By Rachel Vogler, JWA Safer Dating Co-ordinator

Technology is a wonderful thing. From connecting family members who live on opposite sides of the globe, to making sure your friends know exactly how your night out went down. The internet is full of possibility for us to nurture happy, equal, healthy relationships. It remains true that most of us now have an unthinkable amount of power and influence in the palm of our hand.

In an instant we can book flights, buy shares, control our ovens and fridges. As we harness the power of our devices even more during this period of isolation, we need to face up to the immense amount of responsibility each of us has to conduct ourselves ethically, kindly and respectfully online.

Rarely does our responsibility bear more weight than when we’re pursuing love online. As we spend more time inside many of us will admit to increased time on snapchat, Instagram and YouTube (specifically in the ‘cats doing human things’ subsection), but how many of us will admit to being more swipe-happy? Whether genuinely looking for love, embracing boredom, or giving our fingers a workout, we need to get real about safe use of dating apps.

Do your research

  • Not all apps are equal. Different apps have different privacy levels and this is something really important to consider before signing up for an account. It can be really tempting to click the ‘connect through Facebook’ button, to avoid inputting our email ten times because our brains are fried and we also can’t think of an inventive password. If you are going to sign up through Facebook or Twitter, read the small print. Trust us. Keep as informed as possible.

  • Okay, so, you’ve read the small print. You’ve got a great profile up and running. You match, you’re chatting, there’s a date on the cards. You know they love baking and they’ve also seen Homeland 3.5 times (you got bored at the end), but what do you actually know about them? We really want online dating to work so we often seek out instant connection. Be sure that you’re satisfied with how much you know about the person you’re chatting to before a) continue to chat and b) meet up with them. They might not be prepared to tell you what really happened in that 2008 broigus with their mum’s sisters, but if they get shady about basic things, that might be a red flag.

You are in control of your profile

  • It’s not uncommon for the thrill of opening an online dating account to make us share things we wouldn’t normally. That’s okay. If you’re okay with that. Being up there. Forever. You get the gist – you’re in the driving seat of your profile, share information that you’re happy to exist online and be seen by any folk.

Communication is key

  • Lots of people will recommend all sorts of wacky timeframes for online dating. We all know the ‘one message and then dinner’ person, and we probably all know a few ‘slow burners’, too. There’s no blueprint for this. Spend as much time chatting to someone as you’re happy with. Not feeling it? No worries. You don’t owe that person a date, a picture, n-o-t-h-i-n-g.

  • That said, it’s probably wise to be clear about your intentions. If you don’t know what they are, that’s no crime! You’re totally allowed to say that. We’re all adults here, even if we do have subscriptions to Disney+.

Being pressured into sending photos is not ‘just a part of the experience’

  • It’s likely that most of us know someone who’s been pressured into sending a picture they didn’t want to send. You need to know that this is never okay. Someone pressuring you online or otherwise, to do something you’re not comfortable with is a big red flag, not an ‘unavoidable’ part of the dating experience. Women’s Aid have great guidance on their website.

 

Online dating should be fun and feel-good. Communication and consent are absolutely key, and you are in the driving seat when it comes to constructing your profile. Maybe you’re going to find the love of your life, maybe you make a great new mate – whatever it is, swipe happy and swipe safe.

If you are worried that you might be in an unhealthy relationship, or you know someone who is, feel free to call our free helpline for confidential advice - 0808 801 0500.

We also have our sexual violence support service, the Dina Helpline, which you can contact for free on 0808 801 0656.