In the past few decades, people have met each other a variety of ways: They've met at work, school, bars, and once upon a time they even met at things like sock hops and record stores! But, in today's modern world, meeting people online has quickly become the new norm.
These days, online dating sites are a dime a dozen: Quite simply, they are everywhere and so are those who solicit them. Twenty-somethings, thirty-somethings, forty-somethings, fifty-somethings, and even those in their golden years are all logging on in hopes of finding love.
Of course, this has several advantages, with the biggest one being that online dating allows you to take control of your dating life. You don't confine yourself to geography, or the offhanded chance that you and your soul mate will both be in the supermarket's produce aisle at the exact same time.
But, like so many things, there is also a downside to meeting this way: Some people view it as unsafe. They argue that you don't really know who is on the other side of that computer: It could be someone who is married, crazy, or sitting in a living room filled with cat skulls.
But, while the dangers of dating certainly don't need a computer to exist—Ted Bundy didn't need Match.com or Plenty of Fish to be a complete and total psychopath—it does allow for convenience. In short, it allows dangerous people to find dates without a ton of effort.
This doesn't mean that online dating is inherently dangerous; it's just the opposite actually. The vast majority of people looking to meet online are perfectly normal. But, it does mean that you must be smart and afford yourself the utmost protection. So, when going out with someone you met online, be sure to do these four things:
- Talk on the phone first. A phone call is beneficial because it can help rule out, if nothing else, that the person you've been talking to online is the gender they claim to be. A phone call may also help decrease the odds that your online love is married because when you have a spouse, getting away to speak on the phone is much more difficult than sending an email under the cloak of darkness.
- Meet at a public place. Meeting an online date at your home or their home is akin to meeting them in a dark alley. In other words, it's a bad idea. Yes, the chances are very high that they won't take you and your golden retriever hostage, but why risk it? Instead, meet somewhere public: a coffee shop, a bar, a restaurant. You may even want to make a public place part of your dating plan until you get to know each other. Remember, it's better to be safe than tied up and praying that your neighbor calls the police.
- Google them. I know, it's a bit stalkerish, but everyone does it (Come on! You want to be cool!). The truth is that Google can actually tell you quite a bit about people (as long as they aren't using an alias), including any red flags you need to be aware of. So, go ahead and type in their name (unless you are meeting John Smith or Mary Johnson…in that case, save your fingers). If you feel weird doing it, just remember they are probably googling you too.
- Listen to your gut. Our guts tell us all sorts of things. Right now, mine is telling me not to drink orange juice right after eating salsa. Our guts also warn us when something is off; yes, our guts are smart. So, if your gut is telling you that your date seems a little weird, appears to be lying, or acts as if he or she has ulterior motives, listen to it. Nine times out of ten, your gut will hit the proverbial nail right on the head.
More online dating advice on YourTango:
- 5 Important Tips For Online Dating Success
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- Online Dating Tips for Single Men