Initiating relationships in South Africa, like the rest of the world, has evolved so dramatically. People have gone from forming strong friendships that progress into romantic relationships to connecting with someone at night clubs, albeit for a one night stand, and now online. Nowadays many marriages, some of them solid, are as a result of social media and online dating as one-in-three South Africans prefer to use online dating services and apps.
However, there are also countless number of risks associated with online dating, resulting in untold devastation. Not everyone enjoys the experience as positive, and many have to fend off threats, cyber scammers, kidnappers, extortionists and fake profiles with malicious links.
How singles fail to look out for themselves has dangerous consequences on their own lives. Here are few tips to help:
Never reveal your contact details
When you create an online dating profile, be extremely cautious about what information you disclose. Keep things pretty general and avoid exchanging personal contact details with a stranger – no matter how cute – at all costs. “Cute” guys can be very dangerous. Make sure you use a reputable site that allows you to keep private information like your full ID name, telephone number, physical address – work or home – or even personal email. It’s best to use the dating service’s internal, secure messaging system until you feel as though you know the person to some degree. This ensures that when you do run into the inevitable creep online, you still remain anonymous and safe.
Check them out first
If you’re interested in meeting up, do a little bit of research first. Putting their name into search engines and other social media sites should help give you a little more insight into their life. If you uncover anything shady, it isn’t too late to run. Don’t think of this step as stalking but rather as a safety precaution for your life. Anytime you talk, ask questions, and then ask them again in a different way. See if you get the same answers, even to simple questions like where they grew up or work. It may not be as easy to gauge honesty online as it is in person, so be curious and pay attention.
Video chat first
Nowadays, there should be absolutely no reason why your catch is not prepared to video chat before the initial meeting goes ahead. Doing so will give you an opportunity to make sure this person is who they say they are. Video chat also allows you to get to know each other and see if you like what you see. But still, never reveal your physical address.
Use Common Sense
You may feel like you’ve made an “instant connection” online with someone you’ve only just met. Some of that feeling is often a result of the disinhibition that’s a part of being anonymous on the internet today. So go slowly and get to know the person via messaging and emails first. Then proceed to phone calls if you still feel safe, attracted, and curious. Finally, setup a first date when the time is right. Even if you liked the person, never give out your address. And never agree to do anything just because it sounds like fun or exciting if it’s really not you.
Meet in public
This is a no-brainer. Never agree to meet at each other’s place or to give each other lifts. Agree to meet in a shopping mall or restaurant for a number of dates should you be comfortable meeting again. If you need to travel to another location on the date, always take your own car or a taxi. Always arrange for backup transportation like a friend or family member if you’ve relied on public transportation for a meeting.
Tell your friends or family
Make sure at least one of them knows who you are meeting, where and when. Arrange to check in with that person at least once during your date. You might even want to have some friends hanging out wherever it is you’ve decided to meet, discreetly keeping an eye on things from across the room.
Lookout for red flags
Not everyone has similar morals or outlooks on life as you do. Some folks can do a pretty good job at hiding their true agenda, even if you’ve followed most of these tips. First dates – second and even third – are for people to be on their best behaviour. You may not always see the “true self” behind the person you’re sitting across from. Sometimes though, people can’t be on their good behaviour for that long, and signs begin to appear. To identify red flags as such, you have to know who you are and what you won’t take. However, lookout for inconsistent information, sexual moves and disguised requests for money.
How does it feel?
Instinct and common sense are everything in online dating. Never let desperation get on the way of your gut feelings. Proceed slowly with things and at your pace without being pressured for absolutely anything, and watch out for the red flags without being paranoid. Remember, you don’t have to meet everyone you communicate with online. Some people will obviously not be right for you, and you can politely say so before ever progressing to a phone call or first date. Online dating empowers you to make choices that are right for you. Therefore, feel free to make those choices, even if you are typically unused to doing so.