Not so long ago I read a meme on the internet which went something like this :
1990: Don’t get into a car with a stranger.
2000: Don’t meet people from the internet alone.
2019: UBER : Order yourself a stranger from the internet and get into a car with them alone.
This got me thinking about how dramatically the world has changed within my own lifetime. As much as there may still be a little stigma attached to online dating, the fact is that unless you plan to be a virgin for the rest of your life (well, that or experience a long sex drought), then dating websites/apps are a reality for the majority of us. Sure, there are still opportunities for organic dating, but honestly these are few and far between, especially as one gets older and spends less time roaming bars and clubs. But how much thought do we actually put in to the risks associated with meeting people of the internet who are essentially strangers with romantic intentions in mind? How do we know we aren’t meeting up with a serial killer? And what measures can/should we take to ensure that we leave every date with lives still intact? Let’s chat about #strangerdanger in the world of online dating.
Doing Extensive Background Checks vs. Just Meeting Up
For me, online dating, or dating in general, should always be about the meet-up. Otherwise, what is the point exactly? While the internet is full of talkers (aka people with verbal diarrhea but no intention of meeting up in person), I don’t get this. Regardless of a person’s intentions whether you are looking for #happilyeverafter or just after a hookup, surely getting whatever it is you want involves actually meeting up with people. I’d even go one step further and say the sooner you meet up the better. I find the longer I spend chatting to a guy, the more likely I am to conjure up a fictitious image of them in mind, and one they are certainly never going to live up to in real life. So yeah, I believe in getting the first date over and done with. Either it rocks your world or allows you to quickly NEXT the guy and move on. I’ve often been told by my dates about how ‘foreign’ girls, likes yours truly, require our dates to do less groundwork than they would with our local South African counterparts and much of this is said to do with safety.
I can’t speak for all ‘foreign’ women, but perhaps I am a bit blasé when it comes to meeting up with strangers from the internet. That said, I don’t see how months of talking is really going to help matters. As far as I see it, serial killers and #badhombres in general are pros at what they do, and I think dragging out a conversation with such a person is more likely to give them the opportunity to lure you in rather than reveal their true colours. The less I know about a person’s sad little life, the more I have my wits about be when it comes to the first date. That isn’t to say I don’t ever do background checks, though. As much as people hate on the internet, the availability of information makes it easy to cyber-stalk any potential suitor with the most basic information – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn…the list goes on. Put all these resources together and you’ll likely find you have enough information to write a biography for any given human.
People who’ve never had the need/opportunity to partake in swiping as well as those who’ve been off the market for quite some time have what I consider an absurd fascination with the whole dating app phenomenon. Many of my long-time married/coupled-up friends are often eager to swipe on my behalf. As you all know, I recently embarked on a solo island vacation and prior to the trip I was busy swiping up a storm. When I mentioned that one of my Tinder GOLD matches had offered to pick me from the airport to avoid me forking out for a taxi, not one but two of married friends seemed to think it was OK to take him up to on the offer. #deathwishmuch ? I think it’s easy to sometimes forget that even when one has been working on their right hook, as women we are probably more vulnerable when it comes to the perverts of the world.
Jokes aside, bad things happen on online dates. You just have to Google : Tinder and Death and you’ll find plenty of horror stories. Just not so long ago when I was back in the UK, the case of ‘Speedboat Seducer’ who ended up killing a girl he’d connected with on OKCupid was headlining. It’s all fun and games until you find yourself in such a situation, I suppose. So, I guess one should take safety a little more seriously. That said, bad things happen offline too – e.g. terror attacks, car crashes, falling off mountains, etc. These occurrences don’t stop us doing the things we love or simply need to do to function in life. So its not like I’ll be giving up online (or offline) dating anytime soon either.
How To Deal Without Being Overly Para
All in all, my level of #strangerdanger awareness varies according to a bunch of things as well as where I am the world. I think with London being home home and my faith in the Metropolitan Police (well, anything would seem good when you’ve dealt with SAPS!) I somehow ended up visiting a Tinder guy’s apartment without anyone knowing where the hell I was. I wouldn’t dream of doing such a thing in Cape Town. The one time a guy (who I happened to have mutual friends with – small world Cape Town and all) invited me over for a post-run smoothie (they say all sorts of things these days) I made sure to send #zlotybaby a pin with strict instructions to call in the cavalry if I hadn’t surfaced within a few hours. And when I was in totally unfamiliar island location and being invited over to meet the puppy, I simply erred on the side of caution and said no because as cute as any pup maybe I value my life more.
Regardless, of where in the world you are I think there are some basic steps you can take to protect yourself. Stating the obvious here, but start by meeting in a public place and more importantly a place where you feel comfortable. I’d never meet a guy in an obscure suburb I’m unfamiliar with. And even if they live in a mansion, never visit their home on a first date. Next, trust your gut. If something feels off, it probably is. If they are too pushy or say/do anything to make you feel weirded out simply cut them off. You owe them nothing. Have a back up plan and always let someone know where you’ll be. I can’t say I’ve always stuck to that one – so I’ve been forced to think on my feet and once faked an emergency phone call in order to leave a date. Interesting side note though, when I was in the UK there was a campaign called ‘Ask for Angela’ which basically allowed a person who felt uncomfortable on a date they could go to the bar and use the code word ‘Angela’ to alert the staff that they need help. Pretty smart. Finally (and I 100% expect to be called out on this one) either learn some form of self-defense or practice running. I’m not saying we need to deck every pervert we come across but I think it’ll certainly give you a bit of confidence knowing you can, if the event should arise. The same goes for running. You never know when you might need to remove those heels and peg it down the road to getaway from some sort of psycho.
Anyway, before I get carried away with all my CSI nonsense let me wrap this up. The world in general is a shady place. But online dating is no more dangerous than half the other crazy things we do in our daily lives. As much as it offers us a larger pool of potential suitors, online dating platforms simultaneously leave us exposed to a larger number of pervs. That said, as in other aspects of our lives, we have to find ways to tolerate people we don’t necessarily like, but this isn’t reason to write off online dating apps entirely. Sadly, these platforms are a necessary evil for anyone looking for love in the internet age. So rather than discount them outright I think it’s important to be rational and find sensible ways to stay out of harms way.
And now Rinsers over to you. Do you think online dating is particularly dangerous? What precautions would you advise to stay safe when it comes to #strangerdanger? Are the risks the same for guys, as they are for women? And finally have you ever met someone who wasn’t strictly who they said they were on their online dating profile. Share you #strangerdanger experiences in the comments section below.