We all know online dating can be a hit or miss. People can represent someone completely different from who they really are; their pictures are outdated, or taken with tons of filters, they may create a person they want to be instead of who they really are. You can seem to hit it off for days then they completely disappear, or lose interest. We also face the issue of sex offender and predators, or incarcerated, using dating apps to seduce those unsuspecting for financial support, the list goes on.
When you are on a date you’re semi-alone or fully alone with a stranger.
A boring two-hour date is one thing, but dates can go much worse. Bad dating stories like the guy showing up at 2am and peeking through the sliding glass door, happens. He can, and will track down your parents home phone number and give them a call. These happened to my roommate after the first and only date she had with a guy she met off eHarmony.
If you’re new or a seasoned pro, you can still end up on a date that has you smacking your head within 10-minutes wondering how you’re going to get out of this one. Since it’s a lot easier to swipe them left while you’re laying in bed than if you’re already on a date with them, it’s worth the time to take a few extra planning steps before your date.
The first steps
When you’re meeting someone from an online platform spend time on their profile. Look for characteristics that throw you off, do they seem friendly, eager, too eager? Are they in a hurry to take the conversation more private and off the dating platform? Talk to them on the phone first, you can tell a lot about someone by chatting with them, plus you’ll likely get their number which can be useful for checking into them even further.
In your online presence
- Don’t use the same photos for your online dating site you use on other sites, like Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. Once google caches them, it’s nearly impossible to get them removed and they’re easy to trace back to you with programs like TinEye.
- Don’t post or send cell phone photos without removing the GPS geo tagging details your iPhone stores with your photo.
- Don’t use your private email. Use the online dating site’s platform, or use a VPN or private browser, so someone cannot track your IP address from your email.
- Don’t use an email that is your name. Make up a handle email that doesn’t consist of identifying details.
Before the date
- Google their name and google their phone number. If they’re involved with extra curricular activities like a softball committee, or they organize a weekend warriors meetup and they post their number to connect with others, that information is archived.
- Don’t have them pick you up, take yourself to the date.
- Don’t meet privately, meet in a public space.
- Don’t casually share personal information such as your last name, what neighborhood you’re coming from, or where you work, etc.
Ideas for a safer first date
- Suggest meeting over tea, coffee, or frozen yogurt, instead of drinks; the atmosphere is brighter, less chaotic, and it’s easier to talk.
- Go for a 20 or 30 minute walk in a busy public park.
- Join a tour group, like a Segway, food tour, class or bus tour. First dates aren’t meant to be intimate anyway, they’re designed to get to know someone.
- Choose bowling over a movie – it’s easier to have a conversation and there are people around.
- Don’t plan long drawn out dates for the first time or two, it’s much harder to find something to talk about and burn time if you just don’t hit it off.
When you are on a first date
- Don’t leave your drink alone
- Don’t leave your purse/wallet laying around – if you go to the dance floor, or step away from the table you don’t want someone to peek at your drivers license for information.
- If you drive yourself, take precautions where you park, don’t make it obvious which car you drove, you don’t want them jotting down your license plate or even follow you home.
- Don’t invite them home unless you’re absolutely certain you feel safe with them
If you take the date to a less public place
Sometimes your idea of a date may be somewhere less public, like hiking, and you don’t know them that well. There are more thorough vetting techniques available.
- Google their handle. People often use the same handle for many platforms, across social media, and different dating sites.
- Perform a reverse image search for their images.
- If you have their information, visit their Facebook page, Instagram, or other social media.
- If you have their name you can perform a quick background check on Instantcheckmate. If they have a history with the police, sexual offenses, felonies, or complaints from others, you’ll find out.
- A background service to keep your eye on is Garbo, designed specifically for dating sites, they make it easier to know if your date has a record of violence though public records.
If you keep your dating life private and don’t want to tell a friend or family member your plans
- Safety apps, like Kitestring acts as a go-getween to checks in via text and alerts your emergency contacts if needed
- Wearable jewelry such as Get Flare and Invisawear have an internal alert system and are options that may bring some peace of mind.
If alarm bells go off during a date
If something doesn’t feel completely right and you’re in a public place, you can always cut the date short by simply saying your plans have changed and you have commitments to attend. If you feel threatened for your safety, and you’re in a public space, talk to a waitress or security guard. Don’t leave in your car, call a cab or an uber, and don’t go straight to your place, call up a friend and have them meet you somewhere, you don’t want them following and you lead them to your place unaware.
Even with all this to think about dating should be enjoyable! The key is to pay attention to your instincts. It tells us when we have chemistry with someone, when we’re attracted to them, and when something seems off. Listen to it. Your intuition is going to tell you how to be safe, or safer, on a date. Lastly, have fun! After all, that’s what dating is about.