Sometimes having the flu has its advantages. When I was laid up with a fever and stuck on the couch all day, I binge-watched a television show that I believe has kept me out of the trunk of a guy’s car. The docu-series Investigation Discovery’s “Web of Lies” tells real-life horror stories of online dating gone bad, like, really bad – from stalking and identity theft to rape, murder, and even torture.
The show scared me straight when it comes to my own personal rules for online dating. Now, mind you, these rules stand for dating a stranger that you meet on a dating site or app. If you meet a man through friends or work, there’s little need to be this protective. And, yes, some people call me paranoid for these safety nets, but as cliché as it maybe: It’s really better to be safe than sorry!
Rule No. 1: Protect Your Privacy
I don’t give my date my last name until it’s clear I want to pursue a relationship with him. Some guys find this off-putting, but, frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn. I simply tell them, “Look. If I give you my last name, you’ll Google me and know more about me than you should before a first date.” I believe in getting to know someone the crazy way: Talking…in person. Before I made this rule, I gave a guy my last name and Googled the heck out of me. He used what he found (my favorite artists, music, movies) to make it seem like we had a lot in common, which made me like him more. He later fessed up that he did indeed “research” me. The other reason to keep your last name hush-hush for a bit is it’s just too easy to find out where someone lives and the restaurants/bars/clubs that you check-in at on Facebook, and this is just offering yourself up on a silver platter to a potential stalker.
Rule No. 2: Vet Your Date
Now, here’s where it’s not fair — but safety trumps hypocrisy here. If your date offers up his last name, absolutely Google the heck out of him! But don’t do it to create the cheat sheet of bonding like my date did. You want to look for red flags, such as arrests and lawsuits, and you also want to try to verify if what he’s told you so far (i.e., his marital status, job, etc.) is legit. Don’t tell him you Googled him, though. He might think you’re the psycho.
Rule No. 3: Meet There
Don’t let him pick you up. You don’t want a potential psycho knowing where you live and you certainly wouldn’t let a stranger into your home. It’s also a good idea to pick a restaurant or bar in a neighborhood you are familiar with, but not your favorite local spot. If you end up blowing him off after a date or two, and he has any stalker-tendencies, you don’t want him showing up at your favorite Happy Hour unannounced.
Rule No. 4: Tell a Friend
I live alone and I work from home. And, often times when I’m on deadline, I will hole up for days without talking to my friends. It’s sad to say, but the reality is if I ended up missing, it would take a little longer to find me than someone with a roommate or an actual job they are expected at every day. So, every time I go on a date with a stranger I met on a dating site, I give a friend the details – his name, where we’re going, and a link to his dating profile. I text my friend when I’m home safely.
Rule No. 5: Take a Photo
We’ve all had occasional one-night stand or have slept with a guy a first date. I think this is a big no-no when you are looking for a relationship and I’m certainly not promoting it. But we’re only human and, well, sex happens. I had this momentary lapse in judgment, so before I took him home (for the record, we dated for four months after our sexy first date) I asked if I could take a photo of his driver’s license. He hesitated at first, fearing I would steal his identity. But this was a deal-breaker for me and he acquiesced. I emailed the photo to a friend – just in case. I know it sounds crazy and is awkward to ask, but it might just save you from getting dumped in the desert one day. Ideally, though, don’t take a strange guy home on a first date!
Rule No. 6: Don’t Connect on Social Media:
Some dating apps let you connect via your social media sites. Don’t do this. It’s for the same reason you don’t want to give out your last name or place of employment. I have decided to not even become friends on Facebook or follow each other on Twitter and Instagram until we are in a monogamous relationship because if the shit hits the fan, I don’t want to get cyberstalked! That said, if his dating profile is connected to his social media, use it to your advantage. See if you have mutual friends and then grill your pal about him before your big date.
*picture from rantlifestyle.com