It seems like everyone meets their partners online nowadays, and post COVID-19 lockdown it’s become even more popular to chat online. There’s no denying that internet dating is a great way to meet new people – whether it’s hookups, long-term partners or even friends – but it’s important to follow a few golden rules to stay safe. Let’s take a look.
One of the most important things to think about before online dating is – what are you there for? If you’re looking just to chat, to meet in real life, for casual sex, meet new friends, or find a long-term partner, defining your ‘why’ can help you meet the right people and not waste your time.
There’s plenty of sites to choose from where you can add your hobbies, interests and sexual orientation for potential matches. Some even have a setting for making friends.
Think of online dating as an entryway to meeting new people; it’s an opportunity to find common interests and spark a connection. And remember, online dating is still dating, so even if you enjoy harmless flirting while in a relationship, make sure you maintain open communication with your partner before you decide to use dating apps.
You’ve decided to set up your profile and get out there – go you! Here are some of the terms you’ll want to get up to speed with:
Sending flirty messages to lead someone on, with no intention of actually meeting them or dating.
Short for ‘In real life’ – for when it’s time to meet in person.
When someone directly messages you on social media, or in this case a dating app. Here are some examples of how it can be used: Sliding into his DMs, into her DMs or sliding into the DMs.
When a person creates a fake identity online, and uses it to get close to someone under the pretense of being someone they’re not.
When someone suddenly stops messaging you with no warning or explanation.
Following from ‘ghosting’, the person re-enters your life and starts talking to you as if nothing ever happened.
Seriously, when was the last time you saw the eggplant emoji used to describe the vegetable? Along with the peach (bum) and water droplets (wet or ejaculation), the eggplant (penis) is a suggestive emoji you might encounter on dating apps.
On some apps, you say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to matches by swiping left or right on your screen. Swiping is passing time by casually moving through profiles “No plans tonight… I’m just going to stay home, re-download dating apps and swipe myself silly.”
A shortened version of ‘baby’ or ‘babe’, used to signify someone you like, or your partner
Online dating has some amazing success stories but there are sadly a few people out there who are in it for the wrong reasons. Here are our tips to stay safe:
You can do a quick search on social media to cross-reference the name and pictures. Bear in mind not everyone has social accounts, but for most it’s a good first check. If you’re feeling suspicious try to arrange a call to speak to them on the phone, or even better, a video call.
If the person you’ve connected with is asking for bank details, personal information or money, then there’s a chance this could be a scam. Protect your personal information and don’t respond to these requests. It’s better to block and report.
If the conversation quickly turns to switching to social media, it could be a sign that they’re looking to boost their follower count, not finding the one. Also, until you’re sure they are who they say they are, avoid swapping phone numbers or personal accounts like Facebook.
Just like IRL, if your gut instinct is saying that something feels off with whoever you’re chatting through, chances are, you’re right. Never feel pressured to chat to someone you’re not comfortable with, or to talk about subjects that don’t fit right with you.
If you’ve made a connection with someone online, here are some tips to take your relationship to the next level.
Before meeting in person, a video call is a great first step. You can see the person is who they say they are and you’re in a safe place if you feel uncomfortable and need to end the call. A lot of the apps now have inbuilt video call functions so you can chat without giving any extra contact information.
You’re meeting your online bae in real life – exciting! Always make sure to let someone you trust know where you’re going and who you’re meeting. It’s also a good idea to meet in a public place and start with a daytime activity.
Whether it’s a casual hookup or your online dating has turned into a serious relationship, when you’re ready to take it to the next level remember to practice safe sex.
Always use condoms and remember to get an STI test every time you have a new sexual partner, have unprotected sex, have any symptoms, or at a 6-12 month checkup. STI testing is quick and easy so there’s nothing to worry about.
If your test comes back positive for an STI, the good news is that most can be treated with a quick course of medication. Your doctor will be able to advise you on how to get rid of an STI. In Australia, STIs are very common – in fact most of us will have one in our lifetime – so it’s nothing to be embarrassed or ashamed about. Here are the most common STIs in Australia.
If you’re not ready to meet your online date IRL, or you live too far apart and are doing long distance, there are ways to increase intimacy with a partner online.
It’s important to remember that both of you offer enthusiastic consent, every time. Also, remember that if you’re sending pictures or using video, be mindful of what you’re sending. Sending sexy pics can be fun, but once a picture is sent it’s out there for all to (potentially) see. And of course, receiving a sexy pic does not mean you can share it with anyone else.
Can internet relationships work? We think YES! It’s possible to create a genuine connection through the internet. Just like any relationship, they can last if you’re both willing to put in some work, know you’re boundaries and make sure you are always benign careful.
If you have questions about STI testing, relationships or sexual health, head over to Play Safe and talk to our registered sexual health nurse, Nurse Nettie.