Safe Dating – Staying Safe Online Without Landing Yourself in Dating Hell

Dating online is like any other social networking site (Facebook, Twitter, Bebo), but anxiety about how our personal information will be used or accessed can prevent people from enjoying the experience. How can we display ourselves openly and honestly on the Internet and keep ourselves safe?

Personal profiles usually consist of confidential information (name, address, contact details), as well as particulars about work, hobbies and likes/dislikes. The scariest aspect of this process though, is often the thought of having your own image emblazoned across a website for all the world to witness! It’s easy to see why some people might be put off using such sites when seemingly anyone – from the next-door neighbour to our worst enemies – might see this information and (horror of horrors) find out all our dark secrets.

Of course, profile photos aren’t always used and in some cases dating sites encourage the use of avatar-style images, rather than personal pics. Information relating to home address and phone numbers is generally only required for dating sites that charge a fee for their services, so if you join a non-fee-paying site, the only personal detail you must give is your email address. I’ll come back to email addresses later, but to be honest, if you want to get anywhere on a dating site, you really do have to come clean about who you are; otherwise it isn’t really going to work. So how do we marry the need for privacy with the necessity for openness?

Here’s my Six Top Tips for Secret un-Secretness on the Internet:

Location – When you declare your geographical whereabouts on your profile, it’s worth thinking about ‘locating’ yourself somewhere else. This is especially important if you live in a small town or village, as you’ll be easy to find in a tight-knit community. Why not virtually move yourself to a town 20 miles away? This shouldn’t influence who views you on the dating site, even if they use facilities like Who’s Near Me (which many sites have these days), but it does give you a little bit more anonymity, which is helpful.

Photos – many daters use a photo that they think makes them look good, but forget to consider what’s in the background of the image. Be wary of including any identifying features, such as uniforms, signs or buildings that might give clues to where they were taken.

The Spiel – There’s usually a section in your profile that asks you to say something about yourself, your interests, likes, loves etc. Try to keep this information on a personal level – write about the sort of person you are and what you want out of life. Don’t spout forth about your friends, the places you go for entertainment and where you buy vegetables on Saturday mornings. While these knickknacks might paint an interesting portrait of your life, they can also give clues to where you live, work and shop. (I’m not trying to be a scaremonger here, but it’s better to be careful about this stuff until you meet someone you are able to trust with these intimate details).

Email – It’s not a great idea to use your regular email address for online dating, especially if your name happens to be John Ferguson, you have a tractor business and your email is johnfergusontractors@… Far safer is my tactic of creating a brand new email address to be used solely for your dating adventures. It’s a good idea too, to come up with something that relates to your intended online profile, so names like L00k1n4l0ve@… RUthe14mE@… and D0ntbre4KmiHe4rt@… are quite useful as they also help with security issues.

It’s worth noting that many dating sites have the facility to let you sign up using your Facebook account. Don’t do this. Ever. Despite the fact that it may be easier and a bit quicker, all you’ll achieve is a world of pain and misery. Okay, maybe not pain and misery, but most people have way too much personal information on Facebook, so best leave well alone.

Mobile Phones – Many dating sites don’t ask for a mobile phone number. Of course, if you want to use your phone to pay fees, or get involved in accessing your account when you’re away from your computer, it can’t be avoided. The safest way is not to divulge your number at all, though if you have a Smartphone, I’d say it’s okay to access email. If you do give out contact numbers as part of your signing up process, check that they won’t be shown on your profile.

Home Address – again, the only reason you should need to give out this information is as part of the fee-paying process to confirm your bank details etc. Don’t even think about sharing this information with other daters until you’ve met them, assessed how trustworthy they are and you’re sure you want them to know your personal information.

Dating online is easy, but don’t let complacency get in the way of finding that special someone – stay safe.

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