Online dating has certainly become an extremely popular way for singles to meet like-minded individuals, and has turned out to be a very satisfying alternative to the bar scene for those folks who prefer a more thorough way of getting to know a potential mate. However, online dating is also filled with risk - you've heard the horror stories about dates gone bad and people who turn out to be not only jerks but potentially dangerous criminals. Don't be totally turned off by the statistics, though. There are certainly some that are in your favor. Just be careful about who you decide to meet and how you choose to do so. Here is a list of five things that should be considered to be "First Date Don'ts":
Don't go in "blind."
Before meeting someone for the first time, do as much background work as you can easily. Google that person's name and see what comes up. Does the information that you see match up with what you have come to learn about him? Take a peek at Facebook or other social networking sites, many people don't have their privacy settings too restricted and you might learn a little bit. While some would say this is a bit like cyber-stalking, you can simply never be too sure when it comes to your safety.
Don't meet in a secluded place.
Always meet for the first date in a public location. And, be sure to let a trusted friend know where you will be, who you are supposedly meeting, and what time you expect to be home. If the date turns out to be a roaring success, give your backup person an update so they don't worry unnecessarily. Arrange for a friend to call you after a couple of hours with a "code word" for you to use to check in. If you use the code word, then your friend will know everything is okay.
Don't accept a ride.
Take your own method of transportation. Do not rely on your date for a ride home. In the event you become uncomfortable at any time, you have the means to quickly and easily make your escape in a polite manner.
Don't cut off communication.
Always carry your cell phone with you. Make sure that it is fully charged before you leave home, and also programmed with emergency numbers.
Don't be unprotected.
Purchase a personal protection product, such as pepper spray, to use in case of emergency. These types of self defense weapons come in many forms, often disguised as a pen or lipstick container and can be carried very inconspicuously. For example, if you become uncomfortable, you can always ask for your date's phone number and have a pepper spray pen handy to protect yourself if you need it. One spray from this nonlethal weapon and you will temporarily disable a person, allowing you to get away safely.
First dates can be wonderful and exciting, just be sure that you use your common sense and always trust your instincts. Use that first meeting to get to know more about the person you are meeting, and, if all goes well, there will be plenty more dates that you can have to build your intimacy and trust and develop a solid relationship. Avoid danger at the beginning when meeting a virtual stranger by having a plan and following these safety tips!