How to Stay Safe While Swiping
SARP student ambassador offers safety tips and best practices for using dating apps like Hinge and Bumble
Swipe. Swipe. Swipe.
Ah, dating apps. They’re fun, of course—the mindless swiping (also known as judging), the thrill of getting a new match, the rush you get from exchanging that initial banter—and these days, they’re more or less a rite of passage for anyone getting into the dating game.
But, as exciting as they are, dating apps can also be dangerous. Can you ever really know who you’re talking to? And if things don’t work out with someone, will they take no for an answer? As any true crime fan can tell you, dating apps can easily turn sinister fast.
Then there’s the emotional-safety side of dating apps to consider. Putting yourself out there can be intimidating, and if you don’t see results right away, it can be hard not to get frustrated or think of yourself as a failure. No one likes being rejected. Not to mention the hordes of bots that plague each platform—discovering that the cute person who matched with you is actually a software program isn’t exactly a confidence boost.
Whether you’re already on the apps or thinking about joining one for the first time, we have some important tips to consider. We spoke with Madhri Yehiya (CAS’24, Pardee’24), a second-year Sexual Assault Response and Prevention Center student ambassador, to find out some best practices for using apps like Bumble, Tinder, and Hinge and how to keep yourself safe while swiping.
Have fun and be safe, Terriers!
with Madhri Yehiya
BU Today: There’s a lot to consider when joining apps like Hinge or Tinder. What general advice would you offer someone who’s thinking about signing up for one of them for the first time?
Yehiya: First, I would say go in with a good degree of cynicism—and safety—in the back of your mind. Obviously, online dating works; there are plenty of success stories. If you go in with too high or too low of an expectation, however, then your experience is probably not going to be as positive as it can be. It’s all about your attitude and getting lucky with who you end up matching with and talking to.
I think it’s important to move things out of the digital space as soon as you can [with a match] so that you can get to know them in real life and gauge how you get along. It’s harder to disguise things or keep an emotional distance in person. As for safety, meeting with someone in a public space the first couple times is always a good idea. You don’t know them at all; it’s so easy to fake a profile and presence online. If someone really wants to catfish someone else, it’s not that hard to do. So be aware of the possibilities, and make sure someone knows where you’re going [before you go on a date]. If that’s embarrassing for whatever reason, you don’t have to necessarily tell your friends the purpose behind why you’re going out; you can just tell them where you’re going. It’s just an extra level of security.
BU Today: Should you limit how much information you share about yourself on your profile and in chats?
I think you should be careful about how much detail you share when you’re talking to someone. If you haven’t met a person in real life, you don’t really know them. And think: if a screenshot of this conversation was shared, how much would my privacy be compromised? You can keep things vague on personal details while still having a real conversation, talking about the things that actually matter when getting to know someone—your interests [and hobbies] and things like that.
It’s important to be conscious of your general digital presence when you’re trying online dating. If someone who’s interested in you decides to look you up elsewhere, which is extremely common and will happen, you have to think: what else can they find out about me? So it’s not just about being safe by not mentioning exactly where you live or where you work. Those things can be very easily found elsewhere. It’s easy to figure out from LinkedIn, for example, where someone works. If anyone wanted to find you in real life, they could.
BU Today: On a less-alarming note, the danger of getting ghosted by someone is very real. And it can be tempting to do it yourself when you’re no longer feeling it with someone. Is ghosting always a no?
Generally, I think ghosting is not a mature or respectful thing to do. It’s easy to think you can get away with it without feeling any guilt, because a lot of human emotion gets taken out of things when you’re behind a screen. Now, if it was a pretty shallow connection to begin with—like if someone starts with a random pickup line and it’s already over for you—that’s not the same level as ghosting. That won’t have as much of an emotional impact compared to if you’ve been talking with someone for a while, or even went out a couple of times, and then you just stopped responding. It’s important to be honest and communicate. Even if it’s hard to say and hard for the other person to hear, it’s kind of a skill: people need to learn how to handle rejection and how to reject someone else.
BU Today: So how do you effectively, and respectfully, let someone down?
It obviously depends on the relationship you have with a person. If you were already clear that you were actively looking for a relationship, you can’t pull the “I’m not looking for anything serious right now” card. If there was something about them that you didn’t like, and you’re comfortable giving that feedback, it’s important to say it as respectfully as possible and not frame it as an attack. Because you don’t want them to shut down or write you off as “crazy”—you want them to hear it.
But if you don’t care about convincing someone, you just care about communicating, you don’t need to be super personal. And it’s best not to be super personal. It’s easiest to just say something like, “I’m not feeling it right now” or “I don’t think I’m ready for a relationship right now.” That’s what a lot of people hear—and feel themselves—when casually dating online. [Those reasons] are pretty accepted.
BU Today: Finally, on the other end of things, you’re not always going to be someone’s cup of tea. When it comes to handling rejection, which—reminder—comes with the territory, what should you do?
Not taking it too personally is key. In reality, the chances of you really hitting it off with the vast majority of people you go out with on these casual dates is not high. And that’s how it’s supposed to be: the world would be quite messy if we had that many serious romantic connections possible. [Even if someone rejects you] take that rejection and make something good out of it. Maybe you learned something or just had a good time—look for the positive. Plus, it’s not like it was a breakup—it shouldn’t hold that same emotional burden.
Also, there’s much to enjoy about being single—so enjoy that! Or keep the attitude of “maybe it’ll be the next person” or just have fun with the process of going on dates. And, you make a lot of mistakes in your early relationships. Casually dating and getting to know people is a good experience for growing as a person and growing into someone who possesses relationship skills. That’s always something you can tell yourself: like, maybe it sucked that things didn’t work out with someone, but that’s going to make you a better partner for when you eventually meet someone you could have something serious with.