PLEASE NOTE: You must be 18 or over to legally use a dating website or app so please bear that in mind.
Online dating has become increasingly popular in recent years and it looks like that trend is only going to continue. Gone are the days of meeting someone in a bar or through a mutual friend. It's easy to see why people turn to websites like Tinder, or Match.com. It is so easy to create a profile and it allows you to meet single people outside your circles who you may not have otherwise given a second look.
But online dating is also scary. With an estimated 323.9 million people using dating apps (source: Cloudwards.net) it can be really difficult to decide who to 'swipe left' or 'swipe right', so to speak. Not everyone on a dating site is going to be trustworthy and who they say they are and, certainly for women, unsolicited pictures (colloquially known as 'dick pics') are a common occurrence. But it’s not just women. Men can also feel concerned for their safety as women online can also be inclined to lie or make omissions about who they are and their life. So do the pros of online dating outweigh the cons and if so, how can you keep yourself safe?
I am extremely inexperienced when it comes to dating. My first and only serious relationship was when I was 15/16 years old and it really didn't end well. I had briefly considered online dating before but I had always been scared as all I’ve ever known is the horror stories you hear about catfishes and dick pics and people just looking for sex. I knew I didn’t want that so I was very reluctant to go online, despite my godmother insisting that I needed to get out there again and give dating a chance. But, despite my reservations, I have recently taken the leap and decided to try Facebook Dating. It’s been an interesting endeavour, to say the least. I was decidedly optimistic about online dating and thought I’d met ‘the one’ the first time I matched and spoke with someone.
That was my first encounter with what I call ‘the bullshitter.’ He told me he’d never met anyone like me, never felt this way about anyone and he was falling in love with me (this was all on the first date, two days after we’d started talking, can I add.) He kept saying how he couldn’t wait to put a ring on my finger and spend his life with me. Cue two weeks later, two days before our second date, he messaged me to tell me he was getting back with his ex-girlfriend… who was also pregnant with his baby. I mean - what, wow. What am I meant to do with that?
Understandably, I was pretty cautious and nervous after that about getting too invested in anyone. I didn’t want to be let down yet again. In the past month or so, I have matched with many people and spoken with roughly half of them. Half of those I’ve clicked with and half of them either didn’t work out or didn’t even reply. I’ve been ghosted, sent unsolicited dirty messages and blocked for no reason at all among other strange interactions. I honestly considered deactivating my profile and just giving up again.
Roughly two weeks ago, I met one of the sweetest guys I've ever encountered. He has one young daughter which is a bit scary for a 22 year old, but he is so kind and makes me feel pretty damn special - not in the way the bullshitter did though, but in a genuine way. He’s made it very clear that he’s fine with me needing to slow down and he won’t pressure me into anything that I’m not ready for or completely 100% comfortable with. It’s early days but we’ve been on three dates so far and thanks to him, I’ve regained a little bit of hope and faith in online dating.
Just because I have met some horrible people doesn’t mean that everyone is horrible. There are some genuinely nice guys online, as proven by the latest guy I’ve met. Online dating is scary and yes, it can be really difficult to navigate like some kind of unsolvable puzzle. But I don't want you to write it off just because of the prospect of meeting someone horrible. So here are some tips from personal experience on how to keep yourself safe and enjoy the experience.
So whilst I encourage you to enjoy the experience of online dating if you decide to try it, I’ll leave you with this thought: be careful and stay safe.
~ Kenzie x