Compared to the “real world” dating, some people view online dating as less safe.
Nothing can be further from the truth!
The opinion probably persists due to the fact that in real life we usually meet people who were introduced to us by someone we know and trust, or in a transparent situation, such as at work or school/university.
But because no one introduces you to your online dates, this does not mean online dating is unsafe – quite the opposite!
In fact, meeting someone online is much safer than meeting someone at your local bar: you cannot get hurt by sitting in front of your computer.
All you need to do to make online dating work for you is to exercise some caution. You would not let a stranger into your home and your private life, without getting to know them first, would you? Don’t do it online, either.
Here are 8 essential steps that will help you make your online dating experience secure and rewarding.
1. Anonymous Dating
It’s a great advantage that contacts entered through an online dating site are anonymous, so you can maintain your privacy, but there are some drawbacks, too – some people might not be what they say they are. While there are not many people like this, they do exist. Most dating sites don’t screen their members. You should exercise caution and common sense in your communication with other members.
2. Overseas Contacts
Be especially careful in communication with members from other countries than your own. Some people might try to use your limited knowledge of those countries to take advantage of you. Please be advised to never wire any finance on request of overseas members, whether to help in an emergency or travel arrangements. If you intend to meet overseas members, remember to consult your immigration authorities first, and choose an appropriate option.
3. Getting to know each other
Never give your personally identifiable information to anyone you do not know well. Use the website’s anonymous messaging system for the first contacts. Ask many questions and listen to their answers:
– Do they answer the questions you ask?
– Does their story seem credible?
– Don’t they avoid certain questions, such as their marital situation, who they live with etc?
– Aren’t they too sweet and seem to agree with everything you say?
Those are the red flags that should make you cautious.
4. Sending photos
It is the old truth that the picture is worth a thousand words. Ask the people you are writing to for their photos and send them yours. If they never ask for your photos, this is strange because everyone wants to know how the person they are dating looks like! Don’t send old photos or photos where you don’t look like your real self: once you meet in real life, the picture should match the person behind it, or they will feel disappointed. But it does not mean you cannot send pictures that present you in the best way: send a photo of yourself with a happy smile; it’s always a winner! When your dates look at your photos, they try to figure out what type of person you are: if you look grumpy, they will think you are grumpy. If you look happy and easygoing, this, too, is what they will think of you. If you do not have recent photos, ask a friend with a digital camera to take some pictures of you. Choose the best shots only and erase the ones you don’t like. Ask your correspondents how recent the photos are they sent you to avoid a possible disappointment.
5. Giving away your email address
When you feel comfortable with your communication, you can give them your personal email address. Register a separate email account for this purpose, and only use it for your personal correspondence. If something goes wrong in your relationships, you can always close down this account and open a new one. Keep asking questions and discuss different things. If all your communication seems to be going one way, then they probably have their own agenda.
6. Giving away your phone number
When you feel comfortable with the person you have been emailing to, give them your contact phone number, preferably your mobile. Do not give away your work number (or your work email address), ever! After all, you do not want someone to email your boss or phone your office, in case the relationship does not work.
7. Meeting face to face
After you have emailed one another, and talked on the phone a few times, it’s time to meet face to face. If people are happy to communicate with you online but don’t want to use the phone or meet you in person, this might be due to the fact that they have misrepresented themselves. Real, honest people that seek love and partnership don’t want never-ending virtual courtship; they want the real thing.
Only meet in a public place for the first date, and preferably, set up a time limit for the date. For example, you can say you only have half an hour before a business appointment; this will help if the date does not go as you hoped for. A ‘coffee date’ is a safe bet. If you are a woman, never go to unknown places; instead, suggest your own variant of a place for the meeting, where service personnel knows you, at least visually. If a man is decent, he will honor your request.
Tell someone that you have a date with a person you have met online; it can be your mother or a sibling, a person, who will not judge you. If you don’t feel like telling anyone, make a note about the person you are meeting and how you got to know him/her, and place it where this information can be found.
Have your own transport to get home from the place of the meeting; better still, have a friend to fetch you. Never allow your date to take you home, even if something is wrong with your car. Phone a friend or call a taxi instead. Make sure you are not followed when leaving the place of the meeting – especially if no one has shown up.
When you meet your date, don’t jump to conclusions straight away. You might unintentionally create an image in your mind, which is different from the real person; this is not their fault; give them a chance. It’s quite common to feel awkward at first; simply relax and try not to concentrate on the outcome: doesn’t matter if they like you or not, you are still enjoying the date. If you need to concentrate on something, concentrate on having fun! If this helps, remember that they are also nervous and they can only hope you will like them.
Smile! Nothing helps to break the ice better than friendliness and openness. Talk about something that you have shared in your last emails, so that they feel you are indeed the same person they have been talking to for a while.
But still, use caution. Have your mobile phone with you. Don’t leave your drink unattended. If you have to leave the table, order a fresh drink on your return.
Pay for yourself. If you decided to never meet this person again, do not tell them about it on the date. Tell about it in an email. If the person asks how the date was, tell them: ‘Great! I will email you tonight’. It’s not easy to face rejection, so make it as polite and nice, as you can.
8. Advancing your relationship
If you enjoyed the first date, keep seeing one another for a while before moving further. Don’t progress too fast; you must really get to know the person before deciding to have a relationship of any kind. If the person shares with you a land-line phone number, presents a business card etc, those are good signs: they trust you and want to continue the relationship. It’s now up to you to decide, whether to accept their invitation or not.
Most of all – HAVE FUN, because this is what it’s all about. Some people will not be what you are looking for, and you cannot be right for everyone. But if you persist, you will be doing better and better. It takes loads of rubble to find gold. Remember that each encounter is a learning experience that can make you more successful.
You may be yet another person to find your soul mate through an online dating site – just like thousands of other people before you!