How to Internet Date Safely

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Updated November 02, 2011.

Online dating may seem like the ideal way for a busy or lonely woman to meet a potential partner.You can cut out the long, boring, random process of being introduced to the single acquaintances of friends, or meeting strangers in bars or other public places, and having to fend off those to whom you aren't attracted.But internet dating is not without risks, and these tips on how to internet date safely could reduce the chances of harm from internet dating.

1. Remember the "Dates" are Real People

The internet provides the fantasy of the perfect partner, but no such person exists.And although this does not apply to everyone who engages in internet dating, you are likely to meet a disproportionate number of lonely, desperate, or manipulative people, looking for an easy target.

Real people have faults.They make mistakes.They have bad habits.A small percentage of them have little or no concern for the feelings of others, and are looking for someone to use for sex or money -- or worse.Before you are lured in with the picture and description of someone who seems too good to be true, know that people who internet date are certainly not as perfectly handsome or beautiful, superbly skilled, of advanced intelligent, and well meaning as their profile indicates.

Many of the people who internet date, like you, can't be bothered with the hard work of relationships, don't believe the people they meet in everyday life are good enough for them, or vice versa, or have made such serious mistakes that they are unable to meet someone they can connect with through their daily contacts.They may be married or juggling multiple partners -- and remember, internet dating is attractive to sex addicts, who, like all addicts, tend to be prone to lying.

2. Let Someone Know Who You Are With and Where You Are Going

Meeting a mysterious stranger for a date may seem exciting, but it is highly risky if you are going alone without anyone checking up on you.This is doubly true if you are planning on having sex with your date.Keep your cell phone with you, and have a trusted friend's phone number on speed dial, just in case -- if you go missing, your location can potentially be tracked through your cell phone.And don't hold back on going to the police if a friend doesn't return from a date arranged online.She may be having the time of her life, or she may be at risk of losing her life.It just isn't worth the risk that you won't see her again.

3. Keep Your Personal Information to Yourself

Internet dating goes wrong at least as often as regular dating.And because you are opening yourself up to connecting with the minority of dangerous men, who prey on women, the last thing you want is for them to have access to personal information about you.Not only can they blackmail, stalk, and manipulate you with this information, they can also steal from you, either directly, or through identity theft.

At best, a hurt, rejected internet date can fill up your inbox with angry or sad messages that turn your stomach or give you a headache every time you log on, and at worst, they can harrass, threaten or assault you, and cause serious problems in your personal and professional life.

So set up a free email account through hotmail or gmail, just for internet dating, and use that exclusively for communicating with your date.Then if things don't work out, you can simply delete that account.If you give out your cell phone number, be sure you can block them (although you won't be able to do so from all phones, so you may need to change your number).Do not tell them where you work, or where you live, and meet them in a public place with lots of people around -- do not meet them at home.

You should also be aware that some manipulators spend months or even years establishing a relationship with their victims, so go slow in revealing anything personal.

4. Don't Sext

I've written a whole seperate article on whether "to sext or not to sext," but it is worth repeating here.Even if things get steamy, and you are sure the person is safe, sexting pictures or erotic messages is an avoidable mistake.It is all too easy for these images or messages to fall into the wrong hands, or to become an embarrassing mistake you can't undo if you break up with your internet date.The last thing you need is for a naked picture to be tagged with your name all over facebook, or for your image to be posted up on a porn site.So keep your online communications discreet.

5. Don't Get Carried Away

There is something very exciting about communicating online -- at its best, it can feel like a true meeting of minds, or even of souls.But don't lose your head and do anything that would be unsafe in a regular relationship -- such as having sex without a condom (you could get an STD), take a drink someone else has poured (it could be spiked with a date rape drug), agree to group sex or an orgy with people you don't know (you could end up gang raped or worse).The worst thing about this situation is that if any of these awful things happen to you, you could be seen as asking for it.

And never think that the meaningful conversations you have over email mean that you would get along with the other person day in day out, and make a commitment before you get to know the person.Internet dating does not cut out the hard work involved in building a good relationship, and some women have even agreed to marry an internet date before meeting him, only to end up going through with it because they were in too deep by the time they realized it was unlikely to work.Divorce is often a costly and humiliating process, and is not always straightfoward to arrange.
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