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Technology has made our world smaller, which means you now have the opportunity to meet people you might never have met otherwise. Thanks to social media and online dating apps, you could meet the love of your life who lives in Bloemfontein while you're in Johannesburg. But before you swipe right this Valentine's Month, read this.

Do an online search
Make sure your personal information is set to private on social media.

Safety tips while online

  1. Never send money or financial information even if the person you're chatting to claims it's an emergency. 
  2. In addition to financial information, don't share any other personal information such as your ID number or physical address either. Check your online presence in general when you sign up for a dating app – make sure your personal information, including contact details, aren't public on social media.
  3. Use the online-dating platform's 'report' function if anyone is behaving suspiciously or threatening or offending you. If you have any concerns that someone is behaving strangely, do a Google image search of their profile photo to see if they are really who they claim to be. In fact, do a Google search of their name as well to see if anything odd comes up.
Don't allow the other person to walk you home
Don't allow the other person to walk you home after the first date.

Offline safety tips

  1. Be sure you know the other person as much as possible before deciding to take it offline. Don't feel pressurised into meeting in person immediately.
  2. Meet in a public place and ensure your family and friends know where you're going to be and when as well as with whom you're meeting.
  3. Don't accept a lift home or to another location – no matter how well the date goes.
  4. If you feel unsafe at any point, get up and walk away. Don't worry about whether you will come across as rude – the old adage of 'better safe than sorry' has never been more applicable. Let a friend know immediately that you've left your date and what your whereabouts are.
  5. Stay sober. Don't drink too much alcohol and ensure you handle your own drinks at all times.
  6. If you decide to take your relationship to a physical level, have an open discussion and make sure you know your own HIV status as well as that of your partner. Be sure to use protection such as a condom.

Header photo by Pratik Gupta on Unsplash

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