(NOTE: Family Matters magazine contributor Stephanie Mayo sent me questions via email for an article regarding using online dating apps, its pros and cons, and tips for parents. Her story appeared in the August 2015 issue of the magazine. I am sharing with you here my answers.)
For a growing number of people, one big advantage of using dating apps is convenience. Not all of us relish the thought of going to a bar just to meet a new “prospect.” I don’t know about you, but I don’t enjoy its rowdy atmosphere as well as the cigarette stench on my clothes. Also, for working professionals like me, using dating apps saves a lot of time.
The disadvantages are rather easy to point out. First, meeting someone virtually is no match to interacting with someone in person. It’s hard to capture accurately a person’s emotions online.
How are you supposed to interpret it when someone says “Hi” on the Internet? Does the absence of an exclamation point or a smiley make the message less warm? At least when you’re interacting with another person face-to-face, it’s easier to understand what he/she is trying to say through his/her body language.
Another downside of using dating apps is that a lot of people there judge others by their looks and nothing else. On Tinder, you’re not likely to get tons of swipe lefts (this is similar to a The Voice coach pressing his/her “I want you” button) unless you’re really artistahin.
When you are breaking the ice with a person on the “real world,” looks is not the be-all and and-all of everything. You get to judge a person by his/her conversation skills, manners, among others.
I’ve used other apps like Yahoo! chat rooms for similar purposes when I was younger. If I remember correctly, I went out with three persons I met online. None of those blossomed into a relationship but I have remained acquainted to them nonetheless.
In several instances, my interactions with people I met online never went beyond exchanging his and hellos. Sometimes, there’s no reply at all to my initial greetings. Worse, there are those who are more interested in sex than in anything else (some are really THAT aggressive).
Now, is seeking friendships or relationships online healthy? Why or why not? I think it is perfectly normal. Apart from reconnecting with old friends, meeting new people after all is one of the main purposes of social networking sites.
People can remain anonymous or assume alternate identities online. How can you be sure that the person you are talking to is really the one he/she says he/she is? Some use photos of other people while others lie about their age, educational background, and even their gender! That also makes me particularly concerned about cyberbullying.
Parents should also be wary that their children may be engaging in risky behavior with people they first meet online. Specifically, I am referring to those who get involved in unprotected casual sex.
Also, privacy is another area of concern. How much information about yourself should you be giving to someone you just met? What about your contact details?
As a dating/social app user, how do you protect yourself from online predators, psychos, or criminals?
Be mindful of what you’re sharing online – Be very mindful of disclosing your contact details, especially to people you don’t really know. Email perhaps is okay, but your mobile number and BB pin? N0.
Also, be careful not to overshare on social media. Do you seriously want people to know wherever you are going? That is tantamount to giving stalkers an easy access to your life.
Safety reminders –
When meeting someone for the first time, do it on a public place. It goes without saying that you should only accept meet-ups in places accessible from where you live (and in which you are familiar with).
If possible, have a companion. And better yet, inform someone you trust that you are about to have an “eye-ball” with someone. Parents should persuade their kids to be as transparent to them as possible regarding their online activities.