Online Dating: How to Avoid Disasters
Updated May 12, 2021
Medically Reviewed By: Karen Devlin, LPC
In 2016, 17% of new marriages stemmed from an online dating relationship. The industry profits almost 2 billion dollars per year, with roughly 90% of all single persons in the United States belonging to presently, or at one point, an online dating service. While there are many happy endings, there are just as many dating disasters from online dating.
Statistics say that 10% of all sex offenders maintain an online dating account, and over half of the people on dating sites admit to dating multiple people simultaneously. Men tend to lie about their income, height, and age, while women are prone to lying about their weight, body type, and age.
We've all seen Catfish episodes and heard stories of people meeting in person after chatting online and being very surprised to find that the person they thought they knew is not who they said they were. Having a conversation online can also go a lot more smoothly when you are not face-to-face, and online daters can sometimes be awkward or even smell bad in person!
How can you be part of the 17% of successful online dating marriages? There are several ways to avoid disasters with online dating.
1. Check Their Photos - You might feel like a cyberstalker, but saving their dating profile pictures or social media pictures through google image search can help you determine immediately if you are being catfished. Scammers will find pictures of attractive people online or within their own social media circle and create false accounts using their name and someone else's picture or perhaps a fake identity altogether.
2. Start With Talking On The Dating Site Only - Most dating sites have mobile versions and messaging apps that allow you to communicate through the website anywhere you are connected to the internet. There is no reason to give out your personal information like a telephone number, email address, or other messaging platform information. People who insist on moving the conversation over to another platform immediately after contacting you should be avoided.
3. Do Your Detective Work - Have you ever Googled yourself? You would be surprised at the amount of information about yourself that is free and open to the public. You can find articles the person has been published or discussed in, photos of them, newspaper announcements, and even arrest records and employment records. There are also forums you can find that tell daters which profile to watch out for or avoid. Other websites are available where women can post stories of their dates and what city they were in, and the date's name so that women can watch out for those people.
4. Ask For Video Chat - Before going on a date with someone you meet online, ask them to do a video chat with you. Not the dirty kind, just a quick FaceTime or Skype chat to see their face and a more accurate representation of them than what they have on social media. Snap Chat and Instagram filters are quickly becoming the way to give anyone a fake makeover on social media, so always make sure to try to see the person live at least once. You can also get a really good feel from someone by how they speak to you live rather than in an email or text message. If the person refuses to video chat, that is an obvious sign that they hide something from you.
5. Run Their Text Through Google - Sometimes, you may be talking to someone from another country. Often, middle eastern and African scam artists will try to entice women from the US to send money to them. These scammers work in large groups, like call centers. They use scripted text, which you can usually find online. If someone you are talking to from a dating site starts talking about or asking you to wire transfer money, this should be a HUGE red flag!
6. Report Suspicious Profiles - Every dating website and social media platform gives users the ability to report profiles or accounts that are fake, harassing someone, or posting inappropriate content. If the accusations turn out to be true, that profile will be deactivated and the user banned. While this does not stop the person from creating more fake accounts, it may slow them down a bit, at least. If you are being scammed or blackmailed by someone online, you can report the information to the FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center.
7. Always Meet In Public - This may seem like a no-brainer to most people, but you may be surprised at how many people meet their internet dates for the first time at one of their homes. When meeting someone for the first time, the date should always be in a well-lit, public location and has frequent traffic. You should never feel isolated or alone with the other person. If you want to be the safest, go on your date during day time
8. Skip The Alcohol - First dates are nerve-wracking, and you may be tempted to have a cocktail to calm your anxiety, but you should always skip the alcohol when first meeting someone. You have no idea how they act under the influence, and you also put yourself at risk for danger and date rape. Alcohol can also cloud your judgment and stop you from seeing someone for who they are.
9. Do Not Accept A Ride - Drive yourself or take an Uber to your first date. Do not allow your date to pick you up or know where you live. After the date, do not accept a ride home or let your date follow you. You never know if someone pretends to be a nice person and just waiting to turn into a predator. Protect yourself by not putting yourself in dangerous situations.
10. Be Authentic - You do not want to be catfished, and neither does your date. Do not exaggerate your work history, accept invitations to video chat, offer pictures that give a clear view of what you look like without filters or editing. Answer questions honestly without giving away too much personal information. If you have something in your life that is a big deal to you, such as not wanting to date someone with children, not being interested in a smoker, or needing someone willing to go to church with you every Sunday, you need to be upfront and honest about these things from the very beginning. There is nothing like starting to fall for someone and find out that you have fundamental differences that cannot be overcome.
Online Dating can sometimes work out very well. 17% of new marriages met online, and 20% of people who meet online enter into a committed relationship within a year of meeting. Dating is fun and exciting but also very nerve-wracking. It is safe to say that most people know someone that has been the victim of fraud or assault or harassment, and stalking. Equally, however, most people can say that they know someone who met someone online and is very happy.
Michigan State University, however, did a study that proved that couples who meet online are three times as likely to get divorced and that 28% of relationships end within the first year when partners meet through dating sites. Often, the emotional difficulties of a relationship or the trauma of being scammed through an online dating site can cause situational depression. People who date online are also more likely to be picky and judgmental because every profile is analyzed like an application to date someone.
Online dating can also ruin someone's self-esteem. If you have a dating profile up and are not getting any messages, winks, flirts, hearts, or whatever the sight's way of telling you someone is interested, you may begin to think you are not worthy of dating or love.
There is already a huge stigma about online dating, and when you strike out there, sometimes it can be a huge blow to your confidence and self-esteem. Dating sites always feature your profile with a thumbnail of your profile picture and typically lists your location and age. This causes people to automatically judge by the first impression of appearance rather than the person.
If you or someone you know is having a rough time emotionally, has recently faced trauma, been scammed by an internet dater, or is striking out in the relationship field, ReGain can help. Get pushed in the right direction towards strengthening your mental health and overcoming the trauma or insecurities plaguing you after a dating disaster.
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