The internet has made it easier than ever to meet new people.
Nowadays, you have the potential to interact with people from across the world with just the touch of a few buttons. The conversations you can now strike with random people online have the potential to blossom into long-term friendships or relationships.
This is unlike just a few decades ago where the only way you could make new friends was by going out and meeting people in person.
Although the internet has provided endless opportunities for us to interact with like-minded people, it doesn’t come without its downsides.
There are always safety concerns with meeting people you don’t know online. At best, seemingly friendly strangers might just be unpleasant people who have nothing in common with you. At worst, they may turn out to have ill intentions and want to cause you harm.
It’s important to take the necessary safety precautions when you are interacting with people online. This becomes even more important if you decide to meet up with them in person.
Here are some top tips to keep you safe if you’re using the Internet to meet new people.
Gathering information about the people you are speaking to online is vital to staying safe. When you stay informed on who you are interacting with on the internet, you can make informed decisions before you meet up with somebody.
Using companies like Intelius, you can search for people’s phone numbers and addresses, and you can learn about their criminal history. This provides you with the essential information to check whether a person really is who they say they are.
These websites make private searches to gather this information. The people you are checking will not be made aware of these searches to protect your safety.
There are billions of public records available online. Public data-providing companies can access this information to provide you will a well-rounded overview of our internet acquaintances.
Meet Up in Public Places
After a few months of talking to somebody online, you might feel ready to finally meet up with them in person. Whether it’s a friendly meet up or a first date, safety needs to be at the top of your list of priorities.
When choosing a location to meet, make sure it’s a public area where there are lots of people around. You could meet in a busy public park, a shopping mall, or a bustling cafe. Choose a place where you can easily grab somebody for help if you don’t feel safe. There is safety in numbers!
You could also get a friend to come along to the same location during your meet-up. They can sit nearby and keep a close eye on you. The more, the merrier when you’re meeting a stranger!
Even if you’d rather go somewhere more private to chat with your Internet friend, you need to put your safety first. You can meet in quieter, more private spots further down the line when you’ve gotten to know the person better.
Don’t Give Out Any Personal Information
If you’ve been chatting to somebody for a couple of weeks, you might start to feel more comfortable with them. Because of this, you might be tempted to give out your mobile number or email address.
Although giving out your mobile number may not sound very serious, a tech-savvy person could easily use it to find out more about you. They could track down your address and find sensitive information about you within minutes.
To stay safe, it’s best to avoid giving out any personal details until you are completely certain that this person is safe.
Keep An Eye On Your Food and Drink
It’s scarily easy for someone to slip something into your food or drink when you’re not looking. This can lead to very serious consequences.
If you plan to meet up with someone over lunch or coffee, you will need to be extra cautious. Keep an eye on your food or drinks at all times so the other person has no opportunity to add anything without your knowledge.
If you need to go to the restroom, try and do it before your food arrives or after you’ve finished eating and drinking.
Avoid Drinking Excessive Amounts of Alcohol
When you’re meeting up with somebody for the first time, it’s tempting to drink a little more than usual. Alcohol can reduce your fear, ease your nerves, and help you to relax and enjoy yourself. It gives you that ‘liquid courage’!
Unfortunately, alcohol can also lead you to lose focus and critical thinking. You can end up forgetting what you’re doing and agreeing to things that you’d normally refuse.
Limit your alcohol intake to one or two drinks during your meet-up and, instead, opt for water or coffee. Although drinking alcohol is often more fun, it’s best to refrain from too many cocktails until you’re more comfortable with the other person.
Carry a Personal Safety Alarm
Carrying an alarm might seem a bit excessive, but it could make the difference between life and death in certain situations.
Personal safety alarms are sometimes called attack alarms or rape alarms. They are small devices that can be easily activated with the touch of a button. They connect you directly to emergency services or rapid response teams within seconds so that you can immediately get help if you’re in trouble.
You don’t need to worry about the other person spotting your alarm. They are small enough to fit in your purse or backpack.
Make sure to keep your personal safety alarm in an easily accessible place. You might need to activate it quickly in the event of an emergency.
If you’re walking home or taking public transport, your safety alarm will give you some comfort. You can be confident in knowing that help is just a few minutes away if you suspect that the person you have been with is following you home.