Internet dating is here, and it's not going anywhere. People do everything else online, so it makes sense to start new relationships there, too. In fact, there are a lot of benefits to online dating. It's a bit easier to sift through the rejects and find the diamond.
But just like old-school dating, Internet dating is scary. It's all compounded by the fact that it's hard to believe most of what you see on someone's profile. Basically, unless you've known him or her for years, you have no idea what you're getting into.
Thus, running a short background check on your date is not only not creepy, but it also keeps you safe. Background checks are a good thing for personal safety. They also prevent you from having a two-year online relationship with your best friend's baby daddy, all while you're under the impression that he's a semi-famous recording artist. You know, like on MTV's "Catfish."
Here's how to perform a background check on your date without becoming a grade-A stalker yourself:
1. Verify your date's identity.
Lying about yourself (or about other people) online is really easy. It's not even about the kind of music you like, or whether or not you're actually vegan. If your primary interaction is through Tinder, it's pretty easy to set up a fake email, change your name and create a whole new identify for yourself in about five minutes.
A background check helps you know that the person you're talking to is who he or she says he or she is. It will also bring up any huge red flags, such as a sex offender registration or an undisclosed marriage.
Sure, it is romantic to fall in love on a whim. But, it's more romantic to know you're not about to become part of the worst Tinder horror stories of all time.
2. Match your date's social media.
Social media is a secondary background check, primarily because it is still the Internet, and people are still lying. But if you've done a background check already, or you're just not ready to go there yet, don't be afraid to Google him or her.
Look through his or her Facebook, Instagram or Twitter feeds. Better yet, check out the search hit with his or her LinkedIn profile. Just don't click on the link, or the mission will be compromised. LinkedIn reports profile views.
Use the basic information you've found to verify that the person you're talking to is real and has friends. But don't rely on it too heavily. Not everyone is smart enough to create corresponding fake accounts to match his or her fake Tinder account, but the really crazy people are.
3. Have a back-up plan.
Don't get comfortable before you meet your date. Even if you've done a few checks and he or she has come back clean, don't put yourself in a vulnerable situation that has no way out. Set up a back-up plan to deal with a date that's gone wrong. Tell someone you trust where you're going, and have him or her check in on you. Ask him or her call you mid-way through the date, so you have an excuse to text back a progress report.
More importantly, don't ask someone who is at work or lives an hour away. Make sure this person is ready and waiting, in case you need to send out an SOS.
A great way to keep your friends in the loop is to send over your GPS location. There are a few tricks that you can use to share your exact, real-time location with a trusted circle of contacts.
It's not totally essential if you're heading to Chipotle. But in the event that you choose to go somewhere more intimate, these details can help your friends rescue you.
4. Own up to your sleuthing.
Protecting yourself from Internet creepers or real-life criminals is not creepy. However, pretending that you didn't do it is.
If someone asks you if you looked him or her up before your date, own up to it proudly. It shows you have enough common sense and self-respect to protect yourself from a potentially dangerous situation.
5. Don't violate your date's privacy.
You have to do what you have to do to protect yourself, but don't violate your date's privacy to do so. A background check is cool, and looking people up on the Internet is a standard practice. But don't get weird about it.
Don't get ahold of his or her phone number. Don't call him or her, pretending to be someone else. Don't casually stalk his or her known hangouts to watch him or her interact with people. Don't befriend his or her friends to learn more about him or her.
Security is important, but everyone is entitled to some self-respect. Plus, if your initial checks indicate that the person has a wife or kids, you don't want to go out with him or her anyway. There's just no excuse for going that far.
Whether you're on Tinder for a one-night thing, a long-term thing or something in between, you should remain vigilant. It's the right thing to do for you, and it helps keep the whole online community stay safe.