By Laura LaVacca
In this new device-obsessed culture, it seems only natural that people are making love connections (or at least trying to) over their iPhones, iPads or Androids. Safety issues are an increasing concern, but first here’s a roundup of a few popular applications:
Launched in 2012, and perhaps the best known of the bunch, Tinder’s “face swiping” seems to be taking the dating world by storm. Although Tinder is accused of being the “hook up” app, it is also home to successful long-distance relationships. To date, the website boasts 20 billion matches. Regardless of your views on online dating, it’s safe to say Tinder has changed the dating game.
The app requires users to have a Facebook account and be eighteen years of age. Once you’re up and running, users can connect to Instagram, make a profile and include a handful of profile images. There are user settings that control who sees profiles and what users you would like to see.
Perhaps what sets Tinder apart and what users flocked to is the “swipe” feature. When logged in, Tinder shows the picture, name and age of a prospective love-interest. Swiping right means a like while swiping left means a pass. If mutual swipes occur, the app will invite you to send a message. This prohibits unwanted contact.
To download Tinder is free but Tinder Gold or Tinder Plus does come with a subscription fee.
Using a similar format as Tinder, Coffee Meets Bagel also asks users to connect via their Facebook profiles. A “bagel” is sent each day which contains a potential match. Users still like or pass on the match. The same rules as Tinder apply, both users must “like” the other before a chat room opens up for contact.
The profile is a little more involved than Tinder’s, asking questions about religious beliefs and ethnicities (should those things be important to you). Users can also upload up to nine photos. There are other caveats such as the trend #LadiesChoice. As the creators of the app explain, “We are giving women more control of their dating experience. We are enabling them to re-focus their time and energy on men who are serious about taking the next step. We are hoping to inspire all singles around the world to feel good about dating again.” Each day at noon, guys will receive up to 21 quality matches. Then, Coffee Meets Bagel will curate the best potential matches for women among the men who expressed interest.
Women will choose who gets to talk to them. As the cutesy app with the equally cutesy tagline states, “Meet Your Everything Bagel Today.”
Perhaps the most identifiable and arguably the original dating website, Match.com now has a dating app where users do not have to log in via Facebook. The same profile questions apply, and users are asked to add photos and answer questions about potential matches. Users can log-on via the website if they so choose or switch back and forth between the two interfaces.
The site provides personalized matches daily but users can also search on their own. If so inclined, you can send a wink as a way of expressing virtual interest. To get the most from the site, there are subscriptions options that begin at $40.99 for one month. One gripe is that the application is not as user-friendly as Tinder because it has a multi-tab system that requires you to click around to see potential matches, winks, etc. It’s not simply a swipe right or left motion.
The list of dating apps is exhaustive with others including Grindr, OKCupid, Bumble, Hinge, PlentyofFish, Tastebuds and many more. But despite the many safety precautions these apps put into effect – from asking users to pay to requiring a Facebook profile – these dating sites have long been part of the internet safety debate with many shying away from the online world.
Joseph Ahn, a student at Adelphi University, shares his concerns: “I always found apps not to be trustworthy because anyone can fake their pictures and talk to you. I’ve heard numerous stories regarding dating apps, such as people getting kidnapped.”
“Someone can so easily pretend that they’re someone else,” Gabby Fiacco, freshman from Whitesone, NY, piggybacks.
There are precautions people should take to avoid potential dangerous situations. Robert Siciliano, Personal Security and Identity Theft Expert at IDTheftSecurity.com, warns people, “Keep in mind that not everybody is nice or has good intentions. Some are looking for a connection while others are looking for personal information or worse to hurt you.”
Siciliano is a best-selling author and United States Coast Guard Auxiliary Flotilla Staff Officer of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security whose motto is Semper Paratus (Always Ready). Siciliano is also a Private Investigator who is dedicated to educating people about violence and crime in both the physical and virtual worlds.
Safety starts long before meeting up. Siciliano advises only downloading vetted apps that have been proven to be free and clear of any malicious software. Make sure all devices are updated with the latest operating systems: “Androids need antivirus the same way PCs need antivirus and don’t jailbreak or root your device as this opens you up to malicious viruses whether iPhone or Android.”
After making a connection, take some basic safety precautions when communicating. Don’t give out too much personal information. This “means not giving out your physical address and refrain[ing] from giving out mobile phone numbers. Consider not giving out e-mail.”
If you can communicate solely through the app, then do so, he advises.
“Also considering further obscuring your identity by getting a Google voice number or using WhatsApp for texting.”
When moving to the actual date phase, always let a loved one or friend know the exact details of where you will be going, what time and how you’ll be getting there. Taking pictures of license plates and giving names out is a necessary safety step.
“I enable the location feature on my phone of where I am. I tell a friend to track me,” Hanna Miller, 18, shares.
As always go with your gut, and pay attention to any red flags. If you feel uncomfortable in any way, remove yourself from the situation. Miller continues, “I went on a date off Bumble and quickly realized that the guy had a different name. … Be careful who you talk to.”
These stories as well as Siciliano’s tips are not meant to scare but rather to curb naiveté and create awareness. Siciliano simply urges people to be smart.
“Don’t drink too much alcohol, consider buddying up and bring a friend with you. Always meet in a populated area like a coffee shop,” he continues “Be careful because there are some wacky people out there with wacky intentions.”
For more information regarding safety tips please see Siciliano’s video: