Social media gives us so much access to other people’s lives that we gain false senses of familiarity with strangers. After laughing at their jokes, viewing videos of them and getting glimpses of their personality, we can begin to think that we actually know the person. Even when we’ve had exchanges with someone we’ve met online, it’s important to keep in mind that the person is still a stranger and there are aspects of their life that they can choose to hide, therefore precautions should be taken when arranging to meet in person or become more romantically and emotionally invested.
Safety in numbers. If you decide that you are going to meet with a person you met over the internet, make your first meeting early in the day, in a public setting. You want to be able to meet this person in an environment that allows you to exit quickly if they turn out to be Dr. Jekyll instead of the smooth and handsome Mr. Hyde.
Disable your locator on your cell phone. It is cool to be the Four Square Mayor of the local coffee shop, but it is not cool for someone with less than good intentions to have access to your location. A predator can monitor your check-ins for patterns, and can even start to stalk you since they know exactly where to find you.
Choose your photos carefully. Someone can easily trick you into thinking the two of you have something in common, making you more willing to let your guard down. A photo is worth a thousand words … make sure that there are no visible indicators of your address, your common hangouts, or any other information that could be used against you later.
These are simple tips to help you be safer, but your most important tools are your own common sense and intuition. If you meet someone and it doesn’t feel right, don’t push forward hoping it will get better. Proceed slowly and try to identify what seems off, or leave the situation alone all together.