With so many of us spending so much of our time on the web, developing online relationships is becoming a large part of the way we socialise. Social networking sites and dating apps like Tinder are making it easier for people to meet and get to know each other. This can be a fun and exciting way of making new friends, or even starting a romantic relationship. Sometimes, people who have gotten to know each other online might decide to meet in person. While this can be a positive experience and can help you get to know the person better, there are risks and questions to consider to make sure you stay safe when meeting up with people you’ve met online.
Whether you decide to meet up with someone you’ve met online is entirely up to you. Not everyone who meets online ends up meeting face to face. Sometimes it’s just not practical or maybe you live too far apart and can’t afford the transport; other times you might feel satisfied with the relationship you already have and would rather stay in contact online. This is completely fine and doesn’t lessen the relationship you have with the other person or make your feelings for them less real.
No one should feel pressured to meet up with someone they’ve met online. If you’re feeling uncomfortable about plans to meet up, that might be a sign that it’s not a good idea. Letting the other person know if you are feeling pressured or uncomfortable about meeting up can be an important way of getting to know what the other person’s expectations are for the relationship. A respectful friend or partner will be understanding and won’t try to convince you or pressure you to meet.
Okay, so you’ve talked it over with the other person and you’ve both decided that you’d like to meet up in person. You’re suddenly feeling excited, maybe a little nervous, but you’re comfortable with the decision you’ve made. While you may feel ready to meet this person this very second, it’s time to take a few deep breaths, and think about a few things that can help make sure you’re as prepared as possible for a safe and enjoyable meeting.
While it may feel like you know someone you’ve met online well and that you’re really close with them, there are risks that come with online relationships because you’re talking to someone you don’t know in real life. It can be difficult to know if everything the other person is saying is true, for instance, details like their age and the profile picture they might be using. Thinking about these things doesn’t make your feelings less real or important or make you suspicious, it just means that you want to be as informed as possible about the decisions you make about your relationships – in the online and real world!
Getting some online face-time with the other person before you meet up is a really good idea and can help ensure you know who you’re really speaking to. Videochatting via Skype or Facetime are easy (and free) ways of speaking with the other person face-to-face and can also help you see how you interact in a more personable way.
If the other person refuses or avoids taking this step, this might be a warning sign that they are not who they say they are. Becoming friends on other social networks like Facebook or exchanging Snapchats can also help you better understand who the other person is, although these can’t always be trusted as proof that they are not deceiving you.
The first time you meet someone you’ve met online, it’s absolutely important that you arrange to meet in a public place you are both familiar with and where you know there are lots of people around. Shopping centres, the movies or a café are places where you can meet and get to know each other in a safe and comfortable environment. Meeting in a public place can also help relieve some of the ‘first date’ awkwardness you might experience the first time you meet someone in person, so it’s always the best option!
Taking a trusted friend or a few friends with you is a good idea. They don’t have to join you on your date, but having people you know nearby can make you feel more comfortable and make sure you’re safe if anything goes wrong. Having a friend wait with you for the other person is a really good idea, and if the person cares about getting to know you they won’t mind meeting your friend.
Make sure to let a trusted friend or adult know where you’re going and who you’re meeting. If you don’t want to tell your parents that you’re meeting up with someone you’ve met online, tell a friend, sibling, or someone else you trust.
So, finally, you meet and… Relief. There is no drastic difference between them and their online photos and they’re not balding or sporting a cane. Things seem to be going well and you’re feeling pretty good about it. Still, there are a few things to make sure you think about while you’re on your date or meeting to ensure you stay safe and comfortable: