Can 30 million people be wrong?
That’s approximately how many U.S. adults take advantage of dating sites and apps to find companionship or perhaps even a marriage partner. You may be thinking, “Oh, these are all young people in their 20’s and 30’s.” Would it surprise you to know that 19% of adults between the ages of 50 and 64 explored online dating (Pew Research Center)?
Why are dating apps and websites so popular? There is research to suggest that online dating has significant benefits (The Knot) including:
- Online dating is more intentional in the sense that participants make a decision to look for a serious partner rather than a casual alliance.
- Because online dating users are more focused on their search to find a good match, conversations appear to become more honest more quickly than in a traditional dating situation.
- The online dating process helps participants quickly search out others with similar values.
- The apps and websites develop algorithms (mathematical formulas) to match folks based on questionnaires and data. Evidently, these algorithms are quite successful.
Almost all of us know of someone who has gone online to find romance, and we’ve heard happily ever stories as well as some distressing ones. Once you decide to plunge into cyber romance, what can you do to better the odds you will have a happy outcome?
Think of the process of online dating in three stages: Choosing the right site, setting up your profile and sorting through the possibilities, and taking the big step to meet in person. Taking time to think through these steps will help you stay safer online than if you skip them. Stay safe and you will be more likely to have a positive experience.
Choosing the Right Site
Online dating apps and sites differ by style, price, ease of use, and so on. Your first step is to decide which of these apps and sites fits your purpose and budget. Three of the most popular ones are tinder.com, bumble.com, and P.O.F.com (POF stands for Plenty of Fish).
However, a recent 2021 Newsweek article suggests other sites as being more suited for people over 50:
Online dating is big business; it grossed over 900 million dollars in 2019. Therefore, their advertising is going to be slick and persuasive. So do your research! Carefully check out their websites to see what they offer and think about which features are important to you. Here are several attributes to consider:
- What’s the real cost? Some are free to start but to get more features, you must pay for a premium plan.
- Can you see your match’s picture?
- Do they offer specialized groups such as divorced, widowed, gay, Christian, Jewish, etc.?
- Is there unlimited messaging?
- Are you able to see who has viewed your profile?
- How do they make the suggested matches? Questionnaires? Algorithms (mathematical formulas based on data)? Personality Traits?
Once you have selected one or more possible sites, continue your research and read reviews. Simply “google” reviews of (fill in the name of the site) online dating site. You will find several reviews that will help you make your decision.
Once you have picked your site, you are ready to move on.
Setting Up Your Profile and Sorting Through the Possibilities
There are many steps you should take to keep yourself safe.
One of the most important is to make sure personal contact information (address and phone number) is not available. Here’s what you should do before you hit the send or post button for your profile:
- Check your social media accounts and delete any references to where you live or your personal phone number.
- LinkedIn accounts will have professional information listed, but double-check that personal contact information is not included.
- Consider setting up an email account that is just for your online dating.
- Another possibility is to use Google Voice, a free telephone and texting service, just for your online dating adventures.
- Double-check your security settings on Facebook and other social media—are they set at private? These settings are designed to give you some control over who sees and interacts with your posts.
- Bottom line—keep your contact information private.
Secondly, be honest in your profile. If you’re a homebody who hates to fly, express that so you are not matched with a person who can’t abide staying in one place longer than three months. Your values are worthwhile and should be an important component of the matching process. Eliminating potential areas of conflict just makes sense.
Next, keep checking for red flags when viewing potential matches.
- eharmony suggests designating a good friend to view any potential matches for dodgy information. They are more likely to have a neutral perspective and able to give you straight feedback.
- Be aware that it is easy to set up a fake Facebook page to make oneself look good. Clues that a page might be fake include few friends, no photos of friends and family, no tagging of photos, and images that look like they came from a stock photography site or modeling agency. tineye.com and images.google.com are two sites that will help you identify fake images.
- Do check out their social media pages to learn more about their lifestyle.
- Don’t be afraid to google them to find out more information. And of course, they probably are googling you, so you might want to google yourself to see what turns up.
- Ask for proof of claims. This action probably seems uncomfortable, however, you can explain that you are very self-protective. If they are offended, well, they are probably not a good prospect.
- Keep the conversations on the dating site until you plan a meet. Do not fall for the line, “My membership is about to run out, and please won’t you give me your phone number so we can text.”
- Another hint from harmony.com is not to trust an early declaration of love, and for heaven’s sake, do not send along any revealing images!
- Bottom line—despite how outwardly appealing a match may seem, trust your gut and remember if someone seems to be too good to be true, they probably are.
You are ready for the first face-to-face meeting.
Meeting in Person
All of the information on safety in online dating suggest you do the following:
- Schedule a video chat before an actual meeting. You’ll see what the person looks like, get a feel for their demeanor, hear their voice, and so on. Just one more check before you put yourself out there.
- Meet in a public place and make arrangements for your own transportation. Remember, you can schedule a Uber or other ride service to pick you up at a specific time and place.
- Make sure your cell phone is fully charged. Furthermore know how to summon emergency help on your phone. This action varies by device.
- If you are driving, program into your maps app directions to and from the meeting place before you go so you are confident of your route.
- Tell friends/family when and where you are going and with whom. Perhaps even arrange for them to give you a call halfway through the date to check how you are.
- Carry pepper spray.
- Bottom line—you are not obligated to put yourself in an unsafe situation to please another person. Think personal safety, first and foremost!
It’s natural to want to trust people, and it feels uncomfortable to always be looking for something wrong. Furthermore, we know it is mostly women in their 20’s and 30’s that are targets for unpleasant behaviors in online dating situations. However, the Pew Research Center in a recent survey found 29% of women 50 or older who were using online dating sites continued to receive unwanted contacts after they had ended a relationship, 20% were sent sexually explicit messages,13% were called offensive names, and 2% were threatened. It just makes sense to be proactive about online dating safety.
30 million adults in the United States have used dating sites, and it appears the majority have had positive experiences. Remember if you choose this route, you shape the circumstances surrounding your online dating experience. Take control—do your research, be inquisitive, and be smart about your actions.
BoomerTECH Adventures provides expert guidance and resources to help Boomers and older adults develop competence and confidence using their Apple devices. Boomers themselves, BoomerTECH Adventures rely on their skills as educators to create experiences that meet individual needs through videos, Zoom presentations, tech tips, and timely blog posts.