your date if you feel pressure from them to relocate to a home or private location.
In addition to staying in public, it’s always a best practice to let a friend or family member know where you’re going to be when you’re meeting up with someone for the first time. Apple iPhones have a feature that allows you to share your exact location with your contacts in real-time, which can create an added layer of security.
Often, a first date will try to be a little extra chivalrous by offering to pick you up. While it may be tempting to avoid an overpriced Uber or searching for a decent parking spot, it’s always best practice to transport yourself. If possible, have a friend in the area give you a ride and pick you up.
Do stay sober and alert
While you don’t have to opt for a completely alcohol-free date, Tinder emphasizes the importance of knowing your limits when consuming alcoholic beverages with a new date. Ask for a coffee date if you’re uncomfortable with alcohol at a first-time meetup (via ADT), or, if you do hit the bar, be sure to consume your drinks slowly and pace yourself by having a glass of water with your cocktail. The BBC reported a recent uptick in date-rape incidents linked to online dating, so don’t accept a drink that you didn’t see the bartender make in front of you, and be sure to never leave your drink unattended.
Reports of “romance scams” have also surfaced, according to ADT, so you’ll want to avoid giving out any personal information to potential partners. The Federal Trade Commission says to watch out for lies involving travel and work as scammers will often ask for money wires or credit card numbers. Any request for money from an online romance is a red flag; common requests include travel expenses and visa or customs fees.
Don't stick around if you're uncomfortable
Finally, the most important thing you can do to stay safe when you’re meeting up with an online date is to listen to your gut and leave as soon as you start to feel uncomfortable (via ADT). Almost every major player in the dating app game, such as Tinder, emphasizes the importance of personal safety, so be sure to keep your individual comfort level top of mind at all times. If something feels off, don’t ignore that feeling. Never be afraid to speak up and say that you’d like to leave, and be sure to arrange safe transportation for an easy exit. If someone doesn’t respect your personal comfort, then they probably won’t make for a good partner anyways.
While online dating can be a bit scary, apps can be a great way to connect with people you might not otherwise meet — and may lead to you meeting a potential partner. Overall, there are more good people than bad in the world, and, as long as you keep yourself safe, you can spark a truly wonderful romance with a simple swipe of a finger.
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