Back in the day, online dating seemed scary AF. How could you possibly go out with a total stranger? These days, it’s almost weird if you’re single and not dating this way. Of course, that doesn’t mean that dating apps are super safe. Here are some things you should be doing to protect yourself.
- Don’t use your full name. This might be a no-brainer but it might not be. Although you’re using a username on OkCupid and just your first name on Tinder, the guys that you chat with might want to look you up online. This is especially true if you’re a writer or have a creative job and they want to see what you do. It’s much safer to keep things on a first name basis for a while.
- Meet at a bar in another neighborhood. It might be super tempting to grab drinks at a go-to bar in your area whenever you’re meeting a guy from a dating app. You should definitely pick a bar in an area of your city or town where you don’t live. What if the guy is a total creep or jerk and you have to keep running him at your favorite bar? Or, worse, what if he gets obsessed with you and starts going there all the time? Better yet, pick a place you never go.
- Always tell someone where you’re going and when. Texting your BFF that you’ll be at a certain restaurant Friday night at 8 p.m. might seem like the oldest dating trick in the book. It’s an oldie but a goodie, as they say, because it’s a super safe thing to do.
- Have an excuse and an escape planned out. Whether you want to say that your stomach hurts or your friend needs help or that you have to go home and work, you should figure out ahead of time if things feel weird and you really want to leave. If you’re really stuck, ask your friends what they say when they’re in that situation. If they’re using dating apps, you can be sure they’ve got a few excuses up their sleeve.
- Always carry actual cash with you. The last thing that you want to do is have to wait to flag a waiter down to pay your bill when you really just want to GTFO because you’re using a debit or credit card. Always carry a few ten-dollar and twenty-dollar bills with you. That way, when you want to peace out, you can put down the money for your glass of wine.
- Never take the subway with your date. If you had a really fun date, it might seem totally natural to walk to the nearest subway station with them (or have them walk you to your car if you drive or live in a smaller town). But it’s a better idea to resist that urge. You never want a guy that you just met hours ago to know where you live, and if you take the subway with him, you run the risk of him getting off at the same stop as you or trying to walk you right to your apartment door. You might think that you’re being way too paranoid, but isn’t it better to be safe than sorry?
- Don’t assume anything about anyone. Everyone does it: you swear that you have an instant connection with this guy and that things are going to go super well. No, you don’t need a reason to leave early… because you won’t. No, you don’t need to think about being safe… because he’s your one true love and soulmate. News flash: that probably isn’t going to happen. Never assume that you’re going to like a guy before you meet him and always be prepared that he could be a total weirdo. Remember that although he might use emojis in a hilarious way on Tinder, he’s still a stranger.
- Don’t add a guy to your social media until things are almost official. OK, so it’s not like you’re going to wait until six months down the road to friend your new guy on Facebook or follow him on Instagram. It just makes more sense security-wise to wait a month or so—you know, until you feel like you really know this guy and can trust him. The last thing that you need is a creepy guy messaging you on Facebook. Sure, you can block him on any social media platform, but it’s so much easier to be careful early on.
- Never, ever feel bad or guilty for staying safe. Take it from someone who once left a first date after five minutes because the guy was super high and it was disturbing: it’s absolutely OK to look out for yourself. You might feel like you owe it to the guy to stay for at least an hour before you agreed to go out with him and it doesn’t seem super polite to leave early. Guess what? It’s completely fine to leave early. And it’s completely fine to admit that you feel unsafe. It doesn’t matter if your best friends tell you that you take things too seriously or are too paranoid. The only thing that matters is how you feel and that you follow your gut… which is true of anything in life, not just dating apps.