Dating Safety

Advice
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Lately there have been a few disturbing stories in online dating news – people who were taken advantage of, or even raped. Naturally, some have begun to question the safety of online dating. I maintain that online dating is no more dangerous than meeting any new person – imagine if it were national news every time anyone was raped – but that doesn't mean we shouldn't revisit dating safety often.

There's one obvious tip that we hear all the time: Don't give away too much personal information. However, what does that really mean? Sure, you know not to give out your address, but beyond that it depends on your level of comfort. If you work at a very small, specific place, it might be best to keep those specifics under wraps as well, unless you're on a blind date set up by a work friend. Some might not want to give out their home phone number; cell phones make this easy.

It might be prudent to use an email address from a third-party. The ones you get from your Internet service provider, school, or work often have your full name in it. A random screen name gives one extra step of protection – and notice that the key word here is 'random.' Many people today have gotten in the habit of using one screen name for absolutely everything. If you're one of those people, try googling that screen name and see what information you could piece together about yourself. What have you posted about in forums? What about that ancient Livejournal you forgot about? If you don't want all that information in the hands of every prospective date, you might want to create a new IM account for chatting as well.

When actually meeting someone for a first date, it should always be in a public place. There's nothing wrong with bringing a friend as backup, to perch strategically somewhere in the venue. If you can't bring a friend, it's not even a bad idea to get there early and strike up a friendship with the bartender or someone else who can easily keep an eye on the situation. It's always good to have your own transportation – arrive separately, leave separately.

Last, and most importantly: trust your gut. If something seems fishy before that first date, you don't need to go on it “just to see.” If you feel uncomfortable or nervous, feel free to leave. Don't let peer pressure get to you – ultimately, you're the one talking to your prospective date, and you might be picking up on something you hadn't yet consciously put together. When your safety is concerned, it's better to play it safe than take chances.