Dating App Safety
There’s an app for just about everything.
We order our Sonic limeade with an app, then swing by to pick it up. We keep track of our coffee reward points with our Starbucks app. Want to deposit a check but don’t want to drive to the bank? Open the banking app, snap a photo of the check, push a button, and it’s magically deposited in the account. Need to borrow 5 dollars? No problem! I’ll pay for you, and you can Venmo me the money. See? We’ve even turned the names of the apps into verbs!
So it isn’t surprising that our dating lives revolve around apps too. Though online dating used to have a stigma or seem like a big deal, now it’s just a given part of living in a digital age. Tinder, OKCupid, Bumble, PlentyOfFish, Hinge, Match — and the list just continues to grow. Finding a date through an app is the normal way to date now.
But what should you know before you swipe right? Here are a few things to keep in mind regarding dating app safety.
- Be cautious about connecting your dating app with your social media accounts. Some of the dating apps are tied to your social media and find matches for you based on mutual friends or mutual likes and interests and location check-ins. That could be convenient. But you probably don’t want strangers to have access to information about you. It’s a good idea to give away as little identifying information about yourself in your dating profile. This protects you from the people who use dating apps for creepy reasons. Don’t use your last name. Don’t give out any information that lets strangers know exactly who you are, where you live or work, or how to find you.
- Don’t use the same photo you use for social media. It’s the same principle. To protect yourself, you need to protect your full identity from the broad audience of dating apps. It’s easy to do a reverse image search through Google. If you use the same photo for a dating app that you use in your Facebook or Twitter profile pic, anyone can find you in real life.
- Be aware of location settings. A lot of dating apps will use your location, but people who look at your profile shouldn’t be able to see exactly where you are. Make sure your settings don’t let them.
- Send messages only through the app. Again, this protects you. It’s risky to give out your real phone number. So send messages through the app rather than sending texts through your phone. And if you do decide to talk on the phone before you meet up in real life, get a Google phone number. It’s free, and it routes the call through the Google number rather than giving your actual phone number to this random person you don’t really know.
- Get to know each other, but don’t give out too much information too early. As you send messages back and forth getting to know each other, be on guard. Don’t give out too much information. Unfortunately, some people join dating apps with sinister plans. You deserve to protect yourself from having your identity stolen, from being stalked, from being assaulted.
- Guard your personal information as you’re getting to know someone. You aren’t being rude; you’re being wise.
- You may not be talking to the person you think you are. That 22-year-old Brandon you’re talking to may actually be 40-year-old Sue or 50-year-old Dan. Have you seen the show Catfish? There’s a reason that show’s been on since 2012. There are people who pretend to be someone online that they aren’t in real life.
- Be prepared for the worst. The jokes and stereotypes about dating apps exist for a reason. You might get a message with sexist comments, lewd suggestions, or unsolicited nude photos. Report anyone who violates the app’s policies, and practices using features that let you block the creeps.
- When you meet up, meet in a public place. Only meet in a place with a lot of people around. You have no idea who you’re actually meeting. Again, you deserve protection from anyone with bad intentions. And you’re further protected if you meet in the daylight in a non-drinking environment for the first date.
- Share your geolocation with a trusted friend. If a couple of friends can’t go along when you meet up with your dating app match, at least share your location with them. While you’re at it, make sure a friend has the name of the person you’re meeting up with.
- Drive yourself. Or get a friend to drive you. But don’t rely on your date for a ride. Remember how your parents told you not to get into the car with strangers? It’s still a good policy. Again – you aren’t being rude. And if your date tries to pressure you to ride to a second location with him or to let him drive you home, it’s ok to kindly and firmly refuse. It isn’t rude to protect yourself. And it’s OK not to trust someone you just met.
- Before you are ever alone with a date, know him. Know his full name. Know his address. Know what his job is or where he goes to school. Talk to his friends. Until you really know him and the people who know him, he’s a stranger. Even if you’ve spent hours messaging back and forth through an app, he’s a stranger. Treat him like a stranger until you really know him and his people.
- Carry cash and your phone in your pocket. If your purse gets stolen, you’ll have some money and your phone with you.
- Trust your instincts. If you feel unsafe – or even unsettled – trust your gut. Often our guts pick up on subtle things before our brains register information. If you don’t feel safe or if you feel uncomfortable, call a friend and leave. Have the friend meet you in another public place, so you can be sure your dating app match isn’t following you home.
Dating apps can be a fun way to meet someone new – if you are safe and protect yourself in the process. Remember – it’s never rude to protect yourself. And being safe is so much more important than being nice. So guard your personal information, refuse that ride home, don’t be alone with him, trust your gut, and share your location with a friend – there’s an app for that!