Having done this a few times before, I suppose I have a fair amount of experience that could be passed on to anyone who is considering meeting someone that they first met on the Internet. I remember reading help such as this on websites, and I expect it is still out there somewhere but it won’t hurt to add my own take on things.
Keep reading Guys, this applies to you too!
Before I go any further, it would be good to set some context here. People (men and women) get attacked, or robbed, or conned, or worse, every single day, all around the world. The bad guys really are out to get you. But set against that are the millions of people who have successfully got together through the Internet, myself amongst them. Were we just lucky? Or did we take reasonable and sensible precautions to protect ourselves? I prefer to think it was the latter.
I think the biggest single thing you can do to ward off potential danger is to be cautious, act cautious, and be upfront about it. Predators – in all their forms – are searching first and foremost for an easy target. If you present as an easygoing, and possibly slightly careless type, then for them it is ‘Game On’. However, if you demonstrate a wary side, they may move on almost immediately in search of easier prey.
How many of you still use your ISP email address? You know, the one with your real name written into the address?
How many of you were smart enough to get a nice new Hotmail/Gmail/Yahoo/etc web account, invent a really cool ‘screen name’ for yourself, but signed up to the account using your real name, and better still, entered your real address and phone number? You know, all the stuff they present to the world in your Profile? Send yourself an email and see what it says about you.
Maybe you guys are macho and able to look after yourselves, and you think using your real world credentials makes you appear more open and honest? Or maybe, you are presenting a nice easy target. Some of the ‘bad guys’ are girls, you know.
So you get chatting to someone interesting, a smooth operator will have you singing your personal details within an hour. Not the real ‘flashing warning signs’ details, little snippets here and there. And over time you allow more and more individual – separately insignificant – facts to slip out. He’s such a nice guy, you just can’t help being relaxed with him (and don’t forget about ‘her’!).
A few, less educated souls, may take offence when you choose to withhold details about yourself, but the vast majority will expect it, and should respect you all the more. The old maxim always comes to mind when discussing these things; BE ALERT – WE NEED LERTS.
Don’t be like this:
Guys! Unless you are both clearly intent on a little bit of casual online tomfoolery, don’t ask to see her picture (preferably naked) in the first hour! It just shows you up for the shallow creep you truly are. Respect her as person, not just a body. If, after several online meets, you are getting on well and it looks like things will continue, then it is alright to suggest that maybe she might like to exchange a photo or two. And even then there is a chance that you might blow it if the timing is wrong. Be patient, and with a bit of luck she will make the suggestion first. As a general rule of thumb, it is better to let the lady lead at her own pace.
That’s got the most basic scary stuff out in the open. Now we need to deal with the potential for actually meeting ‘your chosen one’. Is your Profile scrupulously honest? It is OK to be vague about some of the details, like location and date of birth. Maybe your age has slipped a little? Are you an inch or two taller when online? And most probably thinner and fitter too! These things are superficial really, and most people will readily forgive the occasional little white lie. But there comes a time when the other person is expecting to meet the person you have portrayed yourself as, and they have every right to expect that by this time any inconsistencies will have been clarified. If she is expecting to meet a young Burt Reynolds, an aging Jack Nicholson entering the meeting place with a copy of The Times under his left arm and red rose clutched between his teeth is going to come as a bit of a surprise. Things are unlikely to go well.
With regard to actually arranging your first meeting, there is a basic safety protocol to follow.
The specifics vary from one advisor to the next, and a sensible person will research a number of websites for advice, and adopt the procedure that works best for their specific circumstances. My own take on it is as follows:
It is vital that a third party knows as much as possible about your meeting, and is on hand to receive live(ish) progress reports as the meet occurs. Just as important, the person you are meeting should be appraised of your plan, they should expect that you are taking some personal security precautions, although you should not explain every detail of your security arrangement. Ideally, your chosen confidante should know who you are meeting, where you are meeting them, what you expect to happen and when, and when you expect to return home. Your ‘safety mate’ could be an online friend that you trust to maintain confidentiality and who you might phone at pre-arranged times throughout the meet, or text, or message online. If your assignation involves your kink it may be awkward to explain to your mother, but all she needs to know is that you are meeting someone, not why you are getting together. And it should go without saying that your first meet will be in a very public place (cafe or bar maybe?), while you take the opportunity to look them over and check out a few of those personal snippets you have stored away.
Disclosing personal information is tricky for both parties, but you should know as much real-world, verifiable information about them as possible. A vehicle registration (and better yet, a photo of the car showing its plate) is not personally identifiable in many cases, but could be used by the police in the event that things go bad, and of course your ‘safety mate’ needs to know about it. If the guy turns up in a rental, watch out! In essence, as you chit-chat online, you are gathering snippets of information about the other person. You should be writing these things down. Over the course of weeks and months you will amass a dossier that will ensure your new partner gets nailed if things turn out bad.
But most importantly of all, listen to your instincts! Trust them, they are usually right. Over and over again, victims report that they thought something was fishy, but allowed the person to convince them otherwise. If anything doesn’t ‘feel’ right, if what they said doesn’t happen, if the vehicle or location suddenly changes, walk away. There may be an innocent explanation, but if the other person is genuinely interested in you, they will understand your concern and be prepared to put your meeting off until another time.
Those are the basics, and there are many variations. I welcome any additional comments on things I may have missed, or could be done better.