Safety Advice for Internet Dating

heart for post about dating online and advice for safety

[CW: Stalking, verbal abuse]

What to Share Right Away and What to Save for Later

For online dating, it may seem strange, but the truth is, there are a lot of normal, personal things you do not need to share, nor should you share, on your account profile.

For instance, someone doesn't need to know your name to get to know you well enough to find out if you might be compatible. They don't need to know your exact location. They don't need to know your job title and place of employment, either. And I would recommend not sharing those details until you meet someone in person and get a good sense of what they're like.

Now, I'm not an expert on how to find a great match on a dating app. But that's not the point of this post. This is about being as safe as possible while meeting strangers on the internet. Please take my advice, so you don't have to encounter the same trouble I unfortunately have.

Follow Your Flight Instincts - Ignore Your Common Courtesy Inclinations

Eventually, after enough alarming incidents, I took up the practice of block and deleting immediately. Once I didn't like someone online, I didn't give them the courtesy of an explanation, which would be my natural inclination. After determining you are no longer interested in someone, I recommend you just block them, delete the messages, and disappear.

This seems terribly rude, but if you spend even a little time looking at a site like "Bye Felipe," you will see why. All too often, once a person receives rejection, they lash out. It's a horrifying phenomenon that I think is a combination of online impersonal anonymity mixed with, in many cases, toxic masculinity that feeds a reaction of abusiveness in the face of rejection. Fun stuff! That's why it's important to put safety first, above all else. You never know who you are dealing with on the other end of an account.

Personal Information Should Stay Private Until You Meet Face-to-Face

I recommend that you never give your real name or any personal details--like your job, or where you actually live--on your dating profile. I recommend further that you state this upfront on your profile. So for a name, I would provide something that was obviously not your name, like "NotJaneDoe." Provide a zip code that is nearby, but not exact. I also never gave my actual age, either, both for privacy and principaled reasons (I just don't think it's really relevant). But I also said as much right in my profile.

You don't want to provide anything that would make you "google"-able to a person who was dangerous. So, no first name, last name, social media information, or job information. It's not fun to hear, but before I took such measures to protect myself, I encountered people who gleaned this information off of my profile, and--upon my rejection of them--used it to stalk me online via Twitter, Facebook, email and the like.

Do Not Give Out Your Phone Number or Social Media Details for Off-App Messaging

The messaging function for many dating sites are a pain in the butt. You can't send photos and alerts about a message from a person you're enjoying talking to can get mixed in with a bunch from people who you aren't that into.

So, if you want to go off-app to talk to someone, DO NOT give out your phone number, nor your public social media information, like Snap or IG, to DM.

I used a secondary app like Kik. You can also create a Gmail account specifically for online dating and use Google Hangouts, Voice or plain old email for messaging. You could also create a social media account just for online dating as well, like SnapChat, and use the direct messaging function there. Do not include any of your personal information, and do not make social media friend "connections" with people you know in real life, or, obviously, with your public account. You want to stay as anonymous as possible with the accounts you're interacting with, for safety's sake.

Your First Face-to-Face Meeting

Plan to meet the person for something very quick and casual. You must insist on meeting face-to-face in a public spot. No matter the reason for your connection, be it a casual FWB arrangement or if you're looking for something more serious, never ever ever meet somewhere private--like your home or their home. If it turns out they're not your type, you don't want them knowing this personal information about you, in case they turn out to be terrible at accepting rejection.

I usually met for a coffee, or a "drink and a snack." Don't plan anything more than that for the first meeting, like a movie or an event, because if you don't like them, you will have to spend more time than you wish with them. Make that casual plan at a place near you, that has parking, and has an affordable menu. Plan it as early in the day or night as possible.

You want it to be near you, so that you can get home quickly if something doesn't work out. More on this in a second.

You want it to have parking so that it's easy for you and them to get there. If you're in a city, pick a place that's easy to get to by public transportation but also has a place to park, so you and the other person have mulitple options for getting there.

You want it to have an affordable menu because the whole "splitting the bill" thing, or "does the guy cover the check" thing for male-female first dates, is akward AF in these times. If you pick a place that's affordable, you can easily cover your half of the bill. Or if the other person offers to pay, you aren't asking them to spend a lot on this quick date.

You want to plan it early in the day or evening so that, if you're not enjoying yourself, you can do something else after you've said your goodbyes with that other person.

How to Avoid Flakes

A flake is someone who makes a plan with you but then flakes out on the plan, either by canceling at the last minute or being a no-show. I have encountered this often with online dating. (One time I was flaked on by one guy who was a no-show, even after I'd taken my prevention steps. Since I was already out and I looked cute, I stayed out and then I ended up meeting someone else that night!)

To prevent as many flakes as possible, I recommend checking in with the person you made plans with about 4 hours before you are to meet. So if you're due to meet at 6 or 7, check in at 2 or 3. If you don't hear back from them at an hour before you are supposed to meet up, then cancel the date yourself. They are probably on the verge of flaking on you.

I would say something like, "Hey I haven't heard back from you yet and I have this other thing that I need to get done, so I am going to go ahead and make other plans for tonight. If some emergency has come up and you haven't had a chance to message me, just get in touch sometime tonight or tomorrow and let me know what's up. Hope all is well." They then have 24 hours to get back to you by saying something like, "Sorry my dog ate a massive chocolate bar and I had to rush to the vet and take care of her all night. She's fine now, but I'm just getting a chance ot catch up on messages right now, so so sorry about our plans. When can we reschedule?"

If something along those apologetic and legitimate-seeming reasons are not given within that 24 hour period, that person is a complete and total a$$hole who doesn't give a crap about your and your time. Do not say another word to them. Just block them on all the apps you're communicating on. Delete their messages, too. (It may be better to do so after taking a screen shot of their profile and emailing their pic and description to yourself to make a note in case they reappear on a dating app under a new account or on a different app. Then you can say, "this guy seems familiar" and search your email messages to find out "oh yeah--been there, done that, block delete goodbyyyyeeee.")

This isn't completely foolproof method of avoiding flakes, though. I employed this the last internet date I made, and had an affirmed, "Yep, still on. Can't wait!" at three hours beforehand, only to have a no-show. This is another reason to make a date close to home. If they no-show, you can get back to the comfort of your own home, where you can rage at the rudeness of people and the fecklesness of contemporary match-making apps in private.

The flake and ghosting factors in online dating are another reason why it's good to keep your information private. Once they disappear, you can at least be assured that this dillhole doesn't know your info.

But How Do You Know If You're Compatible If You Don't Share Private Information?

What's funny is that you don't need to know the "job application" type things about a person in order to get to know whether you think you'll be compatible romantically with them.

You can get to know if a person is compatible by using the questions that a place like OkCupid provides. You can find out what common interests you have, which other social sites provide. You can find out what they value socially. What hobbies they enjoy. How they like to spend a free day. What do they like to watch or read or eat? Those are things that help with determining compatibility, and those are things you can provide without providing private details.

What Do I Do If the Other Person Doesn't Want to Talk to Me Unless I Do Give My Info?

Anyone who has a problem with you saying, "I prefer to keep that information private until I know a person better," is telling you something important about themselves, and how they think of you. You know right away they're the type you need to worry about. They're pretty much the reason why you don't provide those things.

Because a quality human being, who is aware of what it's like "out there," would immediately be sensitive to your need to feel safe around them. They would do everything in their power to make you feel comfortable around them. And they would show you from the very beginning that they are capable of caring about you and therefore someone you can trust.

a quality human being, who is aware of what it's like "out there," would immediately be sensitive to your need to feel safe around them

When Do I Give Out That Information?

Once you meet and begin talking, if you feel comfortable, give your first name, once your gut says it's okay. After the first date/meet up, once you're on your second meet up, you can start to discern if it's okay to divulge more information. I always recommend keeping your "person info" cards close to the vest until a healthy amount of trust and bonding has occurred.

It's a jungle out there! Stay safe!!!