Here are some tips to safely date online!
Who hasn’t looked up a potential date on Google? If you’ve never done it, you lose the first line of defense on how to safely date online. The most common advantage of the search engine is that it makes reliable information available to everyone, allowing people to make more educated decisions daily.
When it comes to dating, the LGBTQ+ population faces the same risks as heterosexual people, both in person and online. Nonetheless, because of social and cultural attitudes toward homosexuals, they use online dating apps and sites roughly twice as as heterosexuals. This statistic comes from a 2020 study by the global think organization Pew Research Center.
Filipino LGBTQs have also long proven to be savvy in using the internet to date. Thirty-three-year-old local writer Koji Arsua, who shares stories of his dating life on social media, has had figured out how to safely date online for years. He came of age when being gay was not as accepted as today, and he had been meeting men online since 2005. His history affirms that LGBTQs rely more on online dating than heterosexual people.
“I’ve tried a lot of platforms: Guys4Men, Downelink, Fabuloush, PlanetRomeo, mIRC, Grindr, Tinder, and Bumble,” Arsua says. “But I feel like, for the most part, we face the same challenges as the straight community. We all hope to meet someone who would like to just do laundry and taxes with us.”
Ghosting and other perils of online dating
Times have changed since dating apps were seen as an embarrassing last resort for meeting people. These days, online tools like Google Search, YouTube, and social media platforms are available to verify what people tell you. You can look them up and learn about their values and principles. You can even find out if you’re a victim of catfishing. These are things that raise red flags and green flags too.
The more significant issue for everyone is always safety. Online dating is a little more hazardous because you only know who you’re getting once you meet someone. Doing everything you can to stay safe may be a matter of life and death.
Suppose you’re a member of the LGBTQ+ community. In that case, dating could be a little riskier, with the dangers of catfishes and suspicious or violent bigots masquerading as homosexuals abound, to name a few.
“I feel like everyone faces the same risks as straight people when it comes to online dating: horrible dates, being catfished, and bad people with ulterior motives,” Arsua says. “A hazard that may be more common to us due to existing social stigma is exposure to HIV. While it is a concern for everyone, social stigma, and discrimination make the queer community more vulnerable to exposure.”
Like any responsible person, Arsua does some detective work on guys he matches with before their first date.
“It’s not FBI levels of investigation because I want to get to know my date naturally, but I’ll Google him to see if he is who he says he is,” Arsua says. “I think more people should do a quick background check to confirm their dates are real.”
“I understand that not everyone is on social media, but zero online presence will definitely make me curious. Aggressive behavior, like being mean to people in the service industry or not understanding consent, is a major red flag that should never be ignored.”
His advice is always to tell a loved one where you will be, propose going to a public place on the first few dates, trust your instincts, and leave when you don’t feel comfortable.
“The verification features of these apps are important. Some allow users to connect their profiles to their social media accounts so you can see if they are who they say they are. Others have a video chat feature so you can call and get to know each other better before exchanging phone numbers or email addresses,” he says. Such safety tools should be used to minimize risks or, at least, not go blindly into a situation.
A social and cultural bellwether
Online dating has become a social bellwether of sorts. Like Arsua shares, there used to be a premium on masculinity among gay guys.
“I’ve had guys ghost me because I was out and effeminate. One guy stopped talking to me because of the sound of my voice. I get it. Some guys are in the closet. There’s still a level of internalized homophobia today, but I don’t think it’s as widespread. These days it’s common to see guys on dating apps wearing makeup or gender-bending clothes. I matched with a drag queen once!”
But as a dating veteran, Koji knows by heart that one’s value doesn’t depend on your “popularity” on dating apps. “My self-worth used to be tied to my appearance, and I used to get sad if I didn’t get a reply or match with someone I found attractive. I now find fulfillment in other things: my relationship with my family and friends, my hobbies, and my work. Being rejected on dating apps doesn’t bother me anymore.”
One source of fulfillment is his advocacy of the SOGIE Equality Bill. “It’s time to pass it because it protects everyone from discrimination, regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity and expression. According to LGBTQ+ influencer Thysz Estrada on Antoinette Jadaone and JP Habac’s “Ang Walang Kwentang Podcast,” ‘sexual orientation is who you sleep with. Gender identity is who you sleep as. Gender expression is what you wear while you’re sleeping.'”
For its part, Google is very proactive in promoting digital responsibility and internet safety, particularly on how to safely date online. They build innovative products and programs, create product policies that enable them to respond to new and evolving issues online, and work with local communities like NGOs and LBGTQs.
To Arsua, though, it can’t hurt for apps to introduce features on how to safely date online even more. “I’m not sure what that would look like since we already have a lot of safety features in place, but when it comes to online dating, you can never be too careful.”
Banner Image Dani Sison