If you are single and hoping not to be forever, chances are you have at least dabbled in online dating. Tips and red flags for your success and safety, however, are often late to the game, leaving you vulnerable to both hurt and danger.
Since the early days of online dating, the rate of hacked accounts, scams and flagrant misrepresentation have dramatically increased. You wouldn’t be the first trusting and well-intended single person to wonder if the effort is even worth it, let alone safe.
When it comes to online dating tips/red flags, there are those radar-busters that are really just irritants, under-qualifiers and reasons to swipe left. Then there are those for which you should always be on high alert and that you should not ignore. Ever.
Online dating sites protect themselves by seeming to protect you. They will remind you never to wire money and to always meet in a public place first. And they will tell you to block and/or report any profile or message that is inappropriate or seems suspicious.
They won’t, however, tell you how to recognize a scam or a potentially dangerous person. They won’t tell you to read between the lines, to trust your gut…and to be so confident in who you are that you don’t let desperation cloud your thinking. Online dating tips, red flags and regrets are left to dating experts and those who have “learned the hard way.”
It is imperative to remember that everyone wants to be seen in the best possible light. And when there is a fixed number of spots for photos and a limit on how much one can write, you can bet there is going to be a lot of crafty fibbing. Outright lies, even. A nip and tuck here, a few years off there, a thick layer of self-aggrandizement over the whole thing, and voila! The perfect match!
And that’s just the “innocent” stuff. The online dating scene has a dark underground of heartless manipulators whose sole intention is to capitalize on the most vulnerable and romantically reactive members. As we explore online dating tips/red flags, keep in mind that they can all be summed up in this one piece of advice:
Keep your head in front of your heart, at least until you know someone well. Read between all the lines of a person-of-interest’s profile and messages. And keep a firm hold on who you are, how you deserve and expect to be treated, and what you are looking for in a relationship. Desperation has no place in dating, and definitely no place in cyber-dating.
If you are genuinely motivated to marry and are in a place to both give and receive in a healthy way, then approach your screening thoughtfully. Consider how a person’s self-presentation may actually speak to deeper tendencies. After all, if you have essentially one screen on which to “sell your brand,” wouldn’t you give it your all to ensure the greatest possible success?
[Recommended Reading – Why Hire A Dating Coach To Help You Find Lasting Love?]
A person who can’t be bothered with assembling a complete and polished profile may really be saying that he or she can’t be bothered with the work involved in building and sustaining a long-term relationship.
And if the person spends 2000 characters expounding on workouts and physical appearance, you should ask yourself if your deepest values would even be given a once-over if the two of you started dating.
Here are some online dating tips/red flags you should not ignore:
- An empty or negative profile.This person either can’t be bothered with the work of relationship or has too much baggage left from an old one. “Ask and I’ll tell you” is lazy, controlling and self-centered. It’s not your job to pore over profiles asking for information that should be clearly presented. S/he’s not ready. Swipe left.
- False relationship status.It is deflating to consider the percentage of online members who are hiding marriages, separations and supposedly-committed relationships.Does this person treat you more like a pen-pal, never getting around to setting up a date? Does he insist you not meet in public, or invite himself to your place?
It is very common for those who are separated but still married to “get a head start” on their futures by seeking a new partner now. Put on your running shoes….
- A single picture or a picture that looks too good to be true.Again, your online dating profile is your one chance to sell yourself (so to speak). Would a person serious about finding a relationship post only one photo?Single photos are dead giveaways for hacked accounts and scams. If you are still drawn in and need more convincing, read the profile thoroughly and look for inconsistencies.
Is he a widower who looks like George Clooney, makes $1M/year, has a graduate degree…and writes as if English is his second language? Profiles are puzzles. Make sure all the pieces fit.
- Too important to post pictures.“I am a CEO/brain surgeon/politician/whatever, and it wouldn’t be good for my reputation if someone saw me on a dating site.” What s/he really means is, “It wouldn’t be good if someone saw me and told my spouse.”Aside from the obvious, it is also a flagrant hypocrisy to play the “I can see you, but you can’t see me” game.
- Other social media profiles are private, hidden or non-existent.“Off the grid” equals “off your list.” If you can’t do even a cursory search of a person to get a feel for his or her existence in the real world, you could end up “off the grid”…permanently.
- Texting = sexting.If a person’s profile and/or personal messages are always steered toward sex…well, what else do you need to know?
- Evasive about profession/work.If you can’t get a clear picture of what this person does for a living, something is shady. “Entrepreneur,” “complicated” and other dodgy labels don’t draw you into knowing the person better.
- The person includes a link in his/her message.Then s/he tells you to visit it to see his/her photos or learn about her/his business. Not. Click. Report/block/ignore the person, but do not click. These links are often designed to destroy the computers of those who click on them.
- “I’m never on this site, so here’s my email address. Write to me there.”“Uhh, yeaahh, you are on this site. You’re on here looking for people to scam for their personal information.” These messages are often dripping with compliments (written in “foreign” English) to bait the most vulnerable and romantically desperate. Again, do not click.
- The person asks for money.It is mind-boggling that people fall for this, but they do. And they get taken to the cleaners. This scam is a frequent complaint of men who are approached by women from overseas asking for money. There’s not a sob story sad enough to justify someone asking a stranger for money on a dating site.
When it comes to online dating tips/red flags, there are always more with varying degrees of severity. So much of online dating warrants nothing more than a head shake, an eye roll and a left swipe. But there is always risk involved when you are exposing your desire for a romantic relationship, let alone on the worldwide web.
Above all else, look out for yourself the way you would look out for your mom, sibling or best friend. Be smart. Be patient. Be thorough. And always trust your gut.