Seven Tips for Safer Online Dating
Online dating is no longer considered weird and certainly isn’t exclusively for the socially awkward nerd who doesn’t know how to meet girls. Thanks to the internet, social media, smart phones and liberals, social gatherings are fast going the way of the record player, and meeting people often comes down to using some form of digital communication. Online dating is just another way to connect with new prospects, and when your friends ask how you met, there’s no need to stammer through a story about locking eyes across the food court at the mall.
However, there are psychopaths online and ensuring you’re not chatting with Jack the Ripper could be really important to your longevity and well-being. So…I contacted three well-known dating experts, David Wygant, Erika Ettin, and Julie Spira and put together a list of 7 questions to help you stay safe while finding that special someone. These don’t necessarily apply only to online dating and are really for anyone plunging into the game of love. The three had some very differing viewpoints, but the general outcome is still the same, and quite informative!
1. Are there certain facts I should know about a date before meeting in person?
Erika Ettin: Make sure you have his or her phone number in case one of you is running late. And always meet in a public place, such as a bar or a coffee shop.
David Wygant: Yeah, whether you like them or not. I think this is the most paranoid culture we’ve ever lived in…ever. Here’s the deal; you’re online, you’re dating, you find someone you like, go out with them if you like them. It’s that simple.
2. What are the potential consequences of not knowing who your date is? Any stories that relate?
Julie Spira: While finding love on the Internet is a terrific way to meet more people and find a relationship, I caution singles that I coach to spot the red flags to preserve both their hearts and their wallets. Often the Internet provides a playground for insincere people. The need to love and be loved is so strong that people sometimes will ignore the red flags just to be in a relationship. I’ve also seen too many people come in contact with con-artists and sociopaths who have a history of preying on vulnerable people. If the person you’re dating has a criminal record, is listed in the sexual predator database, or has a series of lawsuits and tax liens to their name, it’s imperative to have that knowledge before moving forward or moving on.
David Wygant: You don’t know who your date is no matter what. So just start trusting your gut instead of researching every little person or googling every person that you go out with. We live in the most paranoid society it’s no wonder why people are single.
Erika Ettin: Going on any date, whether you met online or not, has its inherent risks – someone is not who they say, they don’t look like their pictures, etc. When it comes down to it, you just have to use common sense. If you get the sense that someone isn’t who he (or she) says he is, then leave the date. You have no obligation to stay.
3. Are there warning signs I can look out for both online and when meeting in person?
Erika Ettin: Go with your gut. If someone you’re e-mailing gives you that “weird” feeling, you are not required to continue communicating.
David Wygant: Yeah, if their stories don’t match, if their actions don’t match their words, if they don’t give you a home number or cell number, and they’re just constantly e-mailing you. Those are some classic warning signs you can look out for. If you can’t get their phone number or they never call you anytime at night, only during the day, they’re probably married. There’s something for you!
Julie Spira: There’s nothing more powerful than trusting your intuition and taking your time. If your friends seem concerned about someone you’re dating, you should find out why. If you feel uncomfortable about stories your date tells you that keep changing, or if anyone asks you for money early on in a relationship, err on the side of caution.
4. Is online dating as socially acceptable as everyone would like to think? Is there a certain stigma attached?
David Wygant: Yes, online dating is very socially acceptable and there really is no stigma anymore. You can go, you can meet people, and enjoy it but here’s the deal: It’s time consuming. You just can’t put a picture up. You’ve got to go and really start learning how to date, talk, and everything else.
Julie Spira: Yes and no. Just about everyone knows someone who has met their spouse or significant other online at this point, and the TV commercials showing happy couples are abundant. However some people still think there’s a stigma associated with online dating. It’s certainly dissipated in the past 5 – 10 years with over 122 million singles worldwide logging on for love every month. Online dating is perfect for singles who aren’t interested in going to bars and whose friends aren’t fixing them up anymore. I believe that online dating has really transitioned to social dating with the popularity of Facebook and Twitter. Flirting on your social networks is part of everyday life now.
Erika Ettin: There used to be a stigma associated with online dating, but now it’s become the norm. Match.com says that 1 in 5 relationships start online. In this day and age, everything we do is online anyway (Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.), so why not add finding a date to the list? Online dating is a great way to meet people in other social circles or areas who you would not have come across naturally.
5. How does online dating safety compare to more traditional dating?
Erika Ettin: I actually think it’s safer. You certainly know more about the person online than you do the person you met at a bar! Again, just make sure you use common sense and meet in a public place.
David Wygant: It’s the same. When you meet somebody for the very first time on a date, you should meet them for coffee in a public place. You don’t know who that person is whether you met them in the supermarket or if you met them online. So really, just set it up so you are just hanging somewhere public. You meet them, they meet you, and you both have your own cars.
Julie Spira: Dating sites take safety very seriously and some are starting to do background checks on their members. On CyberDatingExpert.com, we have a link prominently displayed on our home page filled with safety tips. Keep in mind though you might know more about your online date than you would if you met someone in a bar after a few drinks.
6. How much information should I disclose before meeting someone? Should I create a more favorable image of myself or just spill the beans?
David Wygant: Here’s the deal: Before you meet somebody, all you need to do is figure out if you’re attracted to them. Are you attracted to them? Do they turn you on? Do you like how they sound on the phone? Just trust your gut a little bit.
Erika Ettin: Be honest and “spill the beans.” Of course, you don’t have to tell people everything upfront, like the new pimple you got or the poor relationship you have with your sister, but things like children and prior marriages should always be disclosed upfront. Also, make sure your pictures are from the last year (or more recent if you’ve changed your look in some major way) to ensure accuracy. Some people think that if they fib a bit in their profile, it’s ok because they’ll win the person over on the date. Not true. Your date will already be turned off because you’ve lied.
7. What are some different methods of checking on a date both online and offline to verify they aren’t a psychopath?
Julie Spira: Background checks can be as simple as downloading a mobile app such as Date Check or use a variety of web-based background search companies. Not all of the information is accurate or complete in these public search databases. The background search companies are filled with disclaimers so understand it’s data in, data out.
Erika Ettin: You can look them up on Facebook or Google them, which could be helpful. There is also a sex offender registry by state if you’re concerned. (But if you’re that concerned, should you be going out with them in the first place?) Again, using your gut and asking yourself questions like, “Are the e-mails nice and normal?” and “Is there anything that rubs me the wrong way?” will be the best option. You can also tell a friend where you’re going if that makes you feel more comfortable.
David Wygant: I don’t buy into any of that crap. I’m just not into that, you know, plain and simple. Meet somebody, because you can always read something about somebody online that happened years ago, giving you false ideas of who that person really is.
There you have seven tips on staying safe while dating from the people who help others find love for a living. Of course you shouldn’t take everything word for word, but apply it as you see fit to your own experiences. Everyone is different and what works for Charlie might not work for Jane. Do you have any further tips, advice, or perhaps your own dating horror story?
Meet The Dating Experts and Get Started Finding Love
David Wygant is a down-to-earth, trusted dating expert who helps both men and women. He’s been on the scene nearly 20 years and can offer plenty of actionable advice gained from years of experience. He has been featured on many TV shows including E!, Inside Edition, Dateline, ABC News, CBS The Early Show, FoxNews, MTV (“Sex 2K” and “Made”), Fox News, The Learning Channel, BBC, Playboy TV, National Enquirer’s T.V. Series “Undercovered”, Blitz TV (Germany), and A Current Affair (Australia). Get started with advice, tips and programs at DavidWygant.com.
Erika Ettin met the man of her dreams through online dating. In her words: “I perfected my profile and both my initial e-mails and e-mail responses to a point that my “hit rate,” or percent of guys who responded to my initial e-mail (I kept a spreadsheet tracking my results – I’m an economist by training), was well over 60%, almost unheard of in the online dating world.” She knows what it takes to succeed online and has been featured in the Washington Post, CBS, Business Insider, AskMen, and numerous local TV and radio stations in the Washington D.C. area. Reach her at aLittleNudge.com.
Julie Spira is a best-selling author of the book The Perils of Cyber-Dating, and is also the CEO of CyberDating.com. She has appeared in the media many times, which includes appearances on ABC News, BBC, CBS News, CNET, CNN, Crains New York Business, Cosmo Radio, Cyberguy, E! Entertainment, Elle, Glamour, FOX News, Los Angeles Times, Men’s Health, NBC News, The New York Times, PC World, Psychology Today, Redbook, Sydney Morning Herald, WIRED,Woman’s Day, Woman’s World, KTLA-TV, and WPIX-TV. She can be reached at CyberDatingExpert.com.