These days, you're almost as likely to meet a potential date online as in person. You may use an online dating site such as Match.com or eHarmony, or you may connect with friends of friends through Facebook or other social networking sites. There are plenty of positive reasons to look for dates online, but you have to stay safe. Here are some things to remember when you're part of the online dating pool:
Any person you meet online is a stranger. No matter how often you write to each other online, you don't really begin to know this person until you meet face to face.
Some people lie. In online dating profiles, people often fudge the truth about their age and weight, and the discrepancies usually aren't a huge deal. But some people lie about big stuff, like gender, occupation, and marital status. Again, anyone you meet online is a stranger until you meet face to face and start the process of really getting to know each other.
Just as you'd never hand your home phone number and address to a stranger walking down the street, you should never give such personal information to a person you meet online. Save that exchange for after you've been on at least a few in-person dates.
A blank computer screen is seductive. Beware the temptation to share more than you should, whether on your Facebook page, in an online chat room, or in a tweet stream. The Internet is forever, and you don't want to face long-term embarrassment for a spur-of-the-moment decision to post a comment or picture that's risqué or otherwise inappropriate.
After you make an online connection, don't wait more than a week or two before arranging to see each other in person. Any longer than that, and you're just perpetuating a fantasy and building a false sense of intimacy.
The first time you meet each other, make it a public place, and tell someone (a close friend or family member) where you'll be.