Both real dating and online dating can have dangers. Most people are awesome and just looking to meet other awesome people — but as you might have guessed or even experienced, there are some Grade A Creepers out there, too. It can be especially dangerous on the internet, and you have to take some special steps to protect yourself.
And men — this goes for you, too! Everyone should be cautious dating online, regardless of their gender or the gender of their chosen partner. Partners of any gender can get creepy, so it’s important for everyone to protect their physical safety when dating. In an ideal world, we wouldn’t have to worry about any of this stuff — but unfortunately, we do have to worry about it.
1. BE CAREFUL WHERE AND WHAT YOU SHARE
Be careful where you share your online dating profile. A link to your dating profile on your Facebook might not be protected. There’s no reason to hide that you’re dating online — but don’t post a link to your profile in public on Facebook. If someone you know wants to see your profile and you’re comfortable sharing with them, send the link in a private message or e-mail. Don’t post it in public. The public is full of creeps, and you don’t want those creeps to have your link.
Be careful of what you put on your profile. Too much information is a bad thing — some people are really, really good at using the Internet to find out all sorts of things. These things usually don’t occur to most people… for example:
- Posting your general location (even “Northern New Jersey” for example) and the type of work you do, if that work is rare, could help someone figure out exactly where you work. If your occupation is “Organic Grassfed Chicken Tamer” and there’s only one organic grassfed chicken farm in Northern New Jersey, that makes things pretty easy, huh?
- Did you know someone can find your dating site profile photo on other websites, if you’re using them everywhere? All it takes is a Google search. Make sure your dating profile pictures are unique, and use them only for dating sites.
- Avoid posting a “daily routine.” If you post on your dating profile every day at 9:23 that you’re getting your caramel macchiato at Dunkin, people can probably figure out where you’re located (if you ever posted a status update with location data, if you ever posted a picture of the street where your Dunkin is located, etc.).
Make sure you’re not giving too much information away in your dating profiles. The point isn’t to be an un-find-able ghost everywhere but the dating site… just be aware of what you are sharing, and be safe in sharing.
Never use a dating site to log into any other services and never use social media to log into a dating site. Using your Google account to log into a dating site might seem convenient… until you click some hidden option that suddenly reveals to all 958 of your Facebook friends that you’re very, very into the BDSM scene. Not that there’s anything wrong with BDSM — it’s just not something most people want their Great Aunt Tilly from Nebraska to see.
2. USE YOUR SLEUTHING SKILLS
Search your potential partners. In this day and age, if you aren’t using social media in some form, you’re kind of weird (not quite creepy, but a little… odd). If you don’t find any evidence of their existence outside of their dating profile site… be cautious. They might be using an alias, and that’s usually a pretty bad sign. They might be married (super creeper!) or otherwise looking for trouble.
They might also just be cautious and safe about their personal information, which is fine — see the previous point. You’re trying to do the same thing. So — how do you tell a creeper from a non-creeper, if everyone’s just trying to be cautious? A creeper will demand your personal info while providing little of their own. They’ll be pushy and rude about your personal info boundaries, all the while withholding from you.
Learn to tell the difference between someone who’s just trying to play it safe on the Wild West of the Internet — and somebody who might not have your best interests at heart. It’s not easy, and anyone can make mistakes — but if you know what to look for, creeps will often send big red flags.
3. IF DATING, LEAVE A NOTE
If you’re meeting someone for the first time, let a friend know exactly where and who you’re meeting. Plan to call this friend when the date’s over, and let the friend know to call the police if they don’t hear from you within a reasonable amount of hours. Hopefully, your friend will never have to make that call — but if they do, they’ll have enough information to help the police.
Make sure to write down:
- The name of the person you’re meeting.
- How you met this person on the Internet and where (include their username and any other relevant info).
- The place where you’re meeting.
- Your phone number, and the phone number of the person you’re meeting.
- The time you plan to call your friend to let them know the date went well.
4. DELETE AND SWAP YOUR PROFILE IF YOU HAVE TO
If you’re getting a lot of harassing messages from someone on your account, you may have to abandon your old profile. You can try reporting the user to the dating service you’re using, but they’re not always helpful. Sometimes you have to take matters into your own hands. Besides, it’s annoying to wait weeks for them to get around to responding to your help request when you’re getting a bunch of nasty messages now.
You can consider leaving your old profile up and active, without blocking your harasser. That way, there’s a greater possibility your harasser will think you’re still using your old profile, just ignoring them. Hopefully, the enticing old profile will keep them from looking for your new profile. Make sure to change your information and pictures — sorry, it sucks! Better safe than sorry, though. And be sure to block the person or people who were harassing you previously. They can probably make a new account, too — but at least if you block them, it might take them a bit longer to figure everything out.
ITEMS FOR STAYING SAFE WHEN YOU DATE
Unfortunately, all the safety tips in the world aren’t always going to protect you. Sometimes you’ll meet bad people even when you’ve taken every precaution in the world. For even more protection, you should carry certain items with you.
DATE RAPE DRUG DETECTION
Sabre Red Date Rape Drug Detection Coasters are great for nights at the bar. Although we all know to never leave a drink unattended, that doesn’t guarantee our safety. These testing strips provide a way to test for the most common date-rape drug, GHB.
EMERGENSEE: SELF-PROTECTION APP
EmergenSee is a great way to make sure of your safety. This application provides a way for you to instantly transmit your data — video, audio, GPS location — to your contacts. If you’re in serious trouble, EmergenSee can help you alert the right people.
Police Magnum OC-17 Pen Design Pepper Spray with UV Dye, Black, .5-Ounce is an excellent product for two reasons. First — pepper spray is one of the best personal protection items you can buy. Second — this particular brand of pepper spray also contains UV dye. Tag your attacker with the spray, and the UV dye provides a way for the perpetrator to be identified.