With the development of technology in recent years it has become increasingly simpler to connect with people over the internet. Apps like Badoo* that allow us to date and meet new friends online are just one example of this, but how do we stay safe when taking the next step of meeting with someone in the real world? Read on for 5 top tips for staying safe when meeting up offline!
Is this person who they say they are?
Before you even think about meeting up face to face, do a simple bit of detective work. Is the person you are speaking to giving truthful information to you? It only takes a few minutes to check out their social media profiles to see if their photos and anything major that they have divulged to you match up. You do not need to try to find out every single nugget of information about them, you want to leave some topics to talk about on the first date! Google allows you to reverse-search an image which will easily let you see if it actually belongs to the person you are speaking to. Some apps like Badoo even use photo verification inside the app by having users copy random gestures in photos to verify their identity, this gives interested parties the option of being able to chat only with those who have been been through this simple process! Have a chat or two to the person over the phone before making the next step as well, if they are not who they say they are, it’s a lot harder to hide the fact than communicating over text-based means. A video-call would be even better so you can truly see who you have been conversing with!
Plan several public locations to meet
So you have taken time to get to know the person you are meeting. It’s time to arrange your date!
It is obvious that you should arrange to meet in a well-lit public place, but plan some safe back up locations too. Preparing a few nearby suggestions to the place that you initially meet up at will give you some suggestions of where to move onto next if you decide to move on during your date. This keeps you in control and reduces the likelihood of you visiting a location that you are not familiar with, or back to the person’s home before you are ready! It also gives you another suggestion should for whatever reason your date is having trouble finding the place you have initially chosen. If you are meeting in a location that you are unfamiliar with ensure you make time to visit it ahead of your date. This will allow you to properly scout out the area at your leisure so that you have a better knowledge of where you will be visiting, pinpointing recognisable landmarks that will let you keep your bearings during the meet up.
Tell someone where you’re going
This may sound evident, but it is important to tell a friend or family member where you are going, who you are meeting and what time you expect to be home by. Arrange a time to text or call your contact during your meet up so that you can quickly let them know that you are fine. Give your nominated contact the phone number of the person that you are meeting with encase they cannot get through to you. If you can meet up with a trusted person present it is even better, but let’s face it, it’s highly unlikely you want to bring your pals along on a first date! Consider downloading a smartphone app that will pinpoint your location and update your trusted nominees as to where you are during your meeting.
Have an exit plan
As we’ve already covered, it is a good idea to plan your meeting ahead, but what will you do if you feel uncomfortable and want to leave? Utilise your emergency contact and see if they are available to be nearby during your meeting so that you can quickly text them if you decide that you want to leave early. You can then meet them in a pre-arranged nominated place so that you do not have to leave the area alone.
If your date offers to drive or accompany you home, do not accept until you have met enough times for you to fully trust them. Remember, you want to stay in control of your safety, and if you share a vehicle with them, this passes this control over to them. This also applies for sharing taxis – do not share a ride home with them so that you can avoid them finding out where you live before you are ready for them to know.
Remember the little things
It is important to keep your wits about you and prepare yourself fully before your meeting. Make sure that your phone is fully charged and add emergency phone numbers and the numbers of local taxi firms to your contacts so that you do not have to waste time finding them out when you require them. Carry as little cash on you as possible, it is easy enough to cancel a credit or debit card should you lose it during your meeting but cash is much harder to trace.
Never divulge any private information such your address or work location before you fully trust the person you are meeting, and do not feel pressurised to either. If you do not feel comfortable at any point, there is no shame in finishing things early and leaving. Your safety is more important than your pride!
It is far more common to meet up with online friends in the real world nowadays than it was in the early days of the internet. Social and dating apps are a brilliant way to meet new people, just remember; use common sense, realise that there is some element of risk, and be careful, and you will be well prepared for meeting others offline.
Have you made friends using social apps? Do you have any tips for meeting people offline?
*Post sponsored by Badoo.