Online dating: These two words have revolutionized the way we forge new relationships in today's digital era.
When the pandemic came knocking, physical distancing measures quickly turned online dating from a convenience into a necessity. With traditional, face-to-face meetings largely off the table, Americans (and indeed, people across the globe) turned to digital platforms to keep their social and romantic lives active. The pandemic normalized virtual meet-ups, making video call dates and other options part of the new normal for dating.
As convenient as it is to connect with potential partners from all corners of the world, this new norm comes with its own set of risks.
To help you navigate online dating more safely, we'll discuss 13 dangers you should know. Tools like Burner can provide an extra layer of safety, like offering a second phone number to help maintain your privacy during your digital dating journey.
How Popular Are Online Dating Apps?
With smartphones firmly embedded in our everyday lives, dating apps have grown rapidly in popularity. Based on a study by Pew Research, about 30% of U.S. adults have used a dating app or website. This includes well-known platforms like Tinder, Bumble, and Match.com, along with an array of niche services catering to specific demographics and preferences.
Interestingly, half of the dating app users among online daters believe these platforms are a good way to meet people. This shift in attitude underlines the growing acceptance of online dating, transitioning it from a desperate last resort to a viable avenue for finding potential partners.
What Role Does Social Media Play in Online Dating?
Social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp are increasingly intersecting with online dating. Alongside traditional dating websites and apps, many individuals now meet potential partners through these networks, often connected by common interests or mutual friends.
Of course, integrating social media with online dating isn't risk-free. There's the potential for oversharing personal information, which could lead to privacy breaches. Also, people often project an idealized version of themselves on social media, leading to a gap between online perceptions and real-life interactions.
Despite these challenges, social media and online dating continue to intertwine, making it crucial for users to strike a balance between openness and caution.
What Should I Be Aware of When Online Dating?
These risks of online dating are the most important factors you need to keep in mind if you want to date online safely.
Keep in mind that this list is not meant to scare you but rather to equip you with the necessary knowledge to make your online dating experience more secure and fruitful. Knowledge is power, after all!
1. Personal Detail Vulnerability
The first step in online dating involves creating a profile and sharing personal details. This information could be as basic as your name and hobbies or more specific, like your occupation or education. The risk here lies in how this information can be misused if it falls into the wrong hands.
Be mindful of the details you share, and consider using tools like Burner to protect your phone number and maintain your privacy.
2. Prevalence of Scammers and Fraudsters
Scammers are around every corner across the digital world, and online dating platforms are no exception. These individuals often create convincing profiles to lure unsuspecting users, tricking them into sharing sensitive information or money.
Always stay alert and be on the lookout for scammers. Remember that if something seems too good to be true, it probably is.
3. Presence of Malicious Individuals
Despite the stringent policies and regulations of many dating platforms, the presence of malicious individuals on these platforms is an unfortunate reality. Always conduct a basic background check on your matches when possible, and prioritize public places for your first real-life meet-ups.
4. Catfishing Risks
Catfishing refers to the practice of creating fake profiles or identities online. In online dating, this risk is ever-present. A user might misrepresent their age, appearance, profession, or even gender. Be cautious about overly perfect profiles and look for consistency in your interactions.
5. Reality of Deception on Dating Platforms
While most people on dating platforms are there with honest intentions, there are always a few who may exaggerate or outright lie about their personal details. This deception can extend to their profile pictures, relationship status, or their life goals.
Always take information provided online with a grain of salt and use your interactions to assess the authenticity of your match.
6. Potential for Assault
Assault is unfortunately an all-too-common risk associated with online dating. While it's crucial to remember that the majority of users don't have ill intent, it's also important to take precautions when meeting someone new for the first time.
Always inform a trusted friend or family member about your date and location, and ensure that your first few meetings are in well-populated, public places.
7. First Offline Meeting Dangers
The initial excitement of a first date can often mask potential risks associated with meeting an online connection in the real world for the first time. While most of these meetups go smoothly, it's essential to be cautious.
Again, we recommend choosing public and populated places for your initial meetings and letting someone you trust know your plans.
8. Possibility of Stalking
The digital age has, unfortunately, made stalking more accessible. Once personal details are shared online, they could be used to track your activities beyond the online dating platform.
Always be wary of the amount of information you share, and consider using separate accounts or a dedicated app like Burner for your online dating activities to maintain your privacy.
9. Exposure to Online Dating Scams
Online dating scams are a serious concern. These scams could involve the aforementioned catfishing, where a scammer creates a fake profile to lure in victims, or more sophisticated frauds, such as romance scams, in which an individual tricks someone into believing they are in a relationship to swindle them out of money.
Remember, if someone you've met through an online dating service is asking for financial help or your banking details, it's likely a scam.
10. Risks of Phone Number Sharing
Sharing your phone number seems like a natural step in taking an online relationship forward. However, individuals can uncover a surprising amount of information about you through your phone number, including your full name, address, and more.
It's advisable to use services like Burner to provide a secondary, less personally revealing phone number to protect your privacy.
11. Overlooked Red Flags in Online Dating
In the rush and excitement of potential romance, we often overlook red flags. This could include someone who’s overly eager to move off the dating platform, inconsistencies in their stories, or refusing to meet in person or video chat.
These red flags could indicate that people lie or misrepresent themselves. Trust your gut instinct if something feels off.
12. Respondent Unreliability
While online dating services aim to connect you with potential partners, there's no guarantee that respondents to your dating profile are reliable or have honest intentions. Some might be casual browsers, others may not be single, and some might not be looking for the same type of relationship as you are.
It's essential to communicate your expectations early to avoid misunderstandings.
13. Swiping and Instant Decision Risks
The nature of apps like Tinder, which are based on swift judgments and swipes, can lead to risks. The instantaneous nature of such online dating apps can sometimes lead to impulsive decisions based on surface-level impressions.
Remember, a profile picture doesn't reveal character or intent. Take your time to get to know your matches before making significant decisions or sharing personal details.
What Can You Do To Use Online Dating Sites More Safely?
Online dating is an incredible tool that allows you to expand your social circle and potentially meet your future partner from the comfort of your own home. However, as with anything online, it's essential to tread with caution.
Here are some suggestions on how you can stay safe while venturing into the world of dating apps and websites.
One of the easiest steps you can take to maintain your safety in the online dating world is to use products like Burner. Our app gives you a second, temporary phone number that you can use for your online dating pursuits.
By using Burner, you can maintain your anonymity until you're comfortable enough to share your real number, thereby significantly reducing your vulnerability to scams or unwanted attention.
Perform Background Checks
While it might feel somewhat invasive, conducting a basic background check on your potential date is a sensible precaution. This doesn't mean delving into their every secret or private affair, but a quick internet search can often reveal if your match is being truthful about their identity and can help flag any potential red flags.
Remember, it's better to err on the side of caution when dealing with strangers online.
Meet Up in Public Places
Your first face-to-face meeting with an online date should always be in a public place. Meeting in a public venue, such as a popular coffee shop or park, can provide an extra level of safety.
It ensures there are people around should anything unexpected occur and also tends to be less pressure than in a private setting for the first time meeting.
Keep Loved Ones Informed
As you embark on your online dating journey, it's wise to keep a trusted friend or family member in the loop. This isn't about sharing every detail of your romantic endeavors but more about having someone aware of your activities for safety purposes.
Let them know when you're going on a date, who you're meeting, and where. This adds an additional layer of security to your dating experiences.
Trust Your Gut
Finally, always trust your gut. It's a powerful tool in your safety arsenal. Your intuition can often sense inconsistencies or issues that your conscious mind might overlook. If something doesn't feel right about a person or a situation, it probably isn't.
Don't ignore those feelings. It's better to step back and reassess than to push forward and potentially find yourself in a risky situation. Remember, your safety and comfort should always be your top priority.
Find Your Perfect Match
Online dating has revolutionized the way we find love and companionship. But like anything else in the digital world, it comes with its own set of risks. By being aware of the dangers and taking proactive steps to protect yourself, you can safely navigate the world of dating apps and websites.
Embrace online dating as a tool to expand your social horizons, but always keep your safety at the forefront. Remember, each swipe or message could be the start of something special — perhaps even a long-term relationship. Don't let the potential risks deter you, but use them as a guide to tread wisely in the realm of online dating.
The world of online dating is vast and filled with opportunities, so start your free trial with Burner today, and stay safe while you surf the web looking for a partner!