How to Stay SAFE When On-Line Dating (Or ANY Dating)

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Image courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons contributor Bob Jagendorf

By. Kristen Lamb

The holidays are coming and no one wants to be alone. I get it. The best Christmas gift I EVER received was my to-be-husband on Match.com. We met December 8th, 2010 and have been inseparable since. We married April of 2011 and have the best baby boy in the world. So when someone disses on-line dating? They have NO IDEA what they might be missing out on. I met the love of my life and hope you do, too.

This is why I have dedicated this series to help you have fun and stay SAFE. And yes, these are tips for on-line dating, but they work for even regular dating too. It’s hard to live happily-ever-after if we end up the victims of stalkers or worse.

We’ve talked about some great reasons to give on-line dating a try. We’ve also discussed ways to spot on-line predators and some steps for creating profiles guaranteed to pique interest. So what if you feel that nibble on the line? What’s next? How do you meet? How can you be prudent about safety? It’s a dangerous world we live in, and Discovery ID has all kinds of shows about people who never came back from their “perfect dates.”

Not to scare you, but yeah. We need to be aware that there are crazies out there and often they wear designer clothes. Most don’t foam at the mouth and have a sign that reads “I buried my last three dates under my porch” on their chests.

NEVER Let a First Date Pick You Up ANYWHERE

This person is your date, but for all intents and purposes, he or she is also a stranger. Don’t tell strangers where you live and don’t get in the car with them. Even if your date isn’t a psycho out to make a woman suit out of your skin, a first date can still go downhill FAST. If your date is your sole means of transportation, you can end up trapped or stranded.

I had a friend who went against my advice. I kept telling her to meet the guy for dinner, but she thought he was harmless. Her “harmless date” turned into a “human-pig-octopus” who couldn’t keep his hands off her, and she ended up having to pay for a cab ride home…but not before her date VERY inappropriately jammed his tongue down her throat.

One word. EW!

First Dates Need to Be Brief, During the Day and in Public

This is for safety, of course. But this also allows a chance for you to see if there’s any chemistry before you’re stuck spending four hours in this person’s company. I once met someone for coffee, but he texted through the entire date. NEXT!

If a person is this inconsiderate on Date One, don’t expect it to get better. Another time, I met a guy for early evening appetizers and he spent the entire hour correcting everything I said…when he wasn’t bashing his ex-girlfriend. Again, NEXT!

Profiles are great for narrowing the choices but a brief first date can either confirm a good choice or weed out a stinker that crept in under the algorithm. Guys, do you really want to spend $200 on dinner and dancing with a woman who looks nothing like her profile picture or who can’t stop complaining about the food, the service, the weather, her job or her ex? Ladies, do you want to be trapped two to four hours with a guy who has no respect for personal boundaries?

No Last Names Until Date TWO or Even THREE

Remember we are in the Digital Age. It’s tough to keep our information from being all over the Internet. Don’t give out last names until you’ve had a date or two or THREE and feel comfortable. Google can give away information we might not want others to have. That first date can go sideways, and do you really want him being able to look up your home address on the on-line White Pages? Or for some crazy woman to start stalking you on Twitter or Facebook?

Make Sure to Check In and Out

This tip is especially important for women. If the first coffee date went well and now you’re meeting him for dinner? Tell a gal pal. Give a name, a physical description and maybe even show your friend his profile on-line.  Text when you get to the date. Text when you’re leaving, and text once you’re safe at home.

If you are to date three or four where you feel a bit better about getting in the car with your date, take a picture of the license plate and message it to a friend. This isn’t to assume your date is a serial killer, but it can help your friend or family member find you if you don’t check in.

Maybe you guys were having a fabulous date, but were in a car accident. Bad stuff happens. If your check-in contact has a license plate, this can help them locate you faster and make sure you’re safe. Remember it is better to have and not need than to need and not have.

Create Panic Codes and Safe Words with Your Contact

Yes, this might seem like overkill, but the goal is to remain safe. My friend who went out with the “human-pig-octopus” should have had me as a contact and we should have established a seemingly innocent word or phrase that would have alerted me there was trouble.

If you text: Here at dinner. How is Fluffy feeling?

And your contact knows your cat is named Tigger? This is a code that you need an intervention. Your contact can then call and claim Aunt Tilly had a heart attack and that she’s picking you up on her way to the hospital.

Maybe the coffee date went great and the first dinner was fabulous. But on date three? Your date suddenly turns into Dexter. Have a safe word so you can make a clean exit.

Conversely, safe words/phrases help your contact relax.

If you text: Thanks for watching Tigger.

Your contact knows that, for the moment, things are okay and to wait for the text that you’re heading home.

Listen to Your Gut

We’ve all been on the date where something didn’t feel right. Just because we can’t articulate why we don’t feel good about another person is no reason to ignore our deeper instincts. The human brain is an amazing machine and it frequently picks up information we aren’t consciously aware of. Ignore your gut at your own risk.

No Alcohol on the First Two Dates MINIMUM

Just so you know, the “meeting for coffee” initial date doesn’t count as a real date. The first two real dates are vital, and, remember, the other person is still, effectively, a stranger. Alcohol not only impairs our better judgment, but it also hinders our ability to pick up on red flags. It can also lower inhibitions, making us reveal too much too soon or get physical before the relationship is strong enough to handle that kind of intimacy.

Our goal here is for you to connect with someone long-term, so be smart and stay safe.


Kristen is the author of the new best-selling book, Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World in addition to the #1 best-selling books We Are Not Alone—The Writer’s Guide to Social Media and Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer. She’s a contributing humor blogger for SocialIn, a blog that reaches 2.5 million and blogs for The Huffington Post. You can also follow her author blog here.She is also the Social Media Columnist for Author Magazine. Feel free to follow her on Twitter at @KristenLambTX and on Facebook.

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