Before deciding to travel to meet an online date, there are some precautions to take just to be sure that everything's going to be alright. Especially in the world of online dating, "better safe than sorry" applies.
Letting Your Head Lead Your Heart
There's an old saying: "On the internet, no one knows you're a dog." The joke comes from the idea that the Internet is a completely anonymous way to communicate. Even with "profile pictures" to supposedly show what a person looks like, the fact is that people can use the web to pretend to be someone they're not.
Some of these people frequent online dating sites, portraying themselves as very attractive, successful, and available. Of course, this is the same thing that happens at singles bars, but on the web it's much, much easier to fake it. There are a variety of reasons why people would try to be someone else - ranging from harmless fantasy fulfillment to predatory behavior. It's the latter group you need to worry about before deciding to travel to meet an online date.
It's not that every online crush is going to turn into a scary stalker - in fact, it's a very rare occurrence. But it's one of those things that, when it does go wrong, becomes very dangerous, and so there are a few ways to stay safe. Much like safer sex practices, they are minor annoyances that give you the peace of mind to really enjoy the rest of the experience.
The Safe Call
The primary method for making sure you're safe on your romantic trip is to let people you trust know you're going. Don't be surprised if some of your friends and family actually try to discourage you from going, in fact. That's ok; their paranoia is probably based on horror stories they've read on the web or heard about (whether true or not) and that's exactly the right person to arrange your safe call with. Here's what you do:
- Make sure the person you trust back home has all your travel plans. Flights, times, hotel, even rental car agencies. If possible, make sure he or she also has the name and phone number (and even address) of your date.
- Make sure the person knows not to call any of those places unless he/she does not hear from you at a predetermined time - usually about an hour or so into the date, after you've traveled and arrived.
- This is the most important thing: make sure you remember to call! Regardless of how good the date is going, you have to remember to call your friend at the pre-detemined time and say "Hey, everything's going great! No worries!"
- If, for some reason, you do not call, your safe call person knows to start using the information you gave him/her to track you down. He/She shouldn't call the police right away or anything like that - start with checking the hotel to see if you checked in, or calling your date's phone.
Most of the time if it reaches step four it is because things have been going very well and you simply forgot to call. But every once in a while it's because the date you traveled to see isn't quite as authentic as you hoped, and in that case having a lifeline back home is a smart dating practice. Even if you're traveling in your home town, a safe call is the first line of defense.
Before Deciding to Travel to Meet an Online Date
You may want to consider other ways to ensure you are not put into a compromising situation, like making sure you and your date are both traveling to a neutral site such as a hotel in a town midway between you. Remember, though, that asking your date for the personal information listed above puts him or her in a bit of a vulnerable position, too - he/she may not want to share a home address with someone he/she does not know very well. Use other ways to establish trust - video chats, for example, are very hard to fake, and can give you a direct idea of what your online crush will be like in person.