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4 critical steps to online datingThere are many ways that people meet and start dating: introductions from friends, family and co-workers, out in social settings, by a chance meeting, or an online dating site.  When a friend introduces you to someone, you can assume they are setting you up with someone they believe is a good person.  But more and more people are turning to the online dating sites that offer very little protection of the type of person you will be meeting. It’s said that one third of married couples have met online.  This statistic may be surprising, but online dating is becoming an incredibly popular way to meet people and start a relationship. Meeting people online is a great way to broaden our horizons, but no matter how you meet someone, there are a few things to think about before and while on a date…

When you are out in the dating world, how do you know who you are actually meeting?  Are they married, a scam artist, or worse–a sexual predator looking for their next victim? It’s important to take steps to protect yourself, but how might you do that?

Technology is a great place to start!

1) Figure out who you’re planning on going out with and do some research. Get basic information about the person you are going to meet. Name, approximate age, and where they are from are good starts.  No matter how you met your potential date, you should have this basic information and do your homework.

A simple Google search can reveal many things, both good and bad. You would be surprised what news articles will come up, even about people you think you know well.  From that Google search you will also probably get Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter responses. You should go through those pages, too. Look at their profiles and see if the picture they sent you is a recent photo or 50 lbs. and 3,000 hair follicles ago.

Don’t be afraid to look at 411.com to see if you find them living where they say they are.  411.com also gives you people they are associated with like a spouse or kids.  Zabasearch.com is another free search that will give you address and phone number information. Taking all the information that you find can help to show you if the person has been truthful with you or not.  If they are misleading you already, it’s probably not going make for a lasting relationship.

2) Now that you have done some basic research and decide that you still want to go out on a date, what next?  Getting in contact with them and location, location, location!

Google Voice  is a great free resource that allows you to have a phone number that you can connect with your cell phone. This allows you to communicate without giving out your true phone number. In my opinion, the best feature of Google Voice is that you are able to go to your computer and block a number. If you have purposely blocked calls from someone, they receive an automated message saying “this number is disconnected.”  This makes it a little safer to exchange numbers with people.

Pick a location that you are familiar with and is popular with others. You want constant traffic in and out of the place so that lots of people are around before, during, and after your date.  Make plans to meet there; drive yourself. You want to be in control of leaving when you want to.

3) You’ve made it to the date…

During your date never leave a drink unattended. It doesn’t matter if it has alcohol in it or not, if it is out of your sight at all, don’t drink it. If you have to go to the restroom, finish your drink before you leave the table and order another once you return.  If your date has one waiting for you upon your return, come up with an excuse as to why you want something different (I have to drive, I didn’t like the last one). It may seem a bit rude (it’s not), but your safety is much more important.

When you are ready to go home, say goodnight in a place where you are comfortable, either in the restaurant or by your car.  Get in and drive away.

Repeat the process, if you like them, until you are comfortable enough to let them drive.  If you don’t like them, say it was nice to meet you, but…insert whatever you want here.  If they continue to call, it’s easy to block their number because you now have a Google Voice number.

4)  Involving your friends and family with your safety is a great idea.  Let them know your plans and who you are going out with. If something doesn’t seem right, trust your instinct and make an excuse to leave. A couple of free apps to help you with this include:

– “Circle of 6”  Circle of 6 allows you to choose 6 individuals to connect with and who can you send quick messages for an interruption or a ride home (with your closest GoogleMap location). Check it out for yourself and see if it would work for you.

Find my Friends This app allows individuals you choose to easily locate you. Let them know when you’ve arrived to meet your date and when you’re home safe! You can choose to share your location for a limited time or for longer.

The dating scene can feel overwhelming at times and your safety is of the utmost importance! Remember to research your date, stay in a public place, and involve your family or friends. Don’t be afraid to just get up and leave if needed, as well. You can make up an excuse later or just block them with your new Google Voice number. If for some reason you run into real trouble, make a scene, get others’ attention, or call 911.

There are many good people out there, but it might take time to find the right one for you.  Don’t settle on Mr. Right Now. Remember you may have to kiss a lot of frogs to find your Prince Charming, but in the end it will be well worth it.  Have fun, but keep in mind your personal safety.  There are some people in the dating world for the wrong reasons.

If you found this article helpful, please email this to your daughter, niece, mother, aunt, or anyone else you know who may be dating online–for their safety.

Billy Spalding

Katie Davis

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