Discussion of news topics with a point of view, including narratives by individuals regarding their own experiences

Just about anybody who’s used a dating app has had their fair share of awkward first encounters.

After a pleasant introduction, one date grilled me about religion until I made an excuse to escape. Another lied to me about his interest in dancing and then got angry that I took him to a dance event. I was able to get out of those situations easily. Other interactions, not so much.

In talking with other female friends, I noticed most of us had our own stories of harassment, stalking, or threats.

Most of us have developed strategies to protect ourselves from these scarier experiences. For instance, I try to keep my conversation solely on the dating app until we meet in person. I don’t connect my Twitter or Instagram accounts (many apps require you to use a Facebook login, however), and I don’t give out specifics about my job or where I live. I tell at least one person where I’m going and let them know when I get home.

My date will never know most of this. That’s fine, it’s for my protection after all. Earlier this week, I got into a testy conversation with a potential match that put me back on guard. We traded a handful of messages before this stranger offered his phone number (unprompted). He then asked me for my number. I insisted on using the app, and let him know that I was uncomfortable sharing my number before meeting someone after a bad experience.

He sent a terse reply to let me know he was offended. The words “Don’t you trust me?” were somewhere in the mix. I felt unsafe and quickly ended our conversation.

The fear of matching with a dangerous date on an app isn’t unfounded. Earlier this year, a woman was killed by a partner she met through a dating site. There are other horror stories that include cases of sexual assault and a serial rapist using a dating app to find victims.

That isn’t to say you should necessarily stop using dating apps. A number of women and a few men offered their tips on how they keep themselves safe when online dating.

Journalist Claudia Elena said she avoided taking rides from dates she just met. My graduate school classmate, Alice Perlowski, chimed in to say that she would withhold her last name and not share where she lived until she felt like she could trust him. “[I] always listen to my first instinct. If they seem shady, they are shady,” she wrote.

Numerous replies suggested using a Google Voice number for contact. The trusted strategy of telling a friend where you’re going and who you’re seeing was among the most popular responses. For additional safety, one woman told me she would share her geolocation with friends so at least someone would know exactly where they were.

I had gotten a tip from a friend of mine about reverse image search a while ago, but it still holds up. If you want to keep your social and dating profiles separate, then you’re also going to need different pictures so a reverse image search can’t link the two.

One friend also told me to do this with potential dates after she image searched a man she was dating, only to discover his personal Facebook page and his marriage.

When it comes to matters of the heart, it’s important to put your safety first. No date is worth sacrificing your sense of security. Whether you establish a call or check-in system with a friend or purge any connections to your personal social media accounts, know that you have options and shouldn’t feel forced to disclose personal information.

You are not alone in this weird world of dating.

Dating right now raises a new set of concerns. And a new kind of dealbreaker.

Meeting in real life eventually comes up, and with it, different interpretations of public health guidelines

After divorce, I was finally falling in love with someone new. Now, we’re separated during the pandemic.

Although we are technically dating, together in the broadest sense, we are not actually dating or together at all

11 ideas for first dates during coronavirus

How to come together while remaining safely apart