The Beginners’ Guide to Online Dating


The internet has changed the way we stay in touch with friends and family. From social media and email to chat apps like WhatsApp, most communication takes place in the digital world, and the trend is no different when it comes to finding love, thanks to online dating sites and apps such as the ever-popular Tinder .

You no longer have to put up with awkward set-ups, blind dates or singles’ bars. Thanks to the internet, you can find your perfect match from the comfort of your own home, as long as you’re over 18 years old. According to some dating websites, as of 2019, up to a third of South African internet users are signed up to a digital dating platform. Thanks to the variety of these platforms, they cater for everyone from young professionals and divorced people to singles over 50 and the LGBTQ community.

If you’re new to the online dating scene, there are a few important things you need to consider before you get going, so we’ve put together this guide to help you safely navigate your way to true love.

Getting started

Google is the best place to start but remember to always research whichever online dating sites or apps you choose to use. Look for reviews from other users about their experiences and how each service treats your personal information and privacy.

Don’t catfish or get catfished

If you’re not familiar with the term, catfishing means to lure another person into engaging with you online using a fictional persona, providing false information and posting photos of someone else and claiming it is you. When you’re creating a profile on a dating site or app, make sure you post your own photos. There’s nothing more dishonest than claiming to be someone you are not and using a picture of a person other than yourself. Remember to be honest, don’t reveal too much personal information and scrutinise any conversations you have online for inconsistencies.

Be your own private investigator

Dating sites recommend that you search for your prospective date on other online platforms such as Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter to make sure they are legit. Ask for their permission if you feel uncomfortable doing this behind their back. They shouldn’t have a problem with it if they have nothing to hide and if they do, that should be a warning sign. This will also help you get to know a little more about them so that you can make a more informed decision on whether to meet or not.

Don’t get too personal

It is important to never share too much information about yourself, especially with someone you don’t know very well. Never reveal family details, your address or where you work or study. Wait a few days or a reasonable amount of time before meeting someone in person. This will allow you to get to know them better before taking the plunge and meeting face-to-face.

Meet in a public place

Even though you may have done your homework and gotten to know someone well enough online, it is always a good idea to meet in a public place! You can choose the time and location together, but make sure you travel there yourself or with a friend so that you can better control the situation.

Tell a friend

Another tip that dating sites recommend is to tell a friend or family member about your first date. Always let someone know where you will be and what time you’re expected to return. Text them updates throughout your date and if you become uncomfortable at any time, leave immediately. WhatsApp has a useful live location sharing feature – simply open a chat, tap the paperclip for an attachment, tap “Location” and then “Share live location”. Share this with a friend for the duration of your date and keep a friend’s number on speed dial.

Remember, online dating can be an exciting opportunity to find a new love interest, but you should always remain cautious and stay safe. Happy dating.

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