The internet has, without a doubt, transformed our world. With so many dating sites and apps out there, we’re more likely to find love now than ever before.
In fact, statistics show that 1 in 5 relationships begin online nowadays. But this new world hasn’t come without its dark side. While the majority of us have good intentions, the dangers of online dating are real. There is no denying that dating from behind a screen provides the perfect opportunity for scammers, predators and catfishes to manipulate, and possibly harm people.
A whopping 55% of online daters have experienced some kind of problem while dating online. Such drastic statistics on the dangers of online dating really bring into question whether online dating is worth it. While most dating apps and sites have safety procedures in place to protect users, it’s important to be aware of the dangers of online dating. So, let’s dive into all the dangers of dating online and how to avoid them (don’t miss our beautiful infographic with online dating safety tips!)
Online dating dangers: Catfishing
The first risk of dating online is also one of the most common. Catfishing is something that many of us have experienced in our time. And it’s all too easy to appear as someone you’re not online – it only takes one photo. Countless people have been tricked into thinking they’ve found the one when in reality things couldn’t be farther from the truth.
But catfishing isn’t as simple as just using a stranger’s photo. We all have a tendency to exaggerate certain desirable aspects of our lives or personalities, especially when we want to impress a potential match. And with 57% of online daters admitting they lie, it can be hard to know if someone is being truthful or not.
How to keep yourself safe:
Say you’ve met someone online. No matter how much you get on, or what great conversations you have on messenger, remember all of that happens from behind a screen, where it’s all-too-easy to lie or keep secrets. Talking on the phone and over FaceTime can act as a great screening tool to make sure they’re the person they appear to be, and help inform your decision to take things further and meet in person.
Online dating dangers: Financial Fraudsters
While we would love to believe that everyone on dating sites is innocently looking for love, the harsh reality is that dating apps are simply another playing field for con artists and fraudsters. What’s even worse is that they can hide behind the guise of being an online dater, and use the connections they make with people to manipulate them into giving them personal details.
Research has shown that 16% of online daters give out personal details to their matches, which can potentially put them at risk of fraud. Information such as bank details and addresses, in the wrong hands, could lead to you having money stolen off you or even your identity stolen.
How to keep yourself safe:
A bit of caution never hurts, especially online. Never share personal information or any details about your daily routine with people you speak to online. It’s best to research the person you’re speaking to, and make sure they are who they say they are. Be wary if someone tries to move to texts or emails too quickly, as they may have bad intentions.
Online dating dangers: Sexual harassment
We all have a friend or have experienced ourselves being the object of unwanted attention. Whether it’s catcalls on the street or someone repeatedly trying to hit on you, women are victims of sexual harassment every day. Unfortunately, this seems to carry over to the world of online dating too.
While dating sites and apps try to safeguard their users from harassment with features like blocking or reporting inappropriate users, harassment is a risk of online dating for many. This can take the form of excessive messaging, or even sending unsolicited explicit photos to people.
How to keep yourself safe:
When navigating the world of online dating, it’s crucial to be assertive. Set boundaries with people, and make it clear what you are and aren’t comfortable with. This is especially important if someone is asking for intimate photos or wanting to meet sooner than what you’re comfortable with.
Don’t be afraid to ask difficult questions, or to say no. After all, if they’re genuinely interested in you, they’ll respect your boundaries. Your intuition is the best guidance tool you have at your disposal – so use it.
Online dating dangers: Risks of online dating for minorities
For minorities, whether that be by race or sexuality, online dating can be a negative experience. From racist algorithms to suffering abuse and lower rates of success while on dating platforms, bias very much rears its ugly head, even in the online dating world. The psychological and emotional effects these things can have on minority groups is substantial and can make the dating world a dangerous one.
Online dating is vastly popular in the LGBTQ+ community, with 55% of LGB adults using dating sites. While they provide a great opportunity to meet new people, the discrimination and violence that many LBGTQ+ people face can increase the risk of online dating. Many users can be subject to abuse on mainstream dating apps, but thankfully, LGBTQ+ focussed apps such as Her and Grindr provide a welcome solution for the LGBTQ+ community.
Best practices for online dating safety
While there are dangers to watch out for when you’re dating online, there are many ways in which you can help ensure your online dating safety.
Stay on the app
Dating apps are designed to keep you safe by providing block and report options, and monitoring chats. If things do go south, dating apps have records of conversations and can take action against inappropriate users.
You also gain a level of anonymity with dating apps, whereas if you agree to connect over text or social media, your match has a direct line to you, where they could potentially gain more information and use it against you. The best course of action is to stay on the app until you have built a level of trust, or have met up in person and can confirm who they are.
Do your research
We promise you won’t be branded a “stalker” for doing this. As we’ve discussed before, it’s extremely easy to be a catfish, so it pays to be smart when you’re online dating. Don’t be afraid to do a little digging to suss out whether your match is genuine or not. You could save yourself a lot of time, effort and money this way.
Trust your instincts
Your intuition is the best guidance you could ask for – so use it! Listen to your gut feeling when you’re online; if a message sounds off, or makes you feel uncomfortable, you should probably end the conversation (or make use of that block feature!) Your intuition is what will keep you safe, so it’s worth listening to.
While the risks of online dating are very real, as long as you’re cautious and smart when online dating, there’s no reason why you can’t have a good experience. If you ask us, online dating is a great way to make new connections and hopefully find love, as long as you keep yourself safe!