Newswise — If you ask a young couple, “Where did you meet?,” don’t be surprised if they say, “We met online.” According to online dating statistics, 40 million people in the United States have tried online dating. Wichita State University’s Deborah Ballard-Reisch has researched the subject of communication and relationships for about 20 years and she was once called “Dr. Love” by a Nevada radio station. She says the odds of meeting someone has increased with online dating.
Ballard-Reisch: “There are 54 million single Americans today. Forty million of them are online in one way or another. You have a better chance of meeting Mr. or Ms. Right today than you ever have.”
And it appears that more and more people are getting to know each other online.
Ballard-Reisch: “Online dating has become a really common way for people to meet one another and start romantic relationships. Estimates are that one in five romantic relationships start online today.”
Of course, the way people used to get to know each other in the past is still the way many people develop relationships today, as Ballard-Reisch explains.
Ballard Reisch: “We used to develop romantic relationships with people we went to school with or knew through church, or family or friends introduced us to, and now we supplement that by meeting people online. And the world of people available to us has exploded exponentially because of that.”
But while the opportunity to get to know others has increased because of online dating, people need to be aware of some of the risks, according to Ballard- Reisch.
Ballard-Reisch: “Like any new technology, there are some downsides to online dating, too. One of the biggest is fraud. There are a number of international consortiums that get on online dating sites and pretend to be someone they’re not in order to get money out of people. So if someone asks you to send them money, especially out of the country, run.”
Ballard-Reisch says language fluency is something to pay attention to in online dating.
Ballard-Reisch: “One of the things to look out for in online dating is that, when people claim language fluency and then they have grammar and syntax and spelling errors, if their language doesn’t seem right, it likely isn’t.”
Ballard-Reisch says to be sure to get more information if you’ve only gotten to know the person online.
Ballard-Reisch: “This might sound coarse, but so much information is available to us online now. If you’re thinking of meeting someone you have met only online, Google them. Use multiple search engines. Consider seeking criminal background checks. Make sure that people are who they say they are. We used to be able to rely on our support networks — our family, our friends, et cetera — to vet people for us, and when we meet people online, we can’t do that anymore.”
For anyone thinking about trying online dating, Ballard-Reisch offers the following tips.
Ballard-Reisch: “If you decide to meet someone in person that you’ve spoken with only online, there are some tips and some cautions to be aware of. Always meet in a public place the first few times. Drive yourself. Let your friends and family know where you’re going, with whom and when you plan to return. Have a panic word in case you have a quick second to call them if you need help. And keep your phone online so you can be tracked through GPS if necessary. Trust your instincts. If something feels wrong, get out.”
Ballard-Reisch says if you engage in online dating, protect your identity.
Ballard-Reisch: “If you decide to engage in online dating, the first tip is to protect your identity. Don’t give information about yourself too quickly. Get to know people before you share with them personal information about who you really are.”
Ballard-Reisch says someone who wants to try online dating should choose a site that’s consistent with his or her interests.
Ballard-Reisch: “If you decide you want to try online dating, check out multiple sites. There are a lot of them out there now. Figure out what each site is looking for and choose the one that’s most consistent with your interests.”
It’s also a good idea to be yourself when creating an online profile, as Ballard-Reisch explains.
Ballard-Reisch: “In creating your online profile, be yourself. Be clear about what you’re looking for, what types of people, relationships and so forth. Include flattering pictures of yourself and reach out to people that you find interesting. Don’t wait for them to come and find you.”
The podcast is available at http://www.wichita.edu/newslinepodcast.