Sliding Safely out of the DMs: Tips and Tricks to Stay Safe on a First Date
By Jessica Huynh, Storyteller for RU Student Life
If you’re single, you’re probably not too unfamiliar with that adrenaline-rush feeling you get when someone cute matches with you on Tinder, or when a hottie messages you on Grindr, or when a cool person slides into your DM on Instagram. So long as you’re not being cat-fished, you’re probably thinking there’s nothing to worry about…right?
With our lives are so entwined with digital platforms, it’s hard to remember a time when online stranger danger was something we were highly concerned about. When I first started using the internet at the curious age of 10, I was basically convinced that meeting people online was a sure way to get myself kidnapped. However, by 14, I found myself communicating with strangers behind the screen on sites like Myspace, Livejournal, and Piczo. Despite being connected at a young age, I was very careful about how much I shared online. I never used my full name and ALWAYS had a new answer to a/s/l (high five if you know what this stands for).
I never would have thought, years later, that my personal information would be so publicly available on the internet.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like I’m some famous blogger. I do, however, like most people, feel completely at ease with sharing various aspects of my life online. In fact, if you Google my full name, my personal website is the first link that pops up. Thus, when I became single 2 years ago, it felt like a natural progression to turn to Tinder as a way of meeting new people.
Without delving too much into my own experiences, I have some pretty awful Tinder horror stories up my sleeves. Not to mention, I have heard of some pretty cringe-worthy first dates from close friends. That’s why I’m always fussing to my single friends to be cautious about who they meet. After all, a stranger who looks great online can be not so great in real life.
Technology has advanced in a way that makes us more accepting of meeting people online, but it’s still wise to err on the side of caution when transitioning from online pals to real life acquaintances. With that being said, here are some tips and tricks you can use to ensure you safely “slide out of the DM” should you need to.
TIPS TO CONSIDER BEFORE A DATE:
1. Be a digital investigator and do your online research.
After some flirty banter back and forth, you might be swept off your feet by how someone so charming, good-looking, and single is well…single. You’re suddenly eager to meet this new love interest and see if they’re as great in person as they are over text message. At the very least, you’ve decided you like this person enough to move the budding romance from online to offline. Before you do, make sure you do a quick Google search of this person and do a good sweep of their social media. This is the quickest and easiest way to get glimpse into their life.
Do any red flags pop up? Do they post in a way that shows they are a well-rounded individual? Are they posting problematic captions? Do they take too many vanity photos for your liking? If something bothers you now, there’s a good chance it will keep bothering you if decide to pursue something further with this person.
People tend to post what they love, care, and like to brag about. If anything shows up in your search results that makes you hesitant about meeting them in real life, don’t feel bad about permanently deleting them from your life.
2. Inform a friend of your intentions and get their opinion.
You haven’t even met this person and you already have your rose-coloured googles on — don’t sweat it, it happens to the best of us! That’s why it’s necessary to get a second opinion from your best friends. In fact, they might discover a red flag you may have missed.
A good friend typically has your best interest and safety at heart. If they express worry or apprehension about your date, listen to them and take into consideration what they have to say. Some friends just have a natural intuition for these kind of things.
3. Maximize your safety using your mobile device.
Share your location with friends and family so they know exactly where you are on your date. You can enable this location sharing feature using Google+, through iPhone/iMessage, or through safety apps such as bSafe.
Personally, I like bSafe. bSafe is free to download and offers a wide selection of safety options. With bSafe, you can: set up a safety network, share your location, have your friends GPS track you in real time, set a timer that will trigger an alarm if you don’t check in within a set period, create a fake call, notify others when you’ve arrived to a new destination, and click a button that will inform your friends you’re in danger and video record your surroundings for you.
These options are great to enable before a date. That way, if you are aren’t safe, your friends and family can spot something suspicious the moment it happens.
TIPS TO STAY SAFE DURING THE DATE:
4. Meet publicly in an area you are familiar with, preferably somewhere that requires you to interact with a third party
You’re deciding on where to go as a first date when suddenly, the words “Netflix and Chill?” pop up on your phone screen. You think about it for a second, and realize the proposal would be a lot less awkward than sitting across the table interviewing one another. So should you say yes?
Well, that’s a question I can’t answer for you. What I will strongly suggest is to not go to a stranger’s house or invite a stranger over to your house as the first point of interaction. Instead, go to a coffee shop or pub nearby. If you feel good about the interaction, then move the date to somewhere more private. See tip #9.
It’s much easier to seek help from a third party and/or leave a date abruptly when you’re both in public than it is being alone with them in a house.
5. Stay sharp; avoid consuming too much alcohol
Going for a drink as a date is a low pressure and casual way to meet someone for the first time. It’s definitely one of my preferred types of date. For many people, having a drink (or two!) is a great way to loosen up and knock some of those pre-date jitters out of your system. However, it’s important to remember that consuming too much alcohol can dull your senses.
There’s some questionable people out there who will try to take advantage of your lowered inhibition, so it’s best to stay sharp on the first few dates with someone new. Of course, if you ever find yourself in a position where you’ve gotten too intoxicated, it never gives anyone the right to take advantage of your vulnerability. That is never okay or your fault.
Lastly, always watch over your drink. It might seem a little overbearing to be so cautious, but it’s better than the risking your date (or a third party) slipping something in your drink. An understanding date will not be offended that you’re looking out for yourself.
6. Avoid disclosing personal, identifying information.
Disclosing what university you attend might not be a big deal, but your date really doesn’t need to know everything about you, yet. Feel free to be as broad as you like with your answers to avoid over-sharing identifying information, such as where you work, live, or frequent.
I once had a friend who avoided telling people which retail store she worked for because she had numerous dates try to take advantage of her employee discount. Talk about tacky! Not to mention, disclosing personal information can be a huge safety concern if the date turns sour.
Until you can trust this person, don’t feel bad about answering questions with, “I’m not comfortable sharing that information.” It might feel silly, but it’s better than having a bad date know exactly where they can find you. You never want to reveal too much too soon. Let time build the trust!
7. Check in with a friend mid-date.
Whether you’re clicking with your date or dreading every passing moment, it’s imperative that you keep your friend in the loop by letting them know that you are okay/not okay.
If you don’t want to be rude, you could excuse yourself to use the restroom and give your friend a quick ring. Alternatively, you could arrange with your friend to call you mid-date. You can even create a secret code sentence that lets them know how the date is really going. For example, “Sure, you can borrow that green top” means the date is going well, whereas, “Sure, you can borrow that red top” means the date is going terribly.
Of course, it’s never a bad idea to jump straight to tip and trick #8 if the date is taking a turn for the worst.
TIPS TO WRAP UP A DATE:
8. End the date abruptly
Most of us are taught that it’s impolite to end a date abruptly. There’s no easy to way to tell someone that you’re not feeling the spark, but at least it’s honest. In the event that you feel unsafe being honest, make an emergency phone call, leave without warning, or notify a third party.
As a server, if someone ever approached me and told me they were on a date that wasn’t going well, I would it make it my top priority to ensure that person is safely removed from the situation. Don’t be afraid to end a date or reach out for help. You are not obligated to stay on a date any longer than you want to.
9. Avoid leaving the meeting place unless you feel 100% safe leaving the vicinity with this person
After a few laughs and good vibes, your date might say, “Shall we get out of here?” You’re having a great time, but should you move the date from point A to point B to keep the flame burning?
Go with your gut. If you feel even a little bit hesitant about leaving the meeting place with your date, tell them it’s getting late and you’re going to call it a night. Don’t jump in the same cab and don’t let them walk you home. Firmly tell them you can make your own way home, and thank them for a good time (that is, if the encounter was truly positive).
Remember, a good time doesn’t have to extend to further time spent together. You should never feel pressured to continue a date or go anywhere you are not comfortable with. A date never has to be more than a date.
Of course, if you are feeling positive about the date and want to head back to their place, your place, or another place, by all means go for it! Carry protection and be communicative to your date about what you are comfortable and not comfortable with. Additionally, let a friend know you will be staying the night with your date and that you will check in with them in the morning.
10. Trust your intuition.
If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck. In other words, if your date presents themselves in a problematic manner, there’s a high probability you’re interpreting the situation exactly how you see it.
If those red flags are lighting up, don’t ignore the signs! I once went on a date with someone who prided themselves on being an asshole. In hindsight, that should have been my cue out the door.
If something doesn’t sit right with you, you’re under no obligation to stay, educate, entertain, or forgive what your date has said or done.
Dating should be fun, exciting, and most importantly: safe. You can never be too careful when you’re alone with someone you’ve just met. Next time someone “slides into your DM,” make sure you safely slide out by taking these precautionary dating tips and tricks.