Meeting people used to be easier. My grandparents met at a dance at an armory hall in Upstate New York. There was no swiping, no personality surveys interpreted using algorithms, just one nervous boy asked one shy girl to dance. Today social media and the Internet offer so many options for dating and provide a veil of anonymity helping to remove some of the initial awkwardness of meeting someone for the first time. However these new modalities, while offering greater efficiency are not without risks. Here are some tips for navigating some of the pitfalls of online dating.
Remain anonymous online.
While you’re reaching out to dating prospects you’ve swiped to the right right keep your private information private. Don’t give out your last name, location or employer. Use a separate email address for social media and dating sites/apps, one that doesn’t expose any personal information like your name, location, birth year.
Check your social media privacy settings. You wouldn’t believe the amount of information someone can find about you with just a couple pieces of information. Sites like Facebook and Yelp make it easy to find others with just a name and/or email address. Potential employers do it all the time and so will stalkers and phishers. Consider using a service like Snapchat or Google Voice to text/call without giving out your primary phone number.
Location, location, location.
Dinner at someone’s home, a hike in the woods and other secluded spots for a meetup are all red flags. Meeting for coffee may sound cliche but it’s not a bad idea when you think about it. Plenty of people, daytime hours, cell phone reception and no alcohol to complicate things. If you’re both dog lovers suggest meeting at the dog park.
Another idea is to visit a museum, again it’s very public but also provides a much-needed topic of conversation if you have coffee afterwards. It can even offer insight into your date’s psyche. I tend to think of modern art as one long Rorschach test.
Keep an eye on your drink.
Don’t get drunk. When you’re on a date it’s just tacky. Best case you make a really bad first impression with someone you potentially like. Worst case, well I don’t need to remind you about how alcohol impairs your judgement. And while you’re keeping track of how much you consume keep an eye on the drink itself to prevent the addition of any unwanted ingredients.
Hold your drink. If you need to use the bathroom wait until you’re finished or take it with you. Sip your drink slowly, don’t chug, if it tastes, smells or looks strange (GHB in particular has a strong, salty flavor) it may have been tampered with.
Keep your friends close
When I was in college, before the Internet of Things or even the smartphone we’d always have a buddy system for first dates that involved a covert phone call from a flip phone. Today the IoT technology is amazing, ubiquitous and for all my dating adventures the Wearsafe Tag is as indispensable as my keys.
Maybe you’re bored to tears and just want a friend to reach out and provide an escape hatch. But if your meetup goes sideways trying to send a text or make a call can exacerbate a bad situation. The discreet press of a button gets your friends involved, able to listen in and seek the help you need.
Trust your instincts
This one’s simple but important. If you’re getting a bad vibe or something is setting off your Spidey-sense go with it. It may just be a lack of chemistry but better to listen to your gut and move on.
As I wrap up let me assure you this article wasn’t written by your mother in a not-so subtle attempt to convince you not to date and instead get a cat. Online dating is now the go-to for meeting people and the vast majority of users are just earnestly looking for the right match but there are some bad peeps on the Internet.
I often joke that the most dangerous place in America is the comments section at the bottom of a news website. The Interwebs offer a convenience and anonymity like never before but only if you have both eyes open and the best tools to stay safe. Have fun!