I was up the other night until ungodly hours of the morning obsessively binging on a Netflix series called “Dirty John”. I haven’t been hooked on a show since Game of Thrones but it was honestly so gripping! Based on a true crime story, it’s about a manipulative, sociopathic con man who uses dating sites to seduce and extort women. It highlighted how the early warning signals aren’t always clear when you’re blinded by love. I highly recommend adding to your watchlist if you haven’t seen it yet!
After blitzing through the show in two days, experiencing what felt like an emotional rollercoaster, I was left gobsmacked knowing that people like him exist in the real world! From there I felt really inspired to write this post on how to protect yourself when looking for love online.
No matter what age you are, the online world has changed the way we form romantic relationships. Typically before these dating apps came on the scene, you’d meet people through friends, at work or from social events. Don’t get me wrong, this still happens but as we entered the era of social media and online dating, it’s a different kind of ball game. The anonymity of being behind a screen allows people to mould themselves into something they’re not — from hiding parts of their personality, spitting harmless lies about their height or weight, using fake names and missing out information about their children or marital status! If we’re not careful enough, we might end up being a victim of “catfishing” or worse, out of pocket and broken-hearted.
Deception is on this Earth
According to a recent study by Kaspersky, 55% of online daters have experienced some form of threat or problem with another party. While in a separate study ran by members of Michigan State University and Cornell University, 81% of online daters are untruthful about themselves in their profiles! That’s a high frigging stat! Online dating has clearly created a shift so it’s crucial to consider the potential dangers involved. When we start conversing with a new match, it allows us to connect and get to know someone without actually getting to know them — and that illusion of connection can make online dating pretty dangerous, thus we should think twice before giving away too much detail about ourselves.
The experience of online dating should be enjoyable; however personal safety must come first. I would say the majority of people using dating apps have good intentions… yet how do we deal with the handful of those who don’t? Remember, you’re never responsible for the predatory or disrespectful behaviour of others — but there are things you can do to protect yourself when you’re interacting with a stranger. Next time you log back into Tinder, Bumble, Hinge, etc., I urge you to keep the following safety tips in mind.
It’s natural to want to impress someone new, you might disclose your interests, your job and industry, but you should never give out details such as your home/work address, what assets you own, bank information, email address, phone number… at least until you’ve established that the person you’re speaking with is truly who they say they are. Even then, I’d advise to stay on the side of precaution.
Don’t invite unwanted attention. If it’s your profile pictures or photos you’re sending to your matches, think before you let that photo land in their hands. Sharing naked or provocative images can lead to risky situations that are beyond your control, you just can’t guarantee that they won’t share it around with their friends or post it online for others to discover.
No matter how charming or “genuine” your potential might appear… meet in public! Don’t send them an invitation to come to your place, and if they insist on inviting you around to theirs or suggest picking you from yours, I’d say it’s a red flag! 🚩 When you meet up, pick a venue where there are lots of people around, try to ensure good phone signal (and make sure you have full battery prior to your date!) It’s also worth meeting somewhere that you’re familiar with so you know how to get back home.
TELL A FRIEND… OR TWO
Before the date, let your bestie or family member (or both) know who you’re meeting, what you’re doing and where you’re going. Usually when my date goes to the restroom, I use that opportunity to drop a quick message to my friend and let them know how things are going.
Most dating apps now have video functionality so I’d use it to your advantage. If not, then there are plenty of other video platforms, ie. Zoom, Skype. The conversation doesn’t have to be long but at the very least, you know you’re not getting catfished! A video call will also help you solidify initial attraction, get a gauge on their body language, and get a feel for how the conversation flows.
ARRANGE YOUR OWN MODE OF TRANSPORT
Finally, when you’re going to meet your date… use your own car, order a cab or get public transport — there and back! This lowers the risk of putting yourself in an uneasy or even dangerous situation. It’s best to stay in control over where you go. Even if your date offers to pick you up or drop you off, when you say “no”, they should respect your decision. And if they get funny about it… I have two words: red flag! 🚩
I’ve been “catfished” once before but thankfully nothing sinister came from it. I have to say, it was very odd and I was quite taken back! If your intuition tells you something is off or you feel uncomfortable, just block/delete/report them. But if you’re physically with the person, your safety is key, so there’s nothing wrong with ending a date early and going home. Make your excuse and leave!