by Meredith Maitrejean

In this day and age, mobile apps have become a major part of life. Apps are used to communicate, get directions, check bank accounts and pay bills: the list goes on and on. With this increasingly heavy reliance on apps, it was only a matter of time until people turned to them to find love. Welcome to the world of dating apps. If you are familiar with dating apps, you have probably heard both success stories and horror stories. While it is both convenient and exciting to have your potential true love at your fingertips, dating app users must not be so blinded by the chance at love that they forget to exercise basic safety. Here are a few tips to help dating app users exercise caution in their online search for love.

Be cautiously optimistic
Matching with someone on a dating app is exciting because this person could be “the one”. While matching with someone is exhilarating, however, do not forget that this person is still a stranger. During the first few conversations with a new match, refrain from sharing specific details about yourself, such as where you work or where you live, until you have developed trust in that person. Continue your conversation on the dating app until you feel comfortable sharing your phone number with that person, even if they ask for your number before you are ready. Since you just began interacting with this person, it is okay to keep information to yourself until you are ready to share. Trust your instincts.

Do your research
Thanks to social media, it can be very easy to find out information about someone that you have never met before. For the sake of safety, it is fair game to search for someone on social media before meeting them. Someone’s online presence can tell you a lot about that person. If you have any mutual friends, ask them about your date. This may help you find out more about the person you are meeting. If the information you uncover is positive, this can provide conversation topics for your first date. If the information is negative or seems false, you have the choice to proceed with the date or cancel if you feel uncomfortable. Do not ignore red flags.

Evaluate your online presence
Remember that just as easily as you can find out information about your match, they have the same ability to find out information about you. Unfortunately, not everyone has the best intentions. Make sure your social media privacy settings are set to limit the amount of information you share with the world. Understand what your “friends” or
“followers” can see about you and what strangers can learn about you as well. If your settings are public, be wary of sharing your location or information that can lead someone to find you. For instance, if you continuously post pictures at your favorite neighborhood spot, predators can identify patterns that can be used to harm you. Protect yourself.

Pick a Safe Location
When meeting with an online match for the first few times, be smart about the date details:

» Pick a mutually convenient location to avoid allowing your match to pick you up from your home.
» Choose a location where other people will be present, so if anything goes wrong on the date, there are witnesses.
» Identify a meeting place that is easy to exit if you begin to feel unsafe.
» Be sure at least one person you trust knows the name of the person you are meeting, the place where you are meeting, the time of the date and how long you expect the date to last. Consider using an app to share your location for a limited time with the person you trust so they can track you in real-time.

Online dating can be rewarding for those in the pursuit of a romantic connection. However, there is the possibility of matching with a malicious person with dangerous intentions. Dating app users must be cautious and protect themselves from potentially harmful situations.