Online dating can be a bit of an emotional rollercoaster, and even the worst dates can lead to the best stories. We tend to trust the people we ‘meet’ on dating apps – but at the end of the day, they’re still strangers, so you have to trust your gut and be careful. Protect yourself and stay safe online with these tips…
WHEN YOU’RE ON THE APP…
Don’t divulge too much personal info.
We barely have any privacy these days. Once someone learns a few personal deets about you – like your full name, where you work, or where you live – they can do some serious digging with the click of a button. When you’re chatting online, skip the specifics until you’ve met the person and confirmed they’re not a creep. The easiest way to do this is to focus the conversation on them. People love talking about themselves! If you like them, you can plan more dates to talk about your personal life.
Set your social media to private.
Then, scan your social media profiles and delete any identifying info, such as your phone number, workplace and school. If you want/need to stay on a public profile, that’s ok! Just use your common sense. For example, don’t post the hotel or Airbnb you’re staying at till after you’ve left.
Google your date.
Sure, stalking kills some of the mystery, but a girls gotta protect herself! Click around a bit to make sure everything the person is telling you is true. And watch for red flags. If you find your match on Facebook, but they have few friends and lots of photos that look like they belong in a modelling portfolio, keep your guard up. The same goes for Instagram – if every photo is a selfie, question why a) this person has no friends and b) they feel the need to post 784326 photos of themselves.
While you’re at it, run a reverse Google search to check for multiple profiles using the same photo. If a bunch of profiles pop up, you know you’re dealing with a fake account.
Snap new pics for your dating apps.
So, you’ve taken a BOMB selfie. You’re feeling yourself, and you know it’s going to rack up the likes and swipes. Before you update your profile pic on Facebook/Instagram/Happn, keep in mind that your date can copy and paste that photo into Google – and potentially find out your personal information. The solution? Change your outfit or backdrop, and take different photos for your dating apps. You’ve got this!
Of course, some dating apps are tied to social media accounts. It’s a way for the apps to verify your identity. You can’t control that – but you can protect your privacy by hiding your full name and social media handles.
People lie on their dating profiles allll the time. If your match is going on and on about their million-dollar mansion, yacht, or being besties with a celebrity, ask questions – just like you would if you were sitting with them at a bar. They could simply be a wanker. But if they stumble over the answers or get defensive, that could be a sign that they’re stretching the truth.
Avoid posting identifying photos.
Bought a new car? Moved into a new apartment? As proud of you are of these milestones, the tiniest details can reveal a lot of information. A street sign, house number or license plate can point a creep in the right direction.
Stay on the app for as long as possible.
It’s pretty common to switch over to text once you’ve been flirting for a while. But if you haven’t met in person yet, or you’re not completely sure how you feel, use the app’s messaging system for a little while longer. It’s annoying, but you’re protected on the app. You can report suspicious behaviour, and if someone harasses, offends or sends you inappropriate messages, the app’s support team will step in. Your digits are another link to you – creepers can pester you, or search your number online to see what else they can find out.
If you’re one of the three millennials who prefer talking on the phone, download the Google Voice app and get a free phone number. You can give that to your potential dates, and if it all goes tits up, you’ll have a much easier time blocking them.
SO, YOU’VE DECIDED TO MEET UP IRL…
Pick a public place.
Think cafes, restaurants, and bars where you’ll be surrounded by people. Most spots these days have a system in place for bad dates, such as sending a signal to the bartender by ordering a certain drink. Clever, right? Whatever you do, don’t meet anywhere you’ll be alone or far from civilisation – like a hiking trail. It sounds super romantic, but save it for when you know each other a little better.
Make your own way to the spot.
Letting your Tinder match pick you up for a first date isn’t the best idea. Not only will they know where you live, but you’ll be stuck in the car with a stranger – which could be awks or stressful. Hello, social anxiety! (And yes, we realise it’s the exact same thing every time you take an Uber, but adding a date to the mix just makes it worse). Insist on being Miss Independent and drive yourself or take public transport.
Tell a friend or family member where you’re going.
Check in with them while you’re on the date. Oh, and come up with a backup plan. That way, if your date is making you feel uncomfortable, you have your “gotta go!” excuse ready. On that note, don’t feel bad about leaving a date early. Our free time is precious, so there’s no reason why you should spend time with someone you’re not vibing.
Go easy on the booze.
You know your limits. Instead of downing 5 daiquiris to prove you can ‘keep up’ (or get through a god-awful date), sip on wine. Let’s face it: we all make better choices when we’re not blacked out! Watch your drink, too. If you’re busting to pee but haven’t finished your bev, tell your date they can have it. Or, you could cheekily tell the waiter there’s something wrong with your drink and you’d like a new one. #oops
PS. Check out our guide to dressing for a first date!
Words by Katia Iervasi.