Tips for dating online safely and successfully.

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.

Date safe

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.

HOLD BACK
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.

PHOTO SHARING
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.

PUBLIC PLACES
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.

VIDEO DATE
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!

COVIDiares: From quranteasing to pandemic pleasing

If you’re an avid reader of my blog then you’ll know that I started COVID-eo dating a guy that I met on Hinge back around mid-March (here is the post for reference.) Nine weeks in I wrote another piece giving a quick update on how things were going and bringing to light some of my “what if” questions in advance of us (eventually) meeting face to face. It’s now been just over 3 months, so with lockdown eased up and 12 video dates later… you better believe we finally met in the flesh! Hurrah!

It’s been an interesting journey so far, particularly with the video dating aspect as that was completely new territory for me. Sharing a similar story with many others, lockdown introduced a shift in the dating landscape where users had to turn towards platforms such as FaceTime or Zoom in order to connect with potentials. While some may have found it awkward or simply put their dating lives on pause, I found the experience to be very enjoyable and fulfilling. I certainly didn’t expect to be “dating” anyone during lockdown, let alone for so many weeks! My initial thought was that perhaps I’d have a couple of video dates before it gradually fizzling out.

Recap

From the get go I noticed straight away that our conversations naturally flowed with lots of laughter. Our dates quickly became a weekly thing, we were both comfortable and I found myself feeling more at ease with him as the weeks went by. It was nice to see his personality shine through via video, I felt like I managed to get a lot more out of this method of communication as opposed to messaging or a phone call; the interactions and facial expressions made a huge difference in building this connection. Another thing I appreciated was how open we were with each other; by sharing thoughts on how our date went, what we enjoyed and what we liked about each other — it was helpful to know that we were on the same page. The most impressive part above all, was the consistent effort put in from both sides, not only did we have our once-a-week dates but there was plenty of chit chat, banter and silly games in-between. It’s fair to say that he made lockdown a little more bearable for me.

First (not video) date

Our first date took place last Tuesday and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t feeling slightly nervous beforehand (and I’m not usually the nervous type!) No doubt it was more nerves of excitement than anything else. I mean with 3 months worth of build up and anticipation of seeing each other (especially during the last couple of weeks), the suspense was killing me slowly. In the back of my mind, I was confident that there’d be no awkwardness nor would we be any different to how we were over our Zoom calls. We were lucky to have sunshine for our park “drinkies” date (it rained for the rest of the week) so I kept my outfit fairly casual, I chucked on a t-shirt, skirt, trainers and my oversized glam sunglasses. 😎

I arrived at the meeting spot a few minutes earlier and dropped him a message… eeeek! The funniest part was when he messaged back saying he was couple of minutes away and asked me to send my location. Not long after, I noticed a little old man following Google Maps on his phone, heading directly towards me! Hahaha! Just so you know, that wasn’t him! But the next guy walking towards me definitely was! I had a quick scan of his outfit (standard procedure): casual check shirt, black jeans and vans — yeah, he got my stamp of approval for his park ensemble ✅ As he walked towards me, I couldn’t help but laugh, it felt kinda bizarre…in a positive way!

Getting our flirt on

Now I’m gonna to be straight and say that we broke the social distancing rules! I don’t think it even occurred to us because we went in for a hug and he gave me a kiss on the cheek. You know how I mentioned us being comfortable during our Zoom calls? It felt exactly the same except this time there was no laptop screen between us. We started chatting and I was tempted to link onto his arm… although on second thought, it was probably a bold move to make so early on! Didn’t want him to think I was a weirdo 🙈 Once we found a nice spot, I could feel the chemistry between us which wasn’t surprising as we’d been quite flirty during our dates. With so much eye contact, laughter and a few touchy feely moments… it seemed like we just clicked. Within an hour and a few G&Ts later, we were sat so ridiculously close together to the point where I thought “fuck it” and went in for a snuggle. At one point during our date, he was lying down on his front so I could crack his back 😂 Yeah I don’t know where that randomly came from… Anyway! Things turned up a notch as we placed a bet; basically if I lost then I had to give him a kiss (oldest trick in the book!) Firstly I’ll have you know that I won the bet. He’ll tell you otherwise because he’s a soo competitive. Either way, I wanted that kiss so was willing to take the “loss”. FYI – he’s a great kisser!

With all the fun and games going on; there was one thing we didn’t think through… public toilets! They were all bloody closed. I’m still confused about it until this day. Why do that? After dragging the poor guy around in circles, feeling confident that at least one set of toilets would be open, I was very wrong… and far from impressed. Luckily for him, he did his thing in a bush — that’s one advantage to having a penis. Unfortunately I wasn’t planning to water any plants so I made us Uber over to my sisters house, thank God she didn’t live too far and he probably thought I was such a diva at this point.

Hehe ;D

We continued on with our date at a local park and popped open the bottle prosecco we had left 🥂🍾 Up until the sun went in, we chilled, people watched, conversed and weren’t hiding the fact that we were checking each other out… a lot. Considering no restaurants or bars were open, he offered to make me dinner at his. Yeah I know what you’re thinking, and no, I didn’t think his only intention was to get me into bed.

After whipping up a meal with a glass of wine each we continued chatting. Eventually he swooped in and made the move. The kisses were fiery, I felt his hands running from my waist and up my skirt. As we continued kissing, he lifted me up and put me on the dining table. We were ready to go for it, however I wasn’t about to have sex on the table with his flatmate in the house! So we moved things into the bedroom and to be honest, for our first sex session, I had no complaints whatsoever. Them broad shoulders though, the strong facial hair, with a dominant streak and good balance of aggression and gentleness. I’d describe him as a proper manly man — in general and under the sheets. I ended up staying the night but we didn’t get much sleep. 😏

Discovering each other on an intimate level, showing each other’s bedroom tricks as well as having those cute, affectionate post-sex moments, the little kisses, the snuggles, the stroking, the spooning — it was all pleasurable. The next day we both had work so after some morning cuddles followed by intense sex I had to head off early but if we could have stayed in bed together, there’d be no question about it.

Second date?

Overall, the “first” date was memorable. Believe it or not, we’ve already had our second date involving coffee, a stroll with a few hugs and kisses. The lockdown phase put us in a position where we had to make the best out of an unusual situation. Personally speaking, I think having those 12 weeks to build a connection without the physical side of things was a blessing in disguise. I was quite guarded and slightly judgemental towards him at first but as I got to know him on a deeper level, I found him even more attractive in personality and appearance. I guess we were fortunate enough to have gotten along really well from day one, I’m particularly pleased that our virtual dates had translated in real life. From what I’ve witnessed so far, he seems like a really sound guy so I’ll have to see what happens! I promise to keep you posted folks!