This article originally appeared in Pull Out, a print magazine exploring the relationship between sex and technology.
Online dating and meeting via the Internet or apps is commonplace these days. However, meeting someone and talking to them online is very different than meeting someone in person. You’re only getting to know a single dimension of the person, and you just see what they want you to see. How you interact with someone in person is extremely important and a fundamental part of a relationship. Here are some basic tips for keeping your online communication safe!
- When communicating online, always keep your personal information private, at least while you are vetting the person! This information includes where you live, the name of your school, phone number, last name, etc. If you’ve been speaking to someone and you feel that you’re ready to take the next step, you can give out your number and eventually set up a public meeting.
- Be honest. If you are sixteen — don’t tell them you’re nineteen. If you identify as man, don’t say that you’re a woman. Don’t deceive someone; it’s not safe.
- Realize that many people online aren’t honest about important things such as their gender or age. Watch out for inconsistencies in their personal information: this can be a red flag that you might be getting catfished.
- Make sure they’re being truthful if they tell you that they’re single or in an open relationship. Following them on social media is an excellent way to figure this out.
- Don’t get in too deep on the internet. People can be very different online than they appear in real life. How you interact with someone in person is extremely important and a fundamental part of a relationship. It’s best not to share personal information until you’ve met IRL and have determined that they are who they say they are and the right person.
- If this person threatens your safety or reveals intimate details about yourself you have not shared with them, block them — but be sure to take screenshots of your conversations beforehand.
If you decide to meet…
- Always meet in a public place.
- Make sure you tell someone close to you what you are doing and where you’ll be — just in case.
- Have your friend shoot you a text halfway through your meeting to see how it’s going. If the person you are meeting is weird about your cautionary steps, that’s usually a bad sign that their motives aren’t safe.
- Trust your gut. If you feel like the person you’re meeting is creepy or has a strange vibe — get out of there! Even if you’re in a public place, if you feel something is off, you should get away from them.
- Be on the lookout for inappropriate questions. If someone is asking you about your sex life or how you masturbate during the first meeting… that’s not usually a good sign.
- If you end up hooking up, remember always to use protection! Even if they say that they don’t have any STIs.
- If decide to go home with them, check in with your friends and let them know the address of where you’re headed.
- Friends: if you can’t get reach them for a prolonged period (12 hours, for example) and they’re with a stranger, you should notify a family member or the police.
- Turning on a tracker or activating Find My Friends on your iPhone when you go on a Tinder date is also a good idea.
Great friendships and relationships can originate online, but always remember to put your safety first!
Photos by Jairo Granados.