Written by Writer’s Corps member Cara Mackler
When you’re too busy to go out but you’re ready to meet someone new, online dating can be the perfect change of pace. We live in a digital world, so it makes sense that we’re starting to date in one, too. Having navigated my fair share of cheesy pick-up lines and bad dates, I know from experience that online dating can be just as complicated as dating IRL. With dating apps like Bumble, OKCupid, PlentyOfFish, and Tinder connecting with someone online is more convenient and complicated than ever.
Below I’ve compiled 6 things to look out for when online dating:
1. They Barely Fill Out their Profile
An online profile creates a quick and easy place to highlight splices of someone’s life and personality. You can display your hobbies, interests, pastimes, friends, or family if you want to.
While judgment can be an unfortunate result of the quick swipe-left-or-swipe-right decision, try to look at what they are choosing to highlight about their personality through their profile picture. Are they showing off that they can rock a keg stand or that they traveled to Fiji and swam with stingrays? I’m not saying you should write someone off completely if their profile isn’t exactly well-rounded, but you can use their profile as a tool to determine if you have anything in common or if something beyond their looks intrigues you.
2. They Use Raunchy Pick-Up Lines
If you look at Tinder Nightmares, you’ll entertain yourself for hours reading through many people’s failed attempts to grab someone’s attention with a raunchy or peculiar pick-up line. Although this is entertaining for us, it’s not as entertaining if you’re the one receiving the uncomfortable and violating messages from online trolls.
How someone initiates a conversation with you will say a lot about how they view you as a person and how they might treat you as a partner. Did they comment on your body in a sexual manner or did they ask you what breed your cute dog is in your picture? You may get your fair share of cheesy pick-up lines, some can be endearing and charming while others can be crude and demeaning. Humor can be a wonderful icebreaker, but also remember you are worth more than a lame pick up line. Someone who truly wants to get to know you will take the time to do so.
3. They Are Controlling
After the initial ice breaker conversation, what does the rest of the conversation look like? It’s always a good idea to test the waters before agreeing to meet this person IRL. Your first few conversations with someone new should be easy going. If someone is coming on really strong right away, or they pressure you to meet in person before you’re ready, feel free to pump the breaks and set some boundaries. If they don’t respect those boundaries, then they aren’t respecting you.
Additionally, if someone is giving you a checklist right away of all of the things they want in a future partner, this may be a red flag for some controlling behaviors. It’s one thing if they express their non-negotiables but it’s another thing entirely if they are listing required traits. In a healthy relationship, you should feel free to be you. If you feel like someone is already trying to change things about you to suit their needs, that’s not okay.
4. They Are Mysterious
Online dating leaves a lot up to mystery, which can be alluring and exciting to some but may also be a warning sign that you’re not getting the whole truth.
My friend agreed to go out with someone she met online and they had a really great time together. They got dinner and talked for hours, and it was overall a very nice date. She was excited to see him again and he seemed just as excited. They made plans to go out again, but he canceled last minute, saying his cat had died. After giving him some time to cope with his cat passing away, he made plans to see her again and she was thrilled. He canceled the date last minute again because he said his grandma had died. Although this seemed too tragic to be true, she gave him the benefit of the doubt that he was telling the truth. He disappeared for a couple of weeks.
When he finally reached out again, she agreed to go out with him and they had yet another wonderful date. At the end of the date, they took a cab back to his apartment. As my friend stepped out of the cab, a girl walked up to her shouting. Surprised and confused, my friend asked her what was going on. It turns out this girl was the girlfriend of the guy my friend was currently on a date with.
Looking back more closely at their conversations, it seemed more and more obvious that the signs of him lying and manipulating were there all along. He would only text at certain times of the day, he would disappear for days on end, and he used excuse after excuse to delay each date to assure his girlfriend would not be around. Moral of the story: mystery can be fun but it can also be a sign that someone is hiding something. Trust your instincts.
5. They Are Demanding
First dates with someone you’ve met online are basically blind dates. You don’t really know if this person is who they say they are until you’ve met in person. This is why having a date in a public place not only keeps you safe but gives you an out in case you aren’t really feeling it.
First impressions can be revealing. You can really get to know a lot about someone on a first date, and it’s actually possible to detect some red flags for unhealthy behaviors even in the very beginning. One example is if they are making demands early on, maybe to meet or hang out at their place rather than go out somewhere together. Another example could be if they expect you to change your schedule just to accommodate theirs, or to cancel existing plans to meet them. These types of behaviors can be the beginning of other controlling behaviors.
First dates should be exciting and flirtatious. It’s about those thrilling moments of connection and chemistry that keep you smiling all day long. This person should make you feel special, respected, and valued. If there’s even a hint of controlling, possessive, disrespectful or otherwise unhealthy behaviors, it’s likely that behavior is not going to go away.
6. Signal for Help
Most importantly, your safety is the number one priority. Always meet in a public place for the first couple of dates. If someone is pressuring you to meet somewhere private for a first date, this could be uncomfortable and leave you feeling trapped if you’re not enjoying the date. Pick a place that you’re familiar with and have been before or a place where you can easily head home if things are going south.
If you are going somewhere that serves alcoholic beverages, most bartenders are using secret codes to help customers signal, privately, when they need help if they’re getting harassed or feeling unsafe on a bad date. Another way to stay safe is to tell a friend, or multiple friends, when and where you are going out. Have them call you at a certain point throughout the date and if the date is not going well, use the phone call as an out. And remember, if you are ever abused or assaulted while on a date, it is not your fault and you can get help.
Online dating is the new way to date for many people. Like any other part of technology, it has its pros and cons. Keeping your safety a priority, online dating should be fun! So, enjoy it and hopefully, you’ll find your Tinderella story.