The Dark Side of Online Dating and Women’s Experiences

When we were younger, our parents always told us to be careful of two things:

  1. Do not talk to strangers
  2. Do not believe everything you read on the internet

It seems as when time went on, these two cautionary statements became forgotten. Advancements in technology continue to shape the way we adjust to the future and how we are introduced to new things and people. About a decade later, and most people talk to strangers on the internet or post about their daily lives on various social networking sites each and every day. Meeting people online, whether it be friendships or intimate relationships, has become increasingly popular, especially amongst younger adults. A study by Pew Research Center (2019), found that three in ten Americans have used dating services in their lifetime and of these people, 12% have married or been in a committed long-term relationship. A different statistic from this survey showed that 23% of people met up with someone they connected with online. Online dating seems to be on the rise, especially now that everyone has fallen victim to social distancing and connection to the outside world has been temporarily shut off.

Although online dating users typically describe their experiences on these apps in a positive light, there is still more to the story then two people having a connection and falling in love. The majority of users that are younger women typically have negative experiences when it comes to online dating. After being surveyed, 60% of women aged 18-34 stated that someone continued to contact them after they stated they were not interested and 19% say they were physically threatened (Pew Research Center, 2019). Men on the other hand still face some of these instances, but not nearly to the same degree that women do. The survey indicated that only 27% of men aged 18-34 were continuously contacted by someone after they expressed they were not interest and only 9% say they were physically threatened (Pew Research Center, 2019). A different source stated that even though some online dating services have a “zero-tolerance” rule when it comes to harassment, these incidents still occur (Jensen, 2020).

When talking with those who use dating apps, a college aged woman named Brooke stated, “after I told this man I was no longer interested in meeting him, he immediately told me he wishes I would get hit by a car, I did not know how to respond so I just told him to have a nice day”. She stated that he continued to message her and call her inappropriate names and that she was being inconsiderate.

Brooke also noted that she was afraid this man would harm her in real life since they went to the same university. An article by Technology Safety (Online Dating, 2020) reported that harassment that occurs online can quickly become an offline threat if enough personal information is known about the individual. What more can young women do in order to avoid the harassment they receive on online dating services? Should they avoid these apps altogether even though research has supported that finding a person you connect with or attracted to are easy to find on these services?

When taking a survey, nearly half of women stated that dating sites or apps are an unsafe way to meet people (Pew Research, 2019). This fear probably relates back to our parents telling us not to talk to strangers, regardless this statistic proves that women typically fear those they meet online. These fears do not seem that farfetched when we look at the statistics surround dating services and listen to those who decide to share their own stories regarding the matter.

Another woman that was interviewed stated that she uses dating apps but once it comes time to meet up in person, she declines the offer. Becca, the woman interviewed, told us, “I have a fear that I am either going to get murdered or that I am going to end up being sexually assaulted, so I normally back out last minute”.

A report by Meredith Scannel of Northeastern University (2019) found that sexual predators often using online dating services in order to connect with individuals who are often vulnerable and trusting. This finding goes hand in hand with Becca’s fear and is the reason many women are hesitant to meeting those they connected with online.

So, the question is, how safe is online dating? Do these services have anything put in place in order to protect these individuals who are meeting strangers for the first time? If not, these businesses should look into ways to protect their users. Another aspect to examine further may be why women have different experiences than men when it comes to online dating. As technology continues to advance, and we are shifted to a more virtual world to connect with individuals- it is important to learn how to keep each other safe. If you decide to meet someone you met online, tell a friend! We live in a world where we can easily share our location with those we trust, use it to your advantage. Tell them you want to meet in a public place, grab a cup coffee or go out to eat, maybe do not go their house or have them come to yours on the first date. Finally, trust your gut- if something seems off, it probably is! Do not put yourself in danger, be smart and do not be afraid to try. After all, online dating seems to be on the rise!

Sources:

Anderson, M., Vogels, E., & Turner, E. (2020, March 03). The Virtues and Downsides of Online Dating. Retrieved from https://www.pewresearch.org/internet/2020/02/06/the-virtues-and-downsides-of-online-dating/

Jensen, E. (2020, February 27). Harassment on dating apps: Here’s what you to do if you … Retrieved from https://www.usatoday.com/story/life/2020/02/27/how-to-handle-harassment-dating-apps/4858369002/

Online Dating. (2020). from https://www.techsafety.org/onlinedating

Scannell, M. J. (2019). Online Dating and the Risk of Sexual Assault to College Students. Building Healthy Academic Communities Journal, 3(1), 34. doi:10.18061/bhac.v3i1.6688

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