Over the past decade, online dating has become more prevalent than ever. It has only increased since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic—traditional dating as we know it is being replaced with FaceTime first dates and remote romances.
When the global pandemic began in March 2020, Dating.com reported that dating on their site was up 82%. The popular dating app, Bumble, saw a 26% increase in direct messages sent through their platform. Similarly, the elite dating app, Inner Circle, saw a 116% rise in messages sent.
While there are several benefits of online dating, like convenience and the ability to remain socially distant, there are just as many safety precautions you should take to ensure your physical—and sexual—health. Since dating apps and sites do not conduct thorough background checks on their users, it’s up to you to protect yourself from users who are online for the wrong reasons. Not to mention, the current pandemic has warranted the need for more safety precautions. Read on or jump to our infographic to take a closer look at online dating safety and how to safely date during COVID-19.
The first step of online dating is to create an online profile. While you’ll want to share the best version of yourself online, it’s important that you protect your identity in the process. To paint an accurate picture of yourself and your hobbies, you may be tempted to share an image revealing your good side at your favorite local coffee shop.
When online dating, be sure to leave out any information that could reveal your location or whereabouts to online strangers. Consider choosing a new photo that’s not already linked to a social media account. If you use your same profile picture from other accounts, a virtual stranger could perform an image search online and find your other social media profiles, getting access to personal profiles or information. Additionally, you should never give out your address, work location, personal phone number, or any other personal information to someone you’ve just met.
Maybe you can recall being on a date with someone you didn’t click with, or even had to endure a conversation with a chatty Cathy on an airplane. Unlike a traditional meetup, a benefit of online dating is that you can easily ignore, block, or delete someone that you don’t want to talk to or feel uncomfortable speaking with.
If you feel that a user’s profile is suspicious, block or report them on the dating site or app. This can usually be done silently and anonymously so the person on the receiving end won’t know.
Here are a few examples of behaviors to report:
It’s easy to be blinded by love, but during an online relationship, it’s important to keep your eyes open for any red flags. People can misrepresent themselves online and may not be exactly who they say they are—this includes scammers, predators, or any person that is looking to manipulate or take advantage of your trust.
Below are a few common situations or red flags to look out for:
When online dating, you’ll want to get to know this person just as much as you would on an in-person date. Remember, you’re there to build a relationship, so don’t waste any time; asking questions early on and listening is the best way to vet your prospects. Talking about your dating history, what you’re looking for in a partner, and your hobbies are all great conversation topics.
When getting to know someone, it’s okay to get personal; however, it’s best to avoid revealing personal information—like where you live or your favorite place to get coffee every morning—until you can fully trust this person.
If the person on the other end of the dating site or app is the real deal, or is who they say they are, they should have no problem connecting with you face-to-face (virtually!) before meeting you in person.
This is beneficial for a few reasons. First, having a video chat can make you both feel more present in the conversation and help spark an emotional connection and physical attraction. Secondly, seeing the person in real-time can help verify that they are who they say they are.
You can’t always believe what you see on the internet. One study found that 80% of people misrepresent themselves or lie on their online profiles. Do a little research on your match before meeting up with them in person to verify they are who they say they are, and not a scammer or catfish.
Asking for their social media handles and checking out different social profiles can be a great way to get to know the person a little better. You can also do a simple background check to get information on criminal records or histories. If you can’t find them online, or their stories aren’t matching up, this could be an indication that they are not being truthful about who they are, and could potentially be dangerous.
If your online relationship is going well, the time will come when you will want to meet in person. If you are both comfortable with it, you can plan to have an in-person date.
If you want to meet in person for your first date, make sure you are COVID-19-free (learn more about at-home testing options like the COVID-19 Test Home Collection Kit DTC*) and that you follow CDC guidelines and your state’s specific regulations. When meeting your online match for the first time, it’s best to do so in a public place to confirm that your match is who they say they are.
To ensure the health of you and your match, aim to make your date as safe as possible. Below are a few lower-risk date ideas, where you can be outdoors and socially distant from others:
If your online relationship is going well, the day will come when you’ll want to meet in person. Once you have a lower-risk date planned, it’s important to discuss your boundaries or any concerns that you have. It’s okay to ask your match to stay six feet apart from you during the date or to keep their mask on!
Share what you are and are not comfortable with. If you want to have a few more virtual dates before committing to an in-person date, that’s okay too.
Before meeting your online crush for the first time, make sure you loop a friend or family member into your plans. Most phones and electronic devices make it easy to share your location with others, which can come in handy when meeting your match. This can give you an extra layer of protection and security when coming face-to-face with your date for the very first time.
For the first date, or until you feel comfortable, it’s also best to take yourself to and from the date location instead of allowing them to pick you up or drop you off at your home.
Always have an exit strategy in case you feel uncomfortable, threatened, or suspicious during your date. We’re not saying go into every date thinking something could go wrong, but trust your instincts and always be prepared.
Before going on the date, sync up with a friend or family member to come up with an exit strategy or a discrete signal that indicates that you need help. For instance, this could be as easy as sending an emoji or code word to a designated person that will help bail you out of a bad situation or pick you up if you feel uncomfortable.
The virus that causes COVID-19 is incredibly contagious, which means extreme measures should be taken to protect yourself and others. While it’s recommended to remain six feet apart from individuals you are not quarantining with, you may find yourself ready to take the next step in your relationship. Our recent survey, assessing how many people broke quarantine to be intimate, revealed nearly 1 out of 4 Americans broke quarantine to purse romatinc relationships in April 2020, when stay at home orders were at their national peak. If you’re planning on being intimate, make sure you and your partner are taking the necessary precautions to ensure your health and safety.
If you have been exposed to someone with COVID-19 or are experiencing symptoms, consider taking an at-home COVID-19 test before being intimate with someone. Additionally, any time you are planning to be intimate with a new partner, you should take an STD test for men or women to help make sure both of you are staying safe.
In our current world that requires people to keep their distance from each other, searching for online connection is a great route. Studies show that social connections and relationships may influence our long-term health—causing us to have fewer health issues and even live longer.
Whether you’re online dating, or already in a relationship and unable to see your significant other in person, it’s still very possible to maintain a relationship remotely. Don’t be discouraged by the distance.
There are plenty of creative and fun dates that you can plan with your significant other while social distancing.
We’ve listed a few ideas for a virtual date below:
Dating doesn’t have to stop when you’re physically apart. Technology makes it easy and realistic to foster a healthy relationship remotely. But remember, take the necessary precautions when vetting your match to ensure your safety. Additionally, if you’re planning to meet with your match or significant other in person, consider taking a COVID-19 test.
*This home collection kit has not been FDA cleared or approved. This home collection kit has been authorized by the FDA under an EUA. Read more at www.everlywell.com/products/covid-19-test.