You might know this about me by now, but I find dating and love endlessly fascinating, especially online dating. Recently, I started looking into the effects of online dating on real life, and felt a need to share my rules for dating safely online. In doing that research, I came to realize how many women have gotten themselves in extremely dangerous situations. That’s not to say that it should be a woman’s job to thwart potential creeps. In fact I firmly believe we should teach men to be better. And at the same time, at this point, women do need rules to maintain their own safety as well.
So, below are the five rules I personally follow to make sure I’m dating safely online. They are NOT a guarantee that you’ll be safe from unsavory characters, but they’re a good guideline. If you have any other ideas, I’d love to hear them in the comments!
What Does Dating Safely Online Mean?
1. Dating Safely Online Means Keeping a trusted friend or family member in the loop.
Keeping someone you trust in the loop is important for dating safely online because, duh, if something goes wrong, someone can find you. In addition to telling someone where you’ll be, you may also want to come up with a safe text you can easily send. For example, texting your mom “did you feed the dog?” can be a signal for her to come get you, or even call the police.
You should also give them a time to expect you to check in. If you don’t, they know to check on you or get help.
2. Dating Safely Online Means Telling the Bartender or Hostess Your Situation.
Many bars have a system specifically for situations like this. Ordering an angel shot, for example, could really be a signal for the bartender to call security. Try to arrive early so you can speak with someone about this before your date gets there.
If your date location doesn’t have it’s own system, don’t be too shy to ask someone to keep an eye on you. It might seem extra, and of course, changes are slim that your date is actually a serial killer. But this is a classic case where you should prefer to be safe than sorry.
3. Dating Safely Online Means Not Letting Him Pick You Up
ESPECIALLY not where you live!
While all these rules are important for dating safely online, this one is the most important. I’ve seen so many women disregard it. Ladies, I shouldn’t have to say this, but please never get in the car with an internet stranger. Just take control of your fate in this tiny way. Even if you trust him completely, which you shouldn’t if you’ve never met. Even if he really is just trying to be chivalrous. Real chivalry is respecting your need to feel safe. Once you’re in his car, he has the power to literally take you anywhere.
Part II: If you ignore me and let him pick you up, at least be at a neutral location. For the love of all that is holy, do not give an internet stranger your home address. Again, if he respects you and/or has a rudimentary understanding of women’s issues, this won’t be a problem. If you’re afraid it will be, that’s a BIG red flag with the words “DON’T GO ON THE DATE” printed in bold right on it.
4. Dating Safely Online Means Going Somewhere Familiar
Sure, it seems really romantic for him to whisk you away to the trendy new bar you’ve been meaning to try. Or adventurous to go to dinner in a new neighborhood. Until he’s driving you there (which he shouldn’t be, see rule #3) and you don’t know you’re headed in the wrong direction until you’re at a poker game in an abandoned asylum. Or, more realistically, until he turns out to be a totally creep and you don’t know where you are to remove yourself from the situation.
5. Dating Safely Online Means Listening To Your Gut
And being honest with yourself! Let me put it this way: if there are any red flags in someone’s online dating profile, where they have every opportunity to showcase themselves as positively as possible, it is in your best interest to heed the warning. I don’t care how cute he is or how long you’ve been single. The risk is not worth the reward.
Recently, I matched with a very attractive man on a dating app. We shared quite a bit of witty banter, then things started to get weird. He kept adding to his bio– a long list of things he wished his matches wouldn’t do. It seemed like he was building this list based on our conversation. Red flag. I ignored it. Until he asked me how I’d die in a horror movie. But he didn’t just ask– he described the scene and the killers in excruciating detail. In several messages that were over twenty lines long. If I’d ignored THAT red flag, I’d likely be in the woods somewhere with my ankle in a bear trap.