Digital technology, especially smart devices, has transformed many aspects of our society, including how people meet each other and establish relationships – romantic or otherwise, hence the rise in what we call ‘Online Dating’.
How we conduct our relationships is changing, and it’s clear that technology has a key part to play in this change. People are now not only turning to their devices to work, shop, and play, but to manage their personal lives and relationships too.
Online dating is pretty much the standard today, and it makes sense with the technology-driven world that we have at our fingertips, but with all the ease that our internet activity adds to our lives, people often don’t take into consideration online dating safety.
Technology breaks down barriers, and in the case of internet dating apps it breaks down our normal skepticism and comfort that comes with meeting people in person. It allows us to connect and get to know people without actually getting to know them — and that illusion of connection can make online dating particularly dangerous.
Online dating seems ideal for tech-savvy singles, you can contact potential partners from the comfort of your couch, within the safety and confines of your own home, but online dating isn’t that safe.
While many people online are normal, average individuals — people probably looking for something similar to what you are, there are others within that pool of eligible bachelors that are simply predators, and the problem with the online platform is that it’s incredibly hard to separate the bad from the good.
So why are these people going online to start up relationships with others? Certainly, online dating provides all the convenience of making it quick and easy to meet people. Plus, it’s an activity that’s available across multiple devices, at all times of day and night, also in this period where almost every activity seems to be taken online, due to the pandemic, it seems only natural for people to do so.
However, in order to steer clear from heartbreak, and stories that might actually touch, here are some basic rules to follow while dating online:
Keep It To The App
It just seems that people are itching to jump off the platform you met and into Whatsapp or iMessage. It’s rare that you get past ten messages without a thinly-veiled request for a phone number — ‘can I text you, I’m not always on the app it’ll be much easier’ or ‘my app keeps freezing or misbehaving, here’s my number’.
Apps have safety features that your phone doesn’t, and while apps are obviously first designed as businesses, they are designed with users’ safety in mind. They have reporting and block features that you as a user can turn to if you feel unsafe or uncomfortable.
The question you should ask yourself is “why the eagerness to switch from the platform to having your personal number”?
If you want to talk to someone via phone, either you use the capabilities within the app or set up a specific phone line via an online app.
While most dating websites nowadays require a first name, it’s important to restrict the flow of additional information to remain at least somewhat anonymous.
By “personal information” it means:
Your last name
Your address (or other prominent identifiers of where your home is)
Your social security or insurance number
Try to be as anonymous as possible. Never give away information that identifies you, such as your surname, where you work, or other details in your profile or when initially making contact, or really any other identifying information. Saying “I’m a lawyer at “James Harvey Chambers” can help someone easily access other information with a simple Google search: “John Maxwell at James Harvey Chambers” is likely to bring up your profile.
While this seems obvious, it’s incredibly easy to get caught up in the online romance. Therefore, it’s important to keep online dating safety top of mind when it comes to the information you share.
If it feels wrong, get out
If someone is making you uncomfortable, stop talking to them. Block them, report them if necessary, and end the conversation for good.
If you’re getting uncomfortable or feeling vulnerable in an online setting, that’s a good indication that you need to end your conversation. Don’t go any further, no matter how cute they may be.
Remember everyone is wearing a mask
Okay, the person you talk to may sound super-sweet and it may seem like you’ve landed that special someone, but anyone can hide behind the screen and wear a mask. For all you know, you could be talking to someone who’s as evil as it gets. “Never emotionally invest in anyone until you meet face-to-face. Even if you decide to keep it strictly on an online basis, you are still talking to a ‘ghost’, so keep it basic.
Most times, people lie and portray another personality. There is a story of a young girl who shared sexual messages with a man on Instagram, who pretended to be younger and single. He was actually married. When confronted, he simply ran away and the girl was devastated. So, always meet a person and then decide. Allowing a stranger into your life has its risks and when someone is behind a screen, it’s harder to figure them out.
Wait before you ‘add as a friend’
Take things slowly. You may be excited at the prospect of a relationship, but you shouldn’t be quick to add people up as friends. Remember the person is still a stranger. You may be adding the person into your online world too early.
“When I met this guy online, he seemed shy and was happy to talk to me. In two days, we had exchanged a lot about each other’s worlds — work, families even our exercise mantras, that I saw no harm adding him to my Facebook page. To my horror, he started to post likes on my friends’ page without thinking that I won’t like it. Soon, he got friendly with a friend’s friend.”
Don’t rush to get intimate
A common modus operandi is to sweet-talk a person to share risqué photos or other intimate material, which can then be used to blackmail them. “You can never gain trust through a screen, so do not exchange any information or photos that are private. It’s like giving someone access to your own life and you do not know how the other person will use it. If someone genuinely likes you, calls you a ‘soulmate’, etc., talk to him or her first. If you trust the person, meet, and see how attracted you are in reality.”
Shine your Eyes…There are Scammers everywhere
This is something women and men continually fall prey to. Never pay anyone or reveal your financial details online; it leads to disastrous results. A lot of people have lost all their savings, including post-retirement funds in a dating website fraud. So, brush aside any emotional talk that is used to get you to extend help, monetary or otherwise.
Don’t go by others’ experiences
Okay, one of your pals has found her Mr. Right online and had a happy-ever-after, but it doesn’t mean the same will happen to you. Not all online romances end up this way. Upside? There are loads of singles out there looking for a nice partner, so keep the search on.
On a final note, it is advisable that when it comes to online dating, you are to be very careful as it is an open market with all sorts of vendors. Stay in the open to meet, there will always be better offers, do not reveal what will hurt you, if it turns out not to be what you expected, don’t mope. There are singles out there ready to mingle.
Jenny Soul is a passionate relationships expert, dating counselor and sales coach. She is also a songwriter, performer and mum. When she is not writing, she engages in counselling sessions and motivational speeches to young people.