Sadly, not every person in the online world is well-intentioned, and this fact can be doubly painful when you’ve just made yourself vulnerable in the search for romance and intimate connection. The good news is that, as it is in real life, these maladjusted individuals are only a small minority of the online population. However, they do exist, and if you’re going to date or hook up IRL (in real life) with someone you’ve met in the digital universe, you need to be aware of this fact and take some basic precautions.
The following suggestions will not, of course, guarantee your physical and emotional safety. They will, however, help to protect you if you follow them.
- Meet in a public place. Even if your goal is a quick hookup, your first meeting should take place at a coffee shop, museum, café, park, or some other public venue. This gives you time to get to know a person at least a little bit, so you can identify obvious red flags before agreeing to meet in a more private setting.
- Tell your friends or family what you’re doing. Make sure at least one friend or family member 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.
- Pay your own way. If the other person wants money or gifts from you, or wants to shower you with money or gifts, walk away. That person does not love you or even care about you. Sex/love in exchange for money/gifts is not romance, it’s prostitution. If you are unsure about a person’s sincerity, ask a trusted friend or family member what they think before you move forward.
- Dress appropriately. If you’re seeking long-term romance, leave the super-sexy outfit in your closet. Yes, you want to make sure the other person finds you attractive, but sending an overtly sexual message may scare a serious suitor away, as that suitor might think you are only interested in a hookup. Of course, if you’re meeting solely for sex, feel free to display your assets.
- Trust your instincts. This is the most important safety tip of all. If a situation doesn’t feel right to you for any reason at all, get out. You are under no obligation to continue a date. Ever. Maybe the issue is something innocuous, maybe not. Either way, if the situation feels uncomfortable, then the other person is not what you’re looking for.
The good news is that the vast majority of people you find online are sincere in their desire to meet a long-term partner, a casual sex partner, or a friend. So, provided you take some simple steps to protect yourself, meeting an online acquaintance IRL is generally no more dangerous than spending time with a person you met some other way.