By all accounts, I’m an online dating veteran. I joined my first dating site in the early 1990s, when people used forums and bulletin boards to find matches online, and have been on and off dating sites ever since. When I look back at my very first dates, it’s easy to see where things could have gone wrong.
Tip 1: Chat face to face
Back in the olden days when online dating wasn’t socially acceptable, people often were reluctant to post pictures or videos online – with reason. However, these days are long gone and you should be on your guards if the person you’re chatting avoids showing his or her face. Ask for one or more pictures at the very least if their profile has none. Be prepared to send or show pictures of you too, in return, if only to build trust.
If your relationship progresses, you should always chat face-to-face online before meeting in person. You’ll get to know one another so much better than through written messages: studies have shown that up to 93 percent of communication effectiveness depends on non-verbal cues. It’s also the best way to expose people using PhotoShopped pictures or online dating scammers hiding behind stolen identities.
If your date resists an online video chat, don’t take no for an answer. It’s free to chat online over Skype or Google Talk for example. MSN Messenger and Yahoo Messenger also allow video chats – all you need is a webcam. With FaceTime coming to the iPad 2 and iPhone 4, you have more choices than ever before.
Tip 2: Get his or her contact details
As the conversation progresses, you’ll make arrangements for a first date. Make sure you swap contact details ahead of time. You should be on your guards if your date resists giving their phone number. Online dating scammers living overseas will often push back on this.
Always give your date a courtesy call ahead of time to confirm time and place. It also helps validate that the number you have is indeed theirs.
Tip 3: Meet in a public place
Choose a public space where you can be seen for your first date. Coffee shops and food courts are ideal because they’re busy places. And if you’re looking for something a little more romantic, make sure you avoid quiet or poorly lit areas.
Please keep this in mind all at times. It’s easy to get carried away as your date progresses, moving from a public busy spot a secluded area. Be on your guards at all times, from start to finish, no matter who charming he is.
Tip 4: It’s OK to say no
This tip is for you if you don’t like to say ‘no’ or tend to look for ways to accommodate others. When you feel under pressure, it can be even harder to voice your opinion and stand up for yourself. If you think this could be an issue, practice your lines ahead of time in front of a mirror. It’ll make it easier to turn down requests firmly yet politely on the day.
Tip 5: Tell your friends
Last but not least, let your close friends or parents know when and where you’ll be seeing someone. Make sure they have your date’s name and contact number in case something goes wrong.
Ideally, you could have a friend call you when you’re with your date – it’s a great ‘get out card’ if the date isn’t going to plan and you’re looking for an excuse to leave. Make sure you mention you’re seeing ‘so and so’ on the call to your friend to make it clear to your date that others know where you are.
Together, these and other dating tips can keep you safe when you’re out and about.