Match.com, one of the web’s most recognizable online dating sites, has instilled a new policy: their dater database will be run against the sex offender registry. This new policy is a reaction to the sexual assault of an LA woman who met her assailant via Match. He’d been convicted of various sexual battery crimes in the past.
To be honest, I’ve never considered entering a date’s name into a sex offender registry. As a seasoned online dater, I think it’s great that Match is taking initiative and using its resources (and public record) to whittle down the number of psychopaths that use their site to stalk prey – especially when they’d be hiding in plain sight otherwise. While I’m more likely to Google a date to asses their web presence rather than to figure out if they’ve been convicted of sex crimes, I’ve come up with my own rules that’ve helped to keep me out of harm’s way.
- Don’t spend too much time on the initial online courtship – this sounds counter-intuitive. Of COURSE you should get to know everything about this sketchy, strange person before meeting them! Newsflash: this is the internet, honey. All of this shit is smoke and mirrors. I could be a retired mountain woman and all I’d need is a Facebook photo of my niece to pretend otherwise. You don’t want to “get to know” someone online to the point that you begin to trust them and/or feel like you know them. You don’t. Feeling inappropriately attached to someone before meeting them allows you to put your guard down. That’s not to say you should show up to a date with a stick up your ass, but… maybe pack one in your purse.
- If you have the means to Google them, do preliminary research. Do you have Facebook friends in common that can possibly vouch for this person’s sanity (or lack thereof)? Did they write something deeply personal and publish it online? Is there an available arrest record, perchance? Look, I know everyone wants to get all, “Don’t Google your dates! How are you going to fall in love organically?!” But this is 2011. Nothing happens organically anymore. Better safe and knowing about your date’s history with prescription pills than sorry, amiright?
- Stop giving out your real contact info prior to meeting. Wanna e-mail? Use the site’s messaging service. Feel like chatting? You can do that internally as well. Asking for someones personal email account is not only a proven turn off, it puts you at risk: you could be giving a certain anonymous someone way too much access to the minutiae of your life. Someone that may or may not go away when you decide you’re not interested anymore. GChat is for friends and colleagues, not friends and colleagues and an OkStalker.
- Meet in public. Tell people where you’re going. Check in on FourSquare. Tweet that shit (while your date’s in the bathroom, don’t be rude). Tweet your date’s outfit, even, if they seem suspect. This seems fairly obvious for a first encounter, but maybe follow these rules until you’re a few dates deep and have exhausted all Google possibilities. Ever hook up with someone at a bar and go home with them to find that they own 16 cats or a disturbing sports memorabilia fetish? You’re taking a risk when you enter a stranger’s home or invite them into yours. Why is it that you’ll invite an internet person who you’ve known for six hours into your home but get freaked when the mailman you’ve had for 15 years asks to use your bathroom? Cute or not, try getting to know this person before relinquishing personal information like your home address.
For Match.com’s official Dos and Don’ts (and tips on long-distance dating), go here.