Online Dating: How To Avoid Disasters

Updated June 14, 2024by Regain Editorial Team
Content warning: Please be advised, the below article might mention trauma-related topics that could be triggering to the reader. Please see our Get Help Now page for more immediate resources.

In 2019, 12% of new marriages or committed relationships  an online dating relationship. The online dating industry generates almost 2 billion dollars per year, with roughly 30% of all single people in the United States belonging to presently, or at one point having belonged to, an online dating service. While there are many happy endings, there are just as many dating disasters from online dating.

We've all seen Catfish episodes and heard stories of people meeting face-to-face after chatting online and being very surprised to find that the other person is quite different from their online persona. Their in-person mannerisms many not match the way they came across online, or they may have misrepresented themselves in terms of how they look, what they do, how old they are, etc.

Furthermore, statistics suggest 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. These statistics are not intended to suggest that online dating is problematic in and of itself; instead, it highlights some of the more significant concerns people have with the sites and how they encourage others to approach dating and relationships. With some caution and sensible practices, however, successful online dating is possible.

Success in the online dating world

How can you be part of the 20% of successful online dating relationships? There are several ways to avoid disasters with online dating, one of which is to follow and observe online dating etiquette. Here are ten tips which may help you successfully approach online dating:

We’ve all heard disastrous online dating stories before

Check their photos

You might feel like a cyberstalker, but saving their dating profile pictures or social media pictures and running them 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.

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. People who insist on moving the conversation over to another platform immediately after contacting you should also be avoided.

Do your detective work

Have you ever Googled yourself? You would be surprised by the amount of information about yourself that is free and open to the public. You can find articles the person has been featured in, photos of them, newspaper announcements, and even arrest records and employment records.

There are also forums you can find that tell daters which profiles to watch out for or avoid. Other websites are available where people can post stories of their dates, what city they were in, and the date's name to warn others against going out with them or engaging in prolonged conversations with them.

Ask for video chat

Before going on a date with someone you met online, one of the top online dating tips is to 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 read of someone by how they speak to you live rather than in an email or text message. If the person refuses to video chat, they may simply be nervous—or they may be eager to hide something that they were not straightforward about in their initial messages with you.

Run their text through Google

Sometimes, you may be talking to someone from another state or country. Far-away scam artists have been known to try to entice women to send money to them. These scammers may work in large groups, like call centers, or they may operate alone. Often, people who do this 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! 

Report suspicious profiles

Every dating website and social media platform allows users to report fake profiles or accounts, harassment, or 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.

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 that 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 the daytime in a busy (but not too crowded) venue.

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. Alcohol can also cloud your judgment and stop you from seeing someone for who they are.

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. Predators are not always easily detectable; many predators have been described as charismatic, charming, or extremely likable. Protect yourself by preserving the location of your home and waiting until the two of you have time to get to know one another.

Be authentic

You do not want to be catfished, and neither does your date. Be honest about your work history, accept invitations to video chat, and offer pictures that give a clear view of what you look like without filters or editing. Answer questions honestly without giving away too much 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 holy day, 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.

Just as with relationships started in the real world, online relationships can fail. One study determined 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. 

Many people, however, have successfully built committed relationships that began online. Following tips like those above can help you to better navigate the online dating world, and you may just find your special someone. 

Avoid dating disasters with a therapist's guidance

Being unsuccessful in online dating can result in mental health disorders. The trauma of being scammed through an online dating site can cause situational depression and poor experiences can bring on anxiety about trying again. People who date online may have more unrealistic expectations and feel as though they are entitled to be more selective than those who meet people organically, because dating app and website profiles provide so many options to choose from.

We’ve all heard disastrous online dating stories before

Online dating can also harm someone's self-esteem. If you have a dating profile up and are not getting any messages, winks, flirts, hearts, or whatever the site's way is to tell you someone is interested, you may begin to think you are not worthy of dating or love.

If you or someone you know is having a rough time with online dating, has recently faced trauma, been scammed by an internet dater, or is struggling to make their relationships go the distance, online therapy may help. Just as online dating presents many options for people to meet, online therapy provides a wide range of therapists to choose from. Mental health intervention can help you build up your self-esteem, determine what you are searching for in a relationship, and help you determine what your goals are in pursuing online dating,

Regain may be able to help. This online platform can match you with licensed therapists trained in discussing relationship issues. After answering a questionnaire, Regain will match you with a therapist who can help with your particular situation. You'll be able to connect with your therapist via text, telephone, or video chat. With support in working through whatever you're dealing with, you can return to the online dating scene with confidence, ready to meet someone new.

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