DATING SAFETY TIPS

by Robin mcgraw

How are you holding up Secret Squad? Staying safe, I hope!

With rising temperatures and flowers in bloom, Spring has definitely sprung! This time of year is supposed to be one for romance, and new beginnings…enjoying drinks, a delicious meal and maybe even dessert with someone special at your favorite restaurant, introducing your new flame to your best friends at a concert, holding hands during a stroll along the beach...except with coronavirus, none of that is possible right now! And yet, people are still looking for love and seeking connection. Dating apps have seen a big uptick in activity! The length of user conversations and the number of messages exchanged between users has increased significantly since stay-at-home orders went into effect. Despite the changes we’re all seeing in day-to-day isolation life, it seems love is most certainly not on lockdown!

The hit Netflix reality series Love Is Blind brought us contestants meeting and getting to know each other in isolated pods, unable to see or touch their dates. And for singles who have yet to find their partners, much less start families, these days that premise isn’t a far cry from reality! Quarantine isolation means fewer opportunities for connection, let alone for relationship bonds to strengthen organically IRL. Which is why I was so happy to sit down (virtually of course) with Match's Chief Dating Expert, the fabulously talented Rachel DeAlto! We talked all about online dating and how the pandemic has impacted it. Rachel tells us only 6% of Match users were open to setting up video dates before meeting someone in person. Whereas now that number has jumped up to 70%!!!  As states begin lifting shelter-in-place restrictions, and we begin to venture into our new normal, Rachel’s best advice to people who may be new to online dating is: JUMP IN…but do it SAFELY!

A few safety measures to consider before meeting up with someone new:

  • Be very careful with your private information! Avoid putting lots of identifying personal details on your profile and avoid sharing too many specifics when you first make contact. Never give out your address, full name or phone number right off the bat.

 

  • Talk on the app, the phone and Facetime as much as you feel comfortable with before the initial meeting to get a good feel for the person. Not ready to give out your phone number? Use Match’s messaging system or set up a Google Voice phone number just for prospective dates. Google Voice has a great feature where you can text/call from your personal phone, but it doesn’t display to the recipient as coming from your personal phone number. This is a great tool to use when first communicating with a new person. For more info visit: https://voice.google.com/about

 

  • Do some preliminary research on who you’ve been in contact with! A little keyword/name search twirl around Google and social media can’t hurt. A quick reverse Google image search to double-check you’re not talking to someone who’s using stock photos instead of authentic ones, is another easy step. You don’t need to hire a PI, but it’s smart to do your homework to see if your new love-interest has a criminal background or shows up in multiple arrest reports. Yikes!

 

  • Arrange your own transportation…both ways. Drive yourself, plan to use a reputable rideshare service or have a friend drop you off and pick you up around the corner. For the first date, this is an absolute safety must.

 

  • Meet in a public place for your first date. Restaurants and public venues may soon re-open at a percentage of their previous occupancy, but it’s important to choose somewhere well-lit and populated for a safe first meeting.

 

  • Tell a friend you’re going on a date, let them know the name of the person you’re meeting, their phone number as well as where you’re going to be, and then set  times to check in during and after the date to let them know all is well.

 

  • Keep some emergency cash on hand in case you need to quickly pay and leave.

 

  • Consider carrying a self-defense tool, just in case! Not a pepper spray or taser kind of person? Your cell phone could actually be considered a tool for self-defense! Most smart phones now have an SOS feature that can quickly connect you with 911 and share your location in an emergency. The key is to configure and familiarize yourself with your phone’s emergency settings in advance so they’re available if you ever need them.

Additionally, the Aspire News App is an incredible (FREE) tool for dating and everyday safety. It’s a potentially life-saving app I developed that allows anyone who is in need of a safe exit from an abusive situation to call for help with the touch of a button. The Aspire app was recognized on Capitol Hill by the National Health Collaborative on Violence and Abuse as one of the two apps in 2014 most effective in the fight to end domestic violence. Download it and learn how to use it BEFORE you meet anyone new for a first date, it could save your life. 

Visit https://www.whengeorgiasmiled.org/aspire-news-app/ for more information.

Listen to your instincts and take note of red flags! Don’t allow a captivating stranger or that single-too-long feeling convince you to deny your gut reaction about the person you’ve just met. If someone seems too good to be true, in online dating they typically are! The dating pool is vast; never compromise your own feelings of comfort and security.  Bottom line: it really is better to be safe than sorry so ONLY do whatever feels appropriate and SAFE for YOU.

I am a hopeful romantic and a total sucker for a great love story, but even more important to me than that is that you take care of yourself while you look for love. Stay well and be safe Secret Squad!

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