We’re living in a digital world. It’s easier to meet and connect with people than ever before. Whether you’re looking for friendship or something more, meeting someone new is just a click (or tap, or swipe) away.
In theory, it’s exciting. You never know who you might connect with, whether they’re only a few towns away or in a completely different state.
However, an online connection can only go so far. Even talking to someone via Facetime or Zoom isn’t the same as being able to sit in the same room with them. That’s why many people choose to take things “offline” with people they meet on the Internet. Maybe you’ll end up with the love of your life or a new best friend.
While meeting someone online can be fun and may even change your life, it’s also important not to walk into it blindly.
With that in mind, let’s look at a few tips you can keep in mind both online and off to keep yourself safe.
Do Your Research
Before meeting someone in person, make sure you’re connecting with the right type of people online. It’s always best to go through communication sites with a strong, positive reputation.
Try to avoid using generic chatrooms to meet people. Instead, use apps and sites that allow you to see as much information as possible. Of course, people can always stretch the truth in any situation. But you’re more likely to find someone genuinely looking for companionship on a trusted site.
Once you’ve connected with someone, don’t feel guilty about “researching” them. Nowadays, everyone has a digital footprint. It’s okay to look at their social media, or even run a background check. While it’s easy to want to see the best in people, not everyone is always honest about who they are. The most important thing is to protect yourself.
Get to Know Them
Meeting someone online isn’t something that should be rushed.
Even if you feel a strong connection with someone, try to take things slowly. Even if everything from your research checks out, it’s still important to get to know someone. Think about the pace you might take if you connected with someone in person. Chances are, you would go on several dates or outings together and use that time to truly get to know each other.
Meeting someone online can be exciting, but don’t let that excitement (or even those butterflies!) hinder your judgment. If they truly want to be your friend—or something more — they will want to be just as patient as you.
Prepare for a Meeting
If you eventually want to meet your online companion in person, safety should be your top priority.
Always meet in a public location. Never give them personal information that could lead to your home or where you work before you meet. Even if they’re not a dangerous individual, that’s something that needs to be kept private until you meet in person and you’re ready to take things to the next step in your level of trust.
It’s also a good idea to let someone close to you know where you’ll be and who you’ll be meeting. It helps to have someone looking out for you in case things don’t go as planned. If you have to travel to meet your online friend, don’t do it alone.
Again, meeting someone online should be a fun and happy experience. If you do things the right way, it can be! However, don’t blind yourself to the fact that there are still people out there who may want to inflict harm — emotionally or physically. Prepare yourself as much as possible, and put your safety above your feelings.