Online dating has opened up a lot of possibilities for people. It has largely replaced blind dates set up by well meaning friends and family with the ability to cast a wider net and decide for yourself who you want to get to know better. In today’s fast paced, busy world, it is a boon to single people looking to connect. Of course, it also has some challenges that you don’t typically have when you meet people through work or through friends. One of those is that you need to invest time and effort into vetting the people you meet online. So, safety should be on your mind a lot for the first several steps of the process of getting to know them.
You should do your best to post recent photos of yourself. Yes, everyone is tempted to post the best photos of them that were ever made, but the point is to let them know what you actually look like. Posting photos that are not representative comes across like a bait-and-switch tactic.
You should have good lighting and do not hesitate to crop the photos so they look as good as they can. It may help to have a friend who actually likes you take a few candid shots to try to capture the real you.
Some candid shots can help you say more with your photos than just “This is what I look like.” It can show you engaging in hobbies and being yourself. A good friend may be able to capture a view of you that you didn’t know existed. This can be also be a fun project, if you have a photo hobbyist friend.
You want to answer the profile questions honestly, but also in a way that is interesting. What makes you light up? Talk about the things that really excite you or engross you. That is one of the best ways to show a bit of yourself in a way that will have energy and verve.
It is fine to run your profile past some friends to see if it needs work. You can also find online grammar checkers that can help clean up typos. Editing your own writing is surprisingly hard. We tend to just read what we intended to say and gloss right over the many typos and other mistakes.
Like any online social forum, dating sites do not have much control over who joins them. It is important to practice basic web safety and be careful about the kinds of personal information you give out. You want to get to know people and feel out how much you trust them before you give them information that makes you vulnerable in some way.
So, be careful to not give away the location of your home or place of employment. It’s fine to talk about your job, but try to keep it vague as to exactly where you work. It is also fine to talk about your home, but try to not name the apartment complex in which you live or the street where your house is located or similar information.
Also, don’t name nearby parks or talk too freely about other identifying landmarks, including the names of stores. If you name enough stores and their relationship to your home or job site, it is potentially possible to work out where you actually are.
First Meeting Safety
Some online relationships do not go straight to in person meetings. Some take an intermediary step of exchanging phone numbers and talking on the phone. This is a great way to get a feel for chemistry in a low risk manner.
Many people buy an inexpensive burner phone for their online dating activities. That way, if things go badly with some particular person, you can just toss the phone and not have to change your main phone number.
The first time you meet someone in person, you should think of this more as a meet-and-greet than a date. Here are some best practices to make this as safe and comfortable as possible:
- Meet in a public place.
- Give them a burner phone number.
- Meet at lunch time, not dinner time, so you can more naturally limit the time.
- Make sure friends know where you are going and how long you expect to be gone.
- Bring a cell phone so you can make calls if necessary.
- Don’t drink alcohol at the first meeting.
Your First Date
If your initial meeting goes well, you can arrange a real date. Most of the same safety rules will still be helpful, but you probably want to meet in the evening for more traditional date type activities, such as dinner and a movie or perhaps go to a museum on a Saturday afternoon and follow it with dinner.
It is fine to have a drink or two, but don’t go overboard. Getting rip roaring drunk will not make the date go better. In fact, it sets up the possibility of all kinds of problems arising.
If you have been cautious and careful in the early stages, by the time you start really dating, you may well feel pretty confident that you are safe with this person. At that point, the usual common sense guidelines for any kind of dating applies, like use protection, even if the other person says it is not necessary.
Online dating has helped many people find romance and even marriage in spite of busy lives and few opportunities to meet people through regular channels. Take a look to okcupid !
It can help someone get out and about after moving to a new city for a job or help someone get a social life in spite of being stuck in a small town somewhere.
Like other avenues for socializing, it largely depends on you making it into what you want it to be. Online dating gives unprecedented opportunities for singletons of all ages to make the kind of connection they desire.