Find your summer lover online

J. Rae Chipera

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Social media is no longer just a life blogging methodology, but a way to date online. It’s becoming a social norm for everyone, not just the socially awkward. However, online dating raises concerns about safety.

A large number of my married friends met on the internet. A few friends have gotten into dangerous situations because of online dating. School is about to be out for summer, and that means students will soon have more free time. It’s time to talk about safe online dating over social media.

Let’s say you’re worried about divulging too much personal information online —- a reasonable concern. Or else you dread thinking your “match” might not exist.

Meeting someone on a dating site and then going to Facebook to discover they only have five friends should be a blaring alarm. However, a profile with at least 100 contacts is probably a real person.

About one out of 10 profiles on dating sites belong to a fake person. It’s impossible to accurately calculate how many profiles belong to liars.

If someone only has one photo posted or just old ones, they aren’t necessarily a fake person or keeping secrets. Some people don’t publicly display all photos. Maybe more will be visible once you become “friends.” If not, they’re hiding something, but it might not be what you’re thinking.

In episode three of Catfish, MTV’s series about online dating, the girl has been in a digital-only relationship with a man for a decade, and he has never wanted to meet her. It’s suspicious, but what he is hiding is less nefarious than what an active imagination might suppose: his weight.

Everyone draws his or her own line at which a lie is understandable versus unethical. For example, I have a rare last name, which makes it more difficult for me to protect my online identity than someone whose last name is Smith or Martinez. People have a better chance of finding me by searching my last name on the internet. Maybe I should use a different name on Facebook, but I don’t.

Is it unethical to keep one’s name private, or is it just safer that way? Is a user with a pseudo name trying to be maliciously deceptive, or are they concerned about their safety?

If you’re worried about safety, consider using part of your last name, or use your middle name instead. Never post your phone number or address online. Share only vague information publicly. It’s helpful for keeping the stalkers at bay.

Most social sites allow the user to control what information is publicly visible. On Facebook, look under “settings” to do this. On Twitter and Google+, look under the gear icon.

Someone might post a photo from a few years ago when they were 20 pounds lighter, or a photo of a Calvin Klein model. Maybe it’s less deceptive to use a graphic as a profile photo.

Let’s say you think your love interest is posting fake photos on social media. Same question: are they a liar, or just safety-conscious?

Using a fake profile photo is insurance that a second date won’t happen. People don’t like seeing a photo, going out on the date, and then discovering the person looks much different in real life. Post photos of yourself if you want to get a call back.

Use of a graphic is better for the stalker-phobics. Pick a character that resembles you in some way so when you meet, it’s not a surprise to the other person.

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