Online Dating: How To Be Safe

By Sohie Dila

If you’re single and ready to mingle, you know that online dating is the mainstream. And whether you like it or not, more and more single people are meeting up thanks to one of the myriad online dating websites or apps. Tinder, Match, Bumble, MeetMindful, Hinge, Zoosk, PinkCupid, OK Cupid… the list goes on and on! Since everybody’s doing it, we thought we’d give you some healthy pointers on how to keep your Internet connection safe and sexy and be open to “Just Talk About It.” Here are some common questions and concerns people have about their physical and emotional wellbeing in interweb dating.

“I’ve never met this person before. How do I know she’s who she really says she is?”

Well, you don’t, until you meet up. So take good precautions. Plan to get together in a familiar, comfortable, public place. Tell a friend or two about your plans, so they know where you are and can shoot you a text half way through to see how things are going. Also, catfishing is a real thing. Some people post fake pictures online to lure people in. So listen to your gut. If you want to leave or bail, do it! Online dating isn’t for the faint of heart.

“I’m looking for a relationship. How do I know he’s not already in one or just looking for friends with benefits?”

Dating via internet connections offers an amazing opportunity to practice open communication with your partner right out of the gates. Check in with yourself: what are you in this for? Is your motivation to make new friends, find a long-term partner, or one of those shades of grey in between? It’s super common to discuss expectations on the first date. Your feelings may change along the way, and that’s ok! Things could play out in a way you’re not expecting. You won’t know unless you ask, so go for it.

“I’m uneasy about online dating, and I’m honestly not even sure what I’m looking for right now. Is that ok?”

Of course! Motivations to date are vast. Some people hope to make new friends, others are looking for a long-term partner, and then there are all the shades of grey in between. Use this opportunity to check in with yourself and to experiment a little bit. Keep an open mind. Get out there and see what feels good (and what doesn’t!). The less pressure you put on yourself, the better. You never know who you’ll meet.

“I’ve heard that online dating is tied to an increase in some STIs, like syphillis. Is that true? How do I keep myself safe?”

It’s true that cases of syphilis in Colorado are on the rise, but the cause of that increase is still unknown. Although almost half of the reported syphilis cases have used online dating apps before, that usage has remained stable over time while syphilis cases increased. There are a few facts, however, and the public health community has some ideas of what’s going on. The vast majority of the new syphilis cases have occurred in men, and health officials are seeing less condom use overall.

Beforeplay.org wants to provide this friendly reminder — condoms (male or female) help prevent STIs. Online dating may lead to new sexual partners, so it is important to discuss previous STI testing dates. Getting STI tests together can also provide confirmation that you are both clean. Frankly, just make sure you have open, honest conversations and wrap it up!