Once upon a time, online dating was an idea on the fringe of social awareness. Now, according to the Pew Research Center, 30% of U.S. adults—almost 1 in 3—have tried online dating, and over a third of those who’ve used an online dating service have entered into a committed relationship (or even a marriage) with someone they met online.
It’s possible that online dating will soon become the standard way to meet new people and form lasting relationships. For now, if you use a dating service and are considering meeting up with someone you met online, there are some essential tips to consider that will protect you from “stranger danger.” Just like in real life relationships, you don’t really know a person until you’ve been with them a while. Follow our tips for online dating safety and avoid potential heartache (or worse).
1. Be vigilant and discerning.
Be careful and observant of everything the person says online. Have they told an off-color joke that you didn’t appreciate? Used a racial slur? Made inappropriate comments or acted overly familiar too early in the relationship? Anything your date says or does online is a preview of their real personality. If you don’t like what you see, it’s totally okay to bail out.
2. Call them up.
We know, we know: “Who actually calls people anymore?” But hearing your date’s voice and engaging them in conversation before meeting up in person will allow you to get a feel for what interacting with them will entail. A phone call is good, but a video chat is better because you can also observe their facial expressions and body language, both of which can communicate even more clearly than words.
3. Tell a friend and a family member.
Better yet, bring one with you if you’re planning to meet your date in person. If that’s not possible or feels too awkward for you, at least tell a friend and a close family member where you’re going and whom you are meeting. Share your date’s contact information with them so they’ll have it in case of an emergency. Make sure they know what time to expect you back, so they’ll know right away if something has happened.
4. Meet in a public place and drive separately.
Under no circumstances should you find yourself alone with your date on your first date. This is important for dating in general, but it’s especially important for online dating safety.
5. Take a personal security device (PSD) with you.
For added security and peace of mind, take a personal security device with you on your date and keep it discreet but handy at all times. The Topps Security Key Fob is an excellent choice because it attaches to your keys and is easy to keep hidden until you need to use it. It comes with a charger so you can carry it during the day and charge it by your bedside at night for easy access to emergency services in the event of a break-in or home invasion. There’s even an option to wear it like a watch, so it’s a great accessory for everyday use.
Your safety is paramount, and the anonymity of online dating has led to disastrous consequences time and time again. If the situation you’re in starts to make you feel uncomfortable in any way, you are not obligated to stick around through the whole date, even if your date paid for your food. As the hosts of the popular true-crime podcast Crime Junkie say, the key to survival is that it’s okay to “be weird, be rude, stay alive.” And Topps can help you do that.