As classes begin, many students will be excited to meet new people and form new relationships. However, with social groupings restricted as they are, students may decide to turn to online dating apps to pursue relationships that they would have otherwise been unable to obtain. At the Office of Health Advancement, we encourage students to find COVID-friendly ways of dating and would additionally like to offer some advice. Dating apps are fun, but it is important to recognize the risks they present. Here are a few ways to stay safe while navigating online dating:
- Establish Communication Outside of Dating Apps – Chatting on Tinder is fun and easy, especially considering you can do it all while looking at their profile. Unfortunately, profiles can be faked and without careful consideration you could find yourself “catfished”. As a solution, we recommend you bring the conversation to Skype, Snapchat, or other voice/facetime messaging apps in order to see “the real them”. On a side note, try to stick to apps where you can block the person, and do not share phone numbers until you are sure about them.
- Do Your Research – You may think you know this person but do you really? Social media searches can be very useful in determining what someone is really like. Browse their Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, VSCO, or do a simple Google search of their name. You may see stuff you like; you may see stuff you do not. Either way, you come out more informed about the person you would like to meet.
- Tell a Friend – Before you leave on your date, make sure to tell a friend where you are going and what you are doing. Kidnapping, while extremely rare, could happen and you are much better off if you have someone you know looking out for you.
- Bring Your Own Transportation – If you have a car, please drive to meet your date rather than having them pick you up and drop you off. If things become awkward or unpleasant, it is critical that you can get yourself out of the situation without needing to depend on your date. In the situation that you do not have a car, have a trusted friend, ride-service, or even bicycle that you can access easily.
- Meet in a Public Place – With COVID, we understand that social outlets such as bars, restaurants, or clubs may restrict your options to meet. However, there are many parks, public trails, or campus areas that would allow you to meet your date while also remaining safe. MSU also offers many COVID-friendly forms of engagement like OHA Movie Nights at the Procrastinator.
- Ask About STIs – Dating apps can present a real-risk of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) since there are many different people and most are sexually active. We understand that these conversations can be awkward but consider the implications. While some STIs are treatable, others can present negative long-term outcomes like infertility and pain. Wearing a barrier method, such as a condom or dental dam, is a must anyways, but you should still ask about STIs. Try to set boundaries and start asking these questions before things get heated because responses may vary. An example lead-in could be “Hey I just got tested recently, have you been tested?” or “Do you have a condom with you?” If they do not respond or respond poorly that may be your cue to wait or just bounce.
- Do Not Share Personal Information – We highly doubt any of you will start sharing things like credit card numbers, social security numbers, or mothers’ maiden names on the first date, but there are things you should try to avoid sharing. These include your address, birthday, and last and/or middle name. Your personal information is valuable, and it is important that you only share that information with people you know well.
Sex and dating are a normal natural part of life that many students engage in. Online dating apps are a relatively novel and unfamiliar form of interaction, which may lead to unforeseen consequences if used incorrectly. With our advice, we hope that students can have the same level of fun while also remaining safe.