Dating safely during isolation (COVID-19)
Dating safely online during isolation
The way we meet and connect with people has changed dramatically over the last couple of months with the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19). Meeting someone in person for a date is simply impossible currently in many places around the world, but dating services are offering many creative ways of connecting right now. This can provide a great opportunity to try something new. Take the time to explore and enjoy these. Here are our top tips for getting the most out of your virtual dating experience while keeping safe right now:
- Many services offer video chat or livestreaming. Some operate on the dating app itself; other may run on video services run by third parties. This is a great chance to see if there is any chemistry before you might consider meeting in person when it is safe to do so. Many services have produced guidance for those who are new to some form of video messaging in terms of what works well when getting a conversation going and getting to know others. Look out for these guides: they really help.
- You might also want to look out for services that set up broader discussion/chat/video rooms for groups of users. Some of these are more social, while others are a form of virtual speed dating.
- These video and group calls are also a way of exploring whether you and others share interests and have a shared sense of what you want from a new relationship starting online. You can get a feel for whether you are looking for friendships and conversation, madcap fun, or a new romantic partner which minimises the risk of misunderstanding further down the line.
- Take the same approach you would do if you are meeting in person, so arrange a time to virtually meet and agree do something you both enjoy. If you would usually go for a meal or drink then do that, or if you prefer to tour a museum that’s still possible as well.
- Virtual dates are the way forward right now. Being at home doesn’t mean you cannot do the things you enjoy. Not only are daters taking the chance to have a virtual drink or meal over video chat, some are cooking together, watching a movie or theatre show, or taking a virtual walk, mountain climb or canoe ride!
- Getting to know someone through video means users do not have to share certain personal information (eg phone numbers) straightaway. Remember no one should feel pressured to share or do anything they wouldn't under normal circumstances. And remember what is said and shared by video is not something you can really withdraw and delete.
- Many people are chatting more and for longer on messaging and video call platforms; so take it at a pace you are comfortable with. And, if anyone makes you feel uncomfortable or behaves inappropriately always let the dating service know as soon as possible.
- Of course, there’s always the phone, instant messaging apps and social media. As always, we encourage users to stay within the dating service messaging system as this provides a safer environment. If you are using alternative means of contact during this time, try to keep some contact within the dating service.
And honesty is always best! If you’re not feeling like staying in touch with someone as you don’t feel a connection, let them know. Don’t joke about having virus or other health symptoms as a reason for not chatting or eventually meeting.
Our words of caution
Meeting and socialising online is not the same as doing so in person. Services work to keep fraudsters away, to make sure there are no under-age users and to spell out the behaviours expected and the behaviours that are not acceptable. If anyone makes you feel uncomfortable or you are concerned about behaviour, then please report this to the dating service.
But users always need to be alert to those who are not who they claim to be and who are after your money, not your company. The ODA advice to users on safety is simple:
- Get to know the person not the profile
- Stay on the site messaging service
- Never, ever send money to someone you meet online
- Let others help and guide you: talk to family and friends about your dating choices
- Stay in control – never feel pressured to do or disclose anything
What if someone you meet says they need help because of Coronavirus?
Sad though it is to say we are also asking people on social media and dating services to be alert to any new scam based on seemingly urgent and distressing stories about the Coronavirus or other illness, particularly now about ‘medical bills’ or the need to pay for a virus test. No honest person would ever ask that of a stranger online. End any such contact immediately and alert the service provider.