Real Tips for Online Dating Your Friends Should Tell You: Protect Yourself

by: Danielle Ternyila

Social media has completely revolutionized the dating game with apps like Tinder, Hinge, and Bumble, for better or for worse. While one could weigh both sides, the pros and cons, I don’t think it matters at this point; dating apps are here to stay, and I personally wouldn’t have it any other way. We do everything on our phones today anyway, from wishing friend’s birthdays and announcing graduations.

Full disclosure, I found my love on Bumble in 2019, so while I may be a big supporter of online dating, it’s also been a long time since I downloaded these apps myself. That said, I have some tips to keep in mind to protect yourself and your safety as you indulge in the world of online dating. After all, we grew up on “Don’t talk to strangers on the internet.”

If you choose to download a dating app, take precaution. These tips are here to help you learn how to navigate this online dating world and the cautions you should take. Be smart, and be safe!

#1 – Meet in a Public Place

I hope I don’t really have to tell you not to invite a stranger into your home, but you should always be meeting in public places, like a restaurant, Starbucks, or even your local trivia night. No matter how long you may have been talking to someone on your dating apps and despite how well you think you know them, DO NOT meet them in a private place and put yourself in a potentially difficult or dangerous situation.

My top recommendation would be your local coffee shop or an entertaining dinner, whether there is a band playing, a jukebox to mess around with, or sports TVs. I’d avoid bars and alcohol for obvious safety reasons, but a restaurant with some energy can give you something to talk about and keep the mood light.

#2 – Share Your Location With Someone You Trust

Whether it’s your mom, your best friend, or your cousin, keep someone in the know of what’s going on with you and your dating apps, by either texting them your planned whereabouts for an upcoming date or simply “sharing” your location from your phone. You don’t have to involve them in every detail, but someone should know the name of the person you’re talking to, where you’re meeting, and what time to hear from you again after a date.

No matter what, I always sent a text before every date to my sister or a close friend, and I tell all my friends and cousins partaking in the online dating world to do the same. I didn’t always go into tons of detail every time, but someone always knew who I was seeing, where, and when. It’s better safe than sorry.

My parents are very understanding about the online dating world, which often made it easier for me than I know it did my other friends. If you aren’t comfortable telling your parents about your internet dates, I truly recommend telling a trusted friend everything, then letting your parents know you’re with that friend or that they know all the details if something happens. As much as you might not want to let them in, it’s better they know the absolute best person to call first if you don’t come home that night.

#3 – Be Mindful of Your Personal Information

It’s easier than you think for someone to track you down on the internet, especially with something as simple as a mutual photo in your dating profile and your personal social media accounts or your license plate in the background of your dating app profile pic. Pay attention to what you are sharing on your dating app profiles and how much information anyone could gain from it.

Don’t give out your personal information, blah blah blah, and all that your parents told you growing up. But more seriously, some things you might want to reconsider sharing would be your location, place of work, school, or any other places someone could find you at. After talking to someone for a few weeks on an app, you might feel comfortable sharing that you are working all alone on a shift one night; if you told them a few days earlier that you worked at the Dunkin Donuts in Citytown, they have enough information to surprise with you a visit when you’re alone, and I can’t emphasize how dangerous any situation like this could be.

A good rule of thumb for me was picking a large nearby city to say I was from instead of my actual hometown, and . I spoke generally about my job, instead speaking to the responsibilities I held and my title instead of a location and Google-able address.

#4 – Don’t Share Your Personal Social Media Accounts

I spoke early about being wary of sharing the same photos in your dating profile as you do on your personal social’s, but we should emphasize why we also should not let our potential suitors follow us online.

Unfortunately, you’re going to meet more than just 1 person online that you would want to follow you on social and you them to keep tabs or continue the flirt. However, each time you let someone new follow you, you’re making yourself more vulnerable. Again, they will have access to so much information with that alone, along with a username you probably use across multiple accounts, and when things go south (because they so easily can and will), there’s the chance you don’t even remember or bother to unfriend them online.

#5 – Rushing Is a Red Flag

First off, if you feel any pressure to meet someone by a specific deadline, whether it’s a reunion or wedding, or you feel some need to check the box before a certain age, you are going into the apps under false pretenses from the start. A person is not your “quick fix” to happiness, nor should it ever be an essential accessory.

For your safety, however, you need to take your time in meeting someone, getting to know them, and introducing them to your life. How much you’re willing to share with someone depends on your comfort levels, but there is no reason to feel pressured to tell them everything within a few weeks of knowing them. If there is pressure to meet sooner, move things faster, or share more than you’re comfortable, that is a red flag. There should never be a reason that you can’t wait if it’s worth it. You have time, I promise.

Any other red flags that pop up or make you question anything should signal to you that you need to stop and reevaluate the situation. Your time is too valuable to waste it on second, third, and regrettable chances, and don’t let anyone lead you to believe otherwise. You deserve only the best, so make that your priority.