3 Ways to Navigate Online Dating Apps: Casual Connections, Scam Protection, and More
The SMSNA periodically receives and publishes ‘guest editorials.’ The current article was submitted by Mia Barnes, a freelance writer and researcher who specializes in women's health, wellness, and healthy living. She is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Body+Mind Magazine.
Online dating is both exhilarating and terrifying. You may meet your soulmate through it, but the internet can be a dangerous place. Since meeting online is the most popular way to form new relationships, here’s a guide for navigating the experience.
- Do Your Research
There are over 1,500 dating websites and apps across the globe, but not all will suit you. Some cater to hookups, while others aim toward people wanting a long-lasting relationship. If you want to meet people who share your interests, religion or age range, there's a dating app for it. If you want to keep your options open, consider platforms that don't cater to a specific audience.
Though there are plenty of reputable sites out there, there are also scams. Try websites that have a solid reputation and plenty of users. If you're unsure about a site, take advantage of any trial periods that don't require putting in your personal or payment information.
You can find out if a dating site is legit through customer reviews, Better Business Bureau ratings and word of mouth.
- Carefully Craft Your Profile
You can do a lot with a dating website profile, but there are a few things to keep in mind. Never put your address, phone number or any other personal information in the profile. While there are likely plenty of good people on the site, there are probably a few people with poor intentions as well. Always protect yourself first.
What should you put on your profile? If you’re comfortable, you can post pictures of yourself in non-identifying locations. Feel free to post that pic of you at Disney World, but avoid one in front of your street sign. Let your photos show your personality.
You can also list your hobbies, age, city or state, religion or anything else you’d want a prospective partner to know before they say “hello.”
It’s best to avoid people whose profile shows signs of catfishing. If someone seems too good to be true, they might be. Look out for any signs of a scam. You can perform a reverse image search to ensure they didn’t steal it.
- Take Precautions for In-Person Meetups
Taking precautions when meeting up for the first time is essential, whether you're looking for a hookup or a long-term relationship. Only go out with someone you met online if a friend or family member has the person's name and picture, where you'll be and how long you expect to be there. Most people you meet will be fine, but it's good to have insurance if your date is dangerous.
Always bring protection if you intend on having sex. Condoms can prevent sexually transmitted infections (STIs), while hormonal birth control can’t.
It's good to have an out if you're uncomfortable with the meeting. Have a code word or phrase to text a friend or family member if you want an excuse to leave. They can then call you with a fake emergency you need to handle. Never be afraid to lie on a first date if you feel unsafe. It's not always sinister. Some people use this tactic if they don't feel a connection but don't want to be rude.
Most of all, prepare for a good time. While it is important to be safe, you could have an amazing time. Don't self-sabotage by thinking how it could go wrong. Confidence is a choice and can reflect in your words, body language and sexual performance.
Safely Navigating Online Dating
Online dating can be a rewarding experience if you're open to it. However, it's just as important to protect your physical and mental safety. With these tips, you can begin safely exploring who the internet offers.
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