Dating safety tips

Jacob Pitts
Staff Writer

Online dating through apps like Tinder and Bumble is becoming increasingly popular with students, but is everyone staying safe?

When early childhood education major Kathleen Davila was preparing for her Tinder date, she took no chances. She met up with her Tinder date at the movies, but unbeknownst to him Davila’s best friend was also at the meetup.

For the full duration of the almost two-and-a-half-hour film, she spied on them from the row directly behind in case he ended up being sketchy.

“I forced her to come along and sit behind me so I wouldn’t get kidnapped,” Kathleen said. “He found out she was there and he was really shocked at first and wouldn’t stop laughing, but he was also glad I was being safe.”

Her date turned out to be fine, but it’s always better to be safe than sorry. Davila met her date in a public place, she brought her own form of transportation, and even had a friend who would be able to intervene if things went south. When it comes to online dating, it’s best to prepare for the worst.

Tinder’s official website has a safety page which encourages its users to get to know their matches before a face-to-face encounter, meet in a public setting, have an escape plan, ensure that their phones are fully charged, stay sober, and tell a friend or family member the who, what, when, and where of the date.

Before students even plan to meet up with their matches, they should always have a good idea of who it is that they’re talking to. Even the smallest red flags can be intuition trying to save us from a bad situation, and those gut instincts should never be ignored or dismissed as paranoia.

The 2010 documentary Catfish and its hit spinoff MTV series of the same name have shone the light on a phenomenon known as “catfishing.” Now a notorious term in the online dating lexicon, catfishing is when one passes off someone else’s persona and pictures as their own with the intent to mislead and deceive.

If someone suspects that they’re being “catfished,” they should reverse image search the photos. The “search by image” feature on Google will try to find matches and similar photos on the web. If no results turn up, there’s a good chance that the photos actually belong to your date, and haven’t been stolen from somewhere.

It’s also important for dating app users to upload selfies specifically for their profiles and nowhere else. If they have the same picture on other sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, people can use reverse image search to find personal information on their other accounts.

People should avoid sharing their contact info right away like their number, email, and social media, and providing their own address to meet up at is even worse. Their date could refuse to leave their home, and on the other hand, meeting on their date’s territory puts them in a position of power. Meeting in public will level the playing field, and if the date goes badly, both parties have the opportunity to walk away and forget it ever happened.

Once students know that their date is legit, they should think carefully about details. Like Davia’s date at the movies, the first few dates should always be in a public place. Restaurants, clubs, and other hangouts have cameras and witnesses, and most importantly, they’re easier to leave than private locations if things go south.

This Valentine’s Day, college students should brush up on their dating safety and remain conscious of all outcomes for the most enjoyable experience possible.

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