While researching a previous story on first date horror stories, I noticed a common thread running through all of them - most had met the person via some sort of online dating app.
It’s not a coincidence. Since the start of the pandemic, online dating has seen a massive explosion with an increase in the number of dating app users and the amount of time people spend on dating apps.
Tinder says its users had 11% more swipes and 42% more matches last year, making 2020 the app’s busiest year, The Conversation reported.
But that hasn’t made online dating that much safer, quite the contrary. Online dating apps have an obligation to uphold, ensuring that checks and balances are held in place to protect those who are vulnerable to scams and even potential victims of violence.
Paul Rider met his wife online and after seeing the benefits of online dating when done right.
He started SALT, a Christian dating app that recently launched in South Africa.
“There were problematic elements in a number of the apps,” said Rider.
“My wife's friend told us that she had signed up for one and within a few hours had received multiple messages from the same guy who was more than double her age and on a different continent. And that just doesn't lead to a positive experience,” he added.
Users need to take their own precautions to ensure they have a good experience and to protect themselves from predators and con artists.
“Just because this is online, don't check out your logic or any sort of wisdom that you would normally apply if you were to go to a bar or a restaurant or get introduced to someone at a party.
“You'd be on the lookout for different signals in real life, and be making sure that what you were doing was appropriate, and making sure you're sharing the right things at the right time.
“Similarly, when you're online, it's important to continue to be smart in the way that you make decisions and how you communicate. Don’t share too much too soon,” Rider advised.
He also suggests that you involve friends or family in your journey: “Don't just keep it as an isolated thing, share it with someone you can confide in. When you're arranging to go on a date, let them know what you're doing and where you're going, and of course, make sure your first meeting is in a public place with other people, like a restaurant or coffee shop.”
And always remember, don’t include too much private or personal information – and never give money to people you’ve recently met online.
If the person’s profile pictures look too good to be true, they probably are, and you should be very wary if someone starts declaring their love for you after only a few encounters.
“I’d suggest trying to meet up in person sooner rather than later. Don't build up a ‘serious’ relationship over a long period of time where you're just talking back and forth online,” Rider warned.
“Wanting to meet someone and actively dating through a dating app requires a lot of mental and emotional effort and time as well. So actually having friends that you can check in with and who can see how you're doing really makes a big difference. You need to make sure that you're managing the process and being wise with your time and your energy.”
“Yes, you need to be cautious, but online dating can be fun and thanks to technology. The better apps out there are geared to match you with the most suitable person for you,” he concluded.