By: Laurel Dreher, Area Director for Next House
If you’re life has been anything like mine, there have probably been times when you’ve experienced a romantic drought when it comes to your dating life. And, if your life has been anything like mine, you’ve also probably thought, “Hey! It’s the 21st century! We have computers and internets now! I’ll try online dating!” And, hopefully, your life hasn’t been like mine, because my experiences with online dating have gone something like this:
Now, if you, or anyone you know has experienced any of these feelings, you’re not alone. And I’ve got good news! There’s hope! But, before you can learn about the 50 best ways to make an intriguing, eye-catching profile, we’ve got to cover some basics first. When it comes to looking for love online, there are some general rules of safety you’ll want to follow:
1. Never, ever, EVER put up super personal information!
Things you should probably think really long and hard about posting on any online dating site:
- Your Address
- Your (full) real name
- Your cell phone number
- Your screen name
- The personal information of any friends or family
- Sexy pics (includes nude pics)
- Your email address
You can always, always, always share some of these things with a person once you chat with them and get to know them for a while. It’s much harder to take back public info, than it is to selectively share it. Besides, most sites have their own internal messaging system, so there really isn’t any need to share any of this until you feel ready.
2. Check on your privacy settings for all your social media accounts.
While it’s always good practice to make sure your Facebook and Twitter accounts are all “cleaned up” in case potential employers choose to Google you, it’s also good to make sure your privacy settings are where you’d like them to be for people who aren’t your “friends.” There are various levels of access that you can grant to outsiders who may be looking to check out your profile. Decide whether or not your Facebook page will be public, and if you’ll be “searchable,” and decide whether or not you want your tweets to be “protected.” Play around with your account settings and choose what feels right for you.
3. Be selective in who you choose to communicate with.
While it may be a great boost to the ego when you start receiving messages and “winks” and “favorites” on whichever site you may choose, it doesn’t mean that you have to respond to everyone who reaches out to you. It’s ok to pick and choose who you feel comfortable communicating with (based on their profile and the information they provide).
4. If things get weird, don’t be afraid to report.
Most online dating websites have some sort of button, tab, or feature that allows you to report any concerns that you encounter while talking with other members. If you start to get a weird vibe from someone because of the messages they’re sending you, or if you don’t feel super great after meeting someone in person, it’s ok to let the website know. The most important thing is to feel safe in these online environments, and you have every right to report suspicious or inappropriate behavior.
5. Always use the “buddy system” if you plan on meeting anyone in person!
One of the funnest parts of online dating is actually finding someone who you’re excited to meet in person. Your heart starts beating faster. You wear your favorite outfit (you know, the one you feel super foxy in). You start to think about how you’ll celebrate your first anniversary together. But, even though you might be about to meet the love of your life, it’s still smart to have a “back-up” plan in case things don’t go as planned.
Never go to meet someone from online without telling a friend, or two, where you’ll be and for how long. Have a friend text you during your date to check-in and see how things are going, or provide you with an “unexpected emergency” alibi that you need to get back for (sometimes, it’s nice to have an excuse to cut things short). If you don’t feel good about going out by yourself, ask a friend to come with you and hang out nearby. Pick a place that’s relatively familiar and comfortable for you—that way, if you have to leave, you know how to get yourself home safely.
6. Choose a dating site that is inclusive of and welcoming to your identity.
There was a time when some online dating sites were not inclusive of all identities and relationships; a quick Google search will prove that to be a fact. While the mainstream websites seem to be making strides in making additions and alterations to their applications and searches to include members of the LGBTQ community, there is still much work to be done. Take your time when choosing which site you may want to join; there are many online dating communities that specifically tailor their marketing, applications, and membership to various identities, and many make an effort to create safe communities for members to find a possible romantic match. Just be sure you do your research and check out members’ comments about each site you look at, and then choose the one you feel as the most reliability and credibility.
7. Check to see when your membership expires.
Many of the more well-established dating sites will require some sort of membership commitment and payment (usually offering many different options for both). However, every site handles cancellations and renewals different, so be sure to read the fine print! Some sites will automatically renew your membership, or charge your account, so play close attention to both your membership agreement AND your bank statement!
Most of all, remember: Have fun! Online dating should be a stress-free and enjoyable way to supplement the spontaneity of meeting new, interesting people in your day-to-day adventures! And, if you don’t end up making a love connection, I guarantee you’ll end up with a bunch of fun new stories to tell your friends! ; )