With an uptick in online dating activity given the nation’s current quarantine and social distancing protocols, it’s time to review the basics of online dating safety. Whether you’re on Tinder to kill time or on Hinge to find a romantic partner (at a distance), here’s how to keep yourself safe online in the age of social distancing.
- Building Your Profile
Including a photo of you and your dog? Great. Listing your hobbies and what you’re looking for on the app or website? Also great. Displaying photos where a house address might be visible? Not great. When choosing photos to include on your online dating profile, make things individualized to indicate to others what kind of person you are, but double-check to make sure locations you frequent, your home, or other personal information isn’t distinguishable. As for your bio, stick to things you might tell people during a general icebreaker. Others can gauge you and your personality without having everything to know about you at their fingertips. Remember, online dating still means you’re interacting with people you don’t know, and sometimes, people who aren’t there for the right intentions.
- Talking to People In-App
Don’t. Continue. Speaking. To. People. Who. Make. You. Feel. Bad. You are empowered to block, remove, and/or stop speaking to anyone that makes you uncomfortable. Part of the beauty of online dating is that stopping unwanted interaction is easy! You don’t owe anyone an explanation. If someone continues to message you after you’ve stopped the conversation and you’re no longer interested (for whatever reason), block them. If people threaten you in any way, report them. Create a space where you feel comfortable and happy.
In that same vein, don’t feel pressured to do anything that makes you uncomfortable. If someone asks for your number and you feel good about that decision, go for it! If someone asks for a fun selfie and that makes you smile, go ahead! Any decision that makes you feel good is a good decision to make. However, you maintain the right to deny people if they ask for something and you don’t want to do it.
A note about explicit photos and videos – the same rules above apply, but maybe consider obscuring your face and/or background to protect yourself. Again, these are people you don’t know and you can’t be sure of their intentions.
- Moving From In-App Convos to Cell Phone Convos
The “right time” to give someone your personal number depends on you and you alone. It could be a few minutes into your online conversation. It could be a few days after. While this may have been a bigger step in the past (and it still is), now most smartphones let you block numbers from calls and messages. If anyone makes you uncomfortable after giving them your cell phone number, refer to the notes above. The same applies to other messaging apps and SnapChat.
At this point, it might be a good time for a Google search. This step is optional, but it’s another tool to use. If you know the person’s first and last name, a quick search can make you feel more safe, especially if you’re considering video chatting or continued texting. Another aspect of Google searching to use is the image search function (thanks, MTV’s Catfish). Download the person’s photo and back search it in Google Images. If the person you’re chatting with is using someone else’s photos, this is a good way to find out. The image search will link you to websites that the photos are originally sourced from.
Another route to take is to vet the person you’re talking to with a friend. Here’s how: swap social media handles with the person you’re talking to and look at your mutual friends. Reach out to one (or multiple) of the friends and just ask for a general run-through about the person you’re speaking to.
- The Call/The Video Chat
If someone refuses to call or video chat after you’ve had sustained messages with them, maybe reevaluate what’s going on. Yes, some people don’t feel comfortable with calling or video chatting right away; no worries, but a conversation should be had, especially if you see this going somewhere (as in scheduled FaceTime dates. Stay at home, folks). If you’ve had a conversation about calls and video chats to no avail, reassess what you want out of this interaction and how you want it to continue.
Online dating is the new medium for building connections. Romantic, purely sexual, platonic, a mix of the three—any relationship can be created on these platforms. But, creating a safe environment for these relationships to flourish is an equally important part of the process. Remember, you’re in charge of making your online platforms what you want them to be, not anyone else.
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