Online dating: friend or foe

The Easterner

By Star Dragon, New Reporter

Store aisles have been flooded with I love you’s, roses, and teddy bears. I know I can’t be the only one who has made eye contact with a teddy bear bigger than myself, wondering if someone will ever buy me a giant friend. Last Valentine’s Day,my mother saw me eyeballing a giant bear and was sweet enough to surprise me with one, but not everyone wants their mom to be their Valentine. 

Valentine’s Day tends to make the single side of society feel more pressure than ever to find someone special. According to the Pew Research center, a survey conducted in October 2019, 48% of 18 to 29-year-olds in the U.S. say they have used a dating site or app. Nothing beats the feeling of swiping right on a profile you like and seeing you’ve matched with them. Using an app like Bumble, Tinder, Her, or Hinge can be very fun and exciting (not to mention a self esteem boost ). 

However using an app may seem like an easier way to flirt, online dating has a dark side that all users should be aware of.

 I interviewed Lieutenant Sean O’Laughlin of EWU police to find out what some of the possible dangers are of online and app dating, and how to protect yourself from harm.He informed me that using alcohol and drugs with someone you don’t know can put you in an unsafe situation fast. Many people are nervous when it comes to dating, especially first dates, but safety should be prioritized first. Today, this is more important than ever.

“Meet in a public space and let people know where you are going.” -Brooke Wright, EWU Student

 RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) is the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization. According to RAINN :

  • Every 73 seconds an American is sexually assaulted
  • College-age women (18-24) are three times more likely to be assaulted than women out of this age group. 
  • Sexual violence is more prevalent at college, compared to other crimes

Lieutenant O’Laughlin said with technology so available people can do more research on someone than ever before. This is a double edged sword though, because a person can do alot of online digging on someone they are interested in meeting but their information is also available online for others to see as well, including predators. Officer O’Laughlin said students shouldn’t put private information about themselves online, and when talking to someone new, be vague.

There are also a few ways one can stay safe with the help of your friends before going on a date. Discuss with friends a code word in case things go wrong, get their location and the information of whom they are going to meet. These few simple steps can be a matter of life or death. Even if someone follows all of these steps they  may still find themselves in a bad situation. 

“Anytime that you have that intuition that something is not right you need to listen to your intuition”. -Lieutenant O’Laughlin, EWU Police

This is something  women do not do often enough. Women are too often taught to always be polite no matter the situation, but  safety should always be a top priority, even if it means hurting someone’s feelings. A popular term coined by feminists, podcasters, and comedians Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark is “stay sexy and don’t get murdered”.

I still think online and app dating can have its benefits. I don’t think that students should stop using these applications, but rather be aware of the possibility of something going wrong so they can stay prepared. To me, the most important thing for students to remember is that there are predators and people with bad intentions out there, so when they are using these apps or sites, they can be more aware of anything fishy.

 Several EWU students had other tips for staying safe while using dating apps:

  • Brooke Wright- “Meet in a public space and let people know where you are going.”
  • Maggie Harty- “I’ve always texted my friends so i’m meeting this person at this time and I should be done at this time, text me in a couple of hours and see how i’m doing.”
  • Flora Peterson-“Have a couple of code words to text your friends. A code word for different scenarios like call me with an excuse to leave or i’m in danger.”