Monday, September 17, 2007

Online Dating… Just be Careful

When I awoke this morning, I had no idea as to what I might discuss in this Post. By noon, however, I had worked on a chapter for the book I am writing with Dr. Bill Lambos, a good friend and colleague (the book is tentatively titled, Your Adult Loving Relationships). The chapter we’re currently drafting is about Internet Dating. Then when I went to the gym for a workout, a friend was talking to me about my first novel, My Sweetpea: Seven Years and Seven Days, in which Sheila, the heroine, ventures into some internet dating following her divorce from Troy. By the time I got home, and after remembering my own personal experiences with internet dating a few years ago, I decided I had my topic for this Post.

If you conduct a search for “Internet Dating” you will find thousands of sites, including hundreds of internet dating services – some of which may have different descriptors. For example, a Net dating service, also known as online dating or Internet dating, is an example of a dating system and allows individuals, couples and groups to meet online and possibly develop a romantic or sexual relationship. Net dating services provide un-moderated matchmaking through the use of personal computers, the Internet, or even cell phones. Among your search findings you also will find an Online Dating Magazine which contains some excellent articles. Likewise, Lovelexicon has some excellent “tips” for safely participating in internet dating. And if you are really interested in engaging in some online dating, I would highly recommend Joe Schwartz’s paperback book, Complete Idiot's Guide to Online Dating and Relating.

While I easily could share with you some horrific stories of things that have happened to people as a result of internet dating, I simply will share with you the following nine online dating safety tips.

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Online Dating Safety Tips

Online dating can lead to wonderful relationships, romance and adventure. Only very occasionally will you ever hear about something going wrong. By employing a few basic guidelines, however, you can make sure you play safely.

1. Go Slow
Take things slowly to start and build trust. Take one step at a time. Begin by exchanging emails, swap recent photos, and chat via Instant Messenger. Listen to your intuition and if you feel uncomfortable then stop. (Also, check out Once You Click with Someone.)

2. Stay Anonymous at the Beginning
As you build trust, you can reveal more about yourself. At first be sure not to reveal your full name, where you live or other contact information at this early stage.

3. Guard Your E-mail
Since a great number of relationships start with exchanging emails; be careful to ensure your email information is private. Your email can reveal more about you than just your email address. For example you may have a digital signature, or your full name. Make sure these are not revealed. If you're not sure what sending an email will reveal about your personal details, send a test message to yourself. If you are in doubt about what your email will reveal to someone about yourself, then send yourself a test message.

Remember to set up an email account especially for your online dating correspondence. Don’t use your real name in your email address.

For Outlook Express 6 users, on the top menu, select Tools, then Accounts... Click on the “Mail” tab, and select the email account you wish to use. Next, click on the button “Properties.” Under “User Information” replace your real name with a nickname, and remove any reference to your “Organization.”

4. Ask for a Photo
Some people say looks are important, others personality! Either way, request a photo from your potential date. It's a good way to check who you are talking has described themselves fairly well! If someone keeps putting off sending a photo, then this should be a warning signal. Of course, there's nothing like actually meeting, so you may not really be sure until then. Don’t forget to ask for more than one photo, and remember to ask when the photo was taken.

5. Use the Telephone
Only give out your phone number when you feel comfortable. You probably have already exchanged emails and chatted via instant messenger. Chatting by phone will give you both a chance to get to know each other better and is a good way to assess your potential date’s social skills.

Use a cell phone if you have one or a pay phone in preference to your home number. If you must use you home number then you should consider suppressing Caller ID on that line. The flip side would be to use a service like Privacy Manager that intercepts numbers without Caller ID. Both features are useful ways to protect yourself and your privacy.

6. Where to Meet
Arrange to meet somewhere public where there’s a lot of people. Make sure you know your route home so you don’t miss the last train or bus, and keep a number to call for a taxi incase you’re late or there’s been a change of plans.

7. Bring a Friend
You may like to bring a friend with you on your first date, and plan for them to leave early if things are going well. You could also arrange to meet them after your date as an additional precaution, or at least to ring them on your way home. Do also remember to take your cell phone if you have one.

8. Tell a Friend
If you can't bring a friend, always tell someone where, when and with whom you are meeting. If traveling, leave your hotel address and phone with them. Call them if possible, after your date.

9. Traveling Long Distance
If you are traveling some way to meet someone for the first time, don’t agree to stay at their place. Instead arrange a hotel and if your budget allows, rent a car. This way if your date isn’t successful you have a place of your own to go. Avoid meeting at the airport or revealing your hotel.

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Question: Have you had an internet dating experience (or any thoughts regarding it) that you could share with us?



Julia Phillips Smith said...

I am such a technophobe, I'm quite sure that if I were single I would not turn to internet dating to meet people. I would get lost in all the set-ups - and I only mean the techie ones. I don't even have a cell phone. Of course, I did manage to start up my blog...and I do enjoy meeting all the other bloggers...Oh, who knows what I would do if I were single in this cyber world?

A friend of mine met her husband through ICQ, I think it was. She did all the things you've cautioned about, and met a really compatible match. Sometimes people might deny themselves possibilities out of fear. Like my fear of technology. Or crazy stalker people. But there are wonderful people out there and all it may take is the courage to put oneself out there one more time.

Dr. Bill Emener said...

Hi Julia,
Thanks for the visit and sharing your (and your friend’s) experiences.
Maybe you’re a technophobe because you can (you can afford to be one). If your life circumstances changed whereby you had to use technology more than you do, I think you’d surprise yourself. (And for the record, I’m not convinced that all of our new technology has really added to our quality of life as much as some people think – too many people are being controlled by their technology. But that’s another story…)
I know a number of couples who met via the Internet as well. Using a site that “screens” and using the precautions as your friend did, nonetheless, are most critical!
Thanks again…
‘til next time,

DH said...

Well...I fell in love with and married the sweetest, kindest, gentlest man, and we met online ( I did follow the rules you mentioned. Not everyone is sweet and kind. I think as a general rule, we need to keep ourselves safe everyday and in all situations. Predators can be strangers to us or someone we think we know and trust. Mostly, I think we need to trust ourselves. If I have a sense of "something being wrong", I try not to dismiss that feeling. But, as Julia says, there are some wonderful people out there. Gotta trust those feeling's of "He's the one" as well. I did, and I am grateful.

Dr. Bill Emener said...

Hi DH,
Nice to see you again.
It sounds like you heeded the "be safe" suggestions and listened to what you saw and heard (I know some people who saw red flags but ignored them). Not only that, but you listened to yourself when you sensed you were seeing a good thing. That's great.
Needless to say, I'm happy for and with you!
'til next time,