10 Tips for Staying Safe When Using an Online Dating Service

One of the frequent comments I get when I tell people I’m meeting someone I met through an online dating service is “Are you going to be safe? You don’t know anything about this person.” While it’s easy to justify the security issue by comparing what you know about your online date to meeting someone in a bar, there is a real risk. When you meet a stranger in a bar or any other public pickup setting, you can at least see them.

According to A. Barbour, author of Louder Than Words: Nonverbal Communication, about 7% of our communication is verbal (the actual words we say,) 38% is vocal (pitch, rhythm, tone and volume,) while the remaining 55% is body language (facial expression, stance etc.)

When we communicate online, we may only be getting 7% of what they are really telling us. This means it can be very easy to miss red flags and basic clues to our potential date’s personality.

So how can we date online, and stay safe? It can easily be done with a little common sense, pre-planning and awareness.

  1. Talk to them on the phone before the first meeting. I actually broke this rule not to long ago, and besides the fact that after that he was never willing to actually pick up the phone and call me, I had serious reservations about what he was telling me on the instant messaging service that we were using to communicate. Plus, he could have had a terrible voice, as a friend pointed out to me, giving me a new issue to obsess about before the date. Incidentally, his voice was fine; it was his personality that was lacking.
  2. Meet them somewhere public. This should be standard dating practice for everyone, but sadly, it’s not. The first few times you meet them, make sure you drive your own car, meet them in public setting, and drive yourself home. I have a few places where I am a regular, and the staff knows me. Those are my favorite places to go, because I have someone there who can look out for me. There is no need for your date to have your address until you get to know them just a little bit better.
  3. Watch your alcohol intake. Yes alcoholic lowers inhibitions, eases nerves and makes blind dates less painful, on the surface. By moderating yourself, you are still aware of the non-verbal clues they are giving you, and able to stay in charge of what happens to you. I won’t even let the guy bring the drink to me, the server does, or I get it myself. Besides, think of all the embarrassing things you could do or say if you got hammered…and I don’t know anyone who has puked on a first date and gotten a second. If you followed my advice in number two, you also drove yourself, and you wouldn’t want the risk of a DUI to ruin a good evening (it’s hard to date from jail.)
  4. Tell a friend. Whenever I go out on a blind date, I have at least one friend who knows where I am going, who I am going with, what time I am leaving and so on. They always give me a call or a text partway into the date. This gives me an escape plan if the date is terrible, and it also gives me that reality check to make sure I am staying safe. I even will send them a link to the person’s profile to add that extra layer of information if something was to happen. Take your cell phone with you! Everyone does it, and I actually answer when my friends call, and flat out tell my date that it’s a safety check in. If they did have any untoward ideas, this may help convince them that I am not an easy target.
  5. Go with your instinct. The most uncomfortable or borderline dangerous situations I have been in have all been due to me ignoring that gut feeling that says “Something isn’t right.” Remember, no matter how good they sound on paper, you are now picking up much more information about this person from their non-verbal communication. If you think you smell a rat, go with that. If your date is a genuine good person, they won’t freak out when you don’t go home with them.
  6. Don’t give all your information out. Earlier I mentioned they don’t need to know where you live quite yet. Same goes for the other information. Let’s face it – there are a lot of strange and unbalanced people out there who pass for normal 95% of the time. There is no need for them to know everything about you in detail. First dates are supposed to be out generalities, finding out if your basic personalities, morals, and ideas mesh and compliment each other.
  7. Have realistic expectations. Remember, photos can be out of date or taken from “good” angles. Some people are better online where they can think of what to say and type it then they are in person. Both of you are probably nervous. If you go into the date expecting white doves and fireworks, you could find yourself disappointed, which will surely show. I have been on wonderful first dates but the guy only did well with first impressions, there was no substance to fill out the second date. On the converse, I have been on mediocre first dates where the second date was where things started to click.
  8. Consider a “Group Event.” If the idea of meeting a stranger in a coffee shop, bar or restaurant still creeps you out, but you want to try the internet thing, the consider gathering a group of friends for something. Bowling, mini-golf, art exhibits or street festivals are all great options. It will give you and your date time to interact, yet you will have friends there to help with awkward gaps in conversation. It also helps to be doing an actual activity rather than just staring across a table at each other. If the relationship goes somewhere, you will already know how your date gets along with your friends, a real bonus!
  9. Make sure you have money! Even if your date has told you that they are paying, make sure you have either a credit card or enough cash to pay your own way, and also get a cab if need be. The last thing you want is to be stuck because the date flaked out before the dessert cart arrived, or risk a DUI if you had one too many.
  10. Have FUN! Don’t forget about keeping yourself safe, but once you have set the stage for a safe date, HAVE FUN. Be yourself, and try to enjoy the fact that you are out with someone new, and that no matter what happens, it was a new experience. Plus, some of my best stories are of the dates the went horribly wrong, so you might always get something to put in your blog.
Written by Mandi
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5 Responses to “10 Tips for Staying Safe When Using an Online Dating Service”

  1. Kay says:

    These are all very important. It’s easy to ignore one or more, thinking you won’t have a problem…and then end up with a “situation.”

  2. Mandi says:

    I was thinking, and in another true tale, I’ll tell you about it, but boy, that tip about money is IMPORTANT. You always need to make sure you can get home safe!

  3. [...] in mind, that no matter if an online dating site is free or costs tons, make sure you read 10 Tips for Staying Safe When Using an Online Dating Service and remember to watch for Red Flags. Bookmark It Hide [...]

  4. [...] in mind, that no matter if an online dating site is free or costs tons, make sure you read 10 Tips for Staying Safe When Using an Online Dating Service and remember to watch for Red Flags. Bookmark It Hide [...]

  5. Totally not what I expected. Excellent point of view though will have a few more things to ponder this afternoon.

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