Online dating is everywhere, and we all know someone who’s met their partner from a dating site. Now that it’s no longer confined to seedy chatrooms or creepy little corners of the Internet, basically everyone is doing it. I’ve personally not had much chance to experience the ins and outs of it all (aside from playing around a little with Plenty of Fish many years ago), but I can see the appeal. It’s a great way to find people and get to know them beforehand, and you can filter people easily based on what you’re looking for. Sounds great? Yeah, it’s awesome. But we all know the risks, especially as women.
Before anyone says anything – yes, I know that men need to be kept safe when online dating, too. However, it’s unfortunately women who are disproportionately affected by online dating stories gone wrong. I know about this all too well; my friend Emily has been keeping a blog about such incidents for years now (long before documenting such exchanges was ever cool). Whilst many of the stories she’s posted have gone viral for being downright hilarious, there’s an undeniably scarier side of online dating as well.
I could fill a book with horror stories (and I think Emily actually intends to, someday). I remember my friend Maria fearing for her life after a guy from a dating site got incredibly drunk, racially abused the waiter, and then became aggressive on the walk back to her home. Despite denying him entry, he wouldn’t take no for an answer, and Maria felt she had no choice but to let him stay on the sofa until the first train back to his. Her story is sadly not unique.
We’ve all seen Catfish – it’s somehow hard to believe that people are ever so easily duped by people claiming to be models, actors and rappers – but what about people who just pretend to be other random people online? It’s easy to be incredulous, but these people are very calculated in creating a story of who they are online (someone entirely opposite to how they are in real life). As the ‘hookup culture’ of our modern times becomes more pervasive (thanks to the likes of Tinder making everything almost instantaneous), this can make dangers all the more real.
We should all learn to be vigilant online, by verifying the people we’re talking to and ensuring we’re practising common sense. However, the onus shouldn’t have to be on us. Badoo has the right idea*; implementing a unique photo verification system to protect women and vulnerable men. To apply for the site, you have to post a picture as instructed. The site then has 5000 moderators, so within one minute, you can start talking to one of thousands of others of verified users! As the world’s biggest dating site (yep, bigger than Tinder), it’s a real step in the right direction and I’d hope that many others would follow suit.
Of course, there are plenty of happily-ever-afters and fun casual encounters which happen as a result of online dating. It’s not all doom and gloom, and it’s made the world all the more fun and ever-smaller.
What’s your experience of online dating? Do you think more should be done to keep us safe?
*I was sponsored to make this post, but all views and opinions are my own.