In this day and age, nearly everyone knows someone, or is someone, who has met and then dated someone online. Twenty five years ago the idea of flying cross country to meet a potential mate face to face, who you had only previously known over the internet, was something that only happened on the big screen. Now cross country flights, casual coffee dates, and “I’ll be the one wearing the yellow dress” meet ups take place nearly every day. But are these meet ups safe or is there a need for self-protection associated with them?
Research shows that 61% of internet users who claim no romantic involvement, acknowledge internet dating as a viable option for finding a companion. Research also shows that 79% of current patrons of online dating sites believe online dating is a satisfying way to meet people. Further research supports these beliefs as the growing trend to meet people online is becoming more and more commonplace. Some even suppose online dating may be taking the place of more conventional methods of meeting people.
As these trends rise, the question must be raised: Is online dating safe or dangerous? Is there a need for self-defense when meeting up with a complete stranger? How can I protect myself if I decide to meet someone face to face?
When dating online, it is a good idea to abide by some simple personal safety rules:
• Keep your contact information private until you are absolutely positive you want to share it.
• Double check the profile picture. It is sad but true that some people post pictures of models or others in order to hide their own image. Run a reverse image search on Google to determine if a profile picture has been used elsewhere.
• Spend time getting to know the person. Ask a lot of questions and look for inconsistencies. If one day he/she tells you they attended college in California and the next week it’s Colorado, there’s a red flag on the play.
• Listen to YOU! Remember Jiminy Cricket from Pinocchio? Hopefully you don’t have a talking cricket chirping in your ear, but you certainly have a conscience or personal intuition. If something doesn’t feel right, it isn’t right. If something seems too good to be true, it probably is.
Once a potential date has made it through the gauntlet of online dating and you’ve decided to meet face to face, follow these guidelines:
• Only meet in public places.
• Stay in the public place for the first few dates. If you feel pressured to leave this is another red flag on the play.
• Make sure someone knows where you are going. Tell your friend, your mom, your sibling, your psychic. Tell anyone you want, but make sure someone knows.
• Don’t drink! Sure, a drink or two can help break the ice but it can also lower your self-defenses.
• Bring your own set of wheels. Never get in a car with a stranger. Didn’t we learn this in kindergarten? It still holds true for adults. Unless you’re ubering or taking a taxi, you should each drive your own vehicle to and from the public meeting place.
• Carry pepper spray. No matter how careful you are in following safety guidelines when meeting face to face with a potential mate, you can never plan for every situation. Feel empowered and reassured of your self-protection by always carrying your best safety plan – pepper spray.
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