1) First and foremost, online dating is meant to supplement your daily human-to-human interactions. It is not meant to replace it. Make sure that before you even visit a potential site, you set boundaries. For example: no more than 20 minutes a day using the site. Also, make sure that your in-person interactions far outweigh the amount of time your spend browsing online.
2) Never reveal personal information on your profile. Do not give your name, address, or phone number. Instead, use your non-personal email for communication. Non-personal email accounts are not attached to your work or your internet service provider and do not contain your name in the email address line. You can get a free email account from Gmail, Yahoo, or dozens of other sites. These are easy to use and help you keep your dating mail separate from your other communications.
3) When talking with someone, remember that you know nothing about this person. The key to staying safe in online dating is staying aware. People who trick others into believing that they are someone else are very good at what they do. They may talk to you for a bit and find out a great deal about what you like or dislike, then model themselves on that information. Be careful about someone who seems ‚too good to be true. He or she probably is.
4) Always meet in pre-arranged public places. Tell friends or family where you are going, and call or text when you arrive and leave. It might be a good idea to ask a friend to call you at a pre-arranged time so that you do not lose track of time. You should have a flight plan for the first three dates you have with any individual that you share with someone trustworthy. If there is a problem, your friend will be much more likely to be able to help you if he or she knows where you are, who you are with, and what you are doing.
5) If you feel uncomfortable, leave. This is probably the hardest advice to follow in online dating. All of us have been in situations in which we felt somewhat uncomfortable but did not want to be rude. Remember, if someone makes you uncomfortable on a first date, you have no business going out with him or her again, so the best thing to do is end the date quickly and leave.
6) If possible, have someone drive you to the date and pick you up when you call. This means that the person you meet will not have your license plate or a description of your vehicle. This may seem like overkill, but your personal information is available to someone who is dedicated enough to find it, so minimize your information exposure on the first few dates.
7) Use good judgment. If someone does not return emails or texts, move on. There are far too many potential dates online for you to worry about someone who seems flaky. Also, you risk looking pushy if you try too hard to communicate with someone who is obviously not interested.
Online dating presents a world of life changing opportunity, both positive and negative. If used safely and responsibly, it can help you find the love of your life. It can connect you to a soul mate who lives in a part of the country or world that you have never travelled.
It can give you a chance to bond with people that you never might have met otherwise. However, it can also allow you to fall victim to predators and ill-natured folks. Just like any other endeavor in life, one must exercise a great deal of caution when meeting folks online so that you don’t become addicted to online life, and so that you don’t get hurt by ill-willed people. Stay safe in your online dating efforts, but above all, have fun!
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