Dear Sexpert,

My love life has been pretty slow for a while and I haven’t had much luck meeting people in person. I’ve thought about trying online dating, but I’m too embarrassed to actually go through with it. I’m also worried about safety and being catfished. Do you think it’s still worth a shot?

~ Digitally Apprehensive

Dear Digitally Apprehensive,

Searching for a romantic relationship can have a number of challenges, including finding new ways to meet people. While dating sites (e.g., eHarmony and OkCupid) and mobile apps (e.g., Tinder, Grindr, and Bumble) certainly make it easier to connect with others, they do little to address any risks involved. As you mentioned, users can get “catfished” or misled by someone who has created a false profile. That being said, lots of people on these sites are genuine users who are looking to find the right match.

People have various reasons for wanting to explore online dating and, like you mentioned, it provides an opportunity to connect with someone you might not meet otherwise. Online dating services not only provide access to thousands of people, but user profiles also make it easier to explore potential matches without needing to interact with every single one. Although there are still skeptics of this non-traditional method, attitudes towards online dating are gradually becoming more positive. In fact, a 2013 study conducted by the Pew Research Center shows that one in 10 Americans have used an online dating site or a mobile dating app, two thirds of these users have gone on a date with a person they met through a dating site, and 23 percent of these users have met a spouse or significant other through a dating site.

With that said, it’s important to keep in mind that no matter how long you’ve been talking to someone, they are still a stranger in some respects. If you are planning to meet your match in person, first consider your safety and take precautions, like meeting in a public place (e.g., shopping mall), where other people are around in case something goes wrong or you feel uncomfortable. It’s also a good idea to tell someone close to you where you’re going and who you’re meeting. If things don’t go as planned, a friend can easily call you away for an “emergency” and save you from a sticky or potentially unsafe situation. Some people even bring a friend or two along and meet as a group for the first time.

While online dating has worked for some, it may not be the right approach for everyone. Just like with finding a date in person, these sites may require some time and patience. Sometimes, meeting someone in person can lead to disappointment, if they turn out to be not quite what you expected. Remember that if you change your mind about someone you’ve matched with, you’re not obligated to stay in touch. Additionally, if anyone makes you feel uncomfortable, you can report them to the managers of the site.

In the end, online dating comes down to what you’re comfortable with and being willing to put yourself out there. Even if your love life continues to be “pretty slow,” know that taking time to find what you’re looking for can be worth the wait.

~ The Sexpert

Information regarding online dating provided by Go Ask Alice and the Pew Research Center

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