Tips for Making New Friends Online
Meeting new people online is such a norm now. Here are some tips to keep in mind to protect yourself.
By Sam David
Meeting new people online is a common thing to do these days and chances are, even you might have done it at some
point. But with all sorts of folks out there, how do you make sure you’re making the right acquaintances in a safe and secure way? We speak to Rose Wan, country head of local dating agency, Lunch Actually, to find out what tips she has when it comes to expanding your social circle in a virtual space.
Determine what is it that you want
Are you looking to just make new friends, or are you really hoping to find ‘The One’? Depending on what you want from the social exchange, there are different apps and platforms out there to choose from. “Select an app or platform that best fits your choice. For example, there’s MeetUp if you’re keen on making friends who share similar interests, but if you have the intention to go on dates, then consider signing up with a dating agency or use a dating app,” shares Rose.
Or things may change over time for you, just like how it was for April Zara Chua, 32, and her husband Ian Wong, also 32. “We met via an app that connected us through our mutual interest of pets. When we first started chatting, it was to pass time and meet new people outside of our usual circles. We didn’t even talk about meeting in person until a few weeks later, and when we did meet, it was a group outing.”
Protect your personal data
It’s important to safeguard your particulars when meeting new people online. Obviously basic information like your name and age are fine, but sensitive details like your bank card PIN should not be shared. “Identity theft* is a growing business that can really leave you in trouble,” warns Rose. You may also want to think twice about revealing other personal information, such as your home or office address. Follow your gut and be careful about what you share with others.
Do some research
“Try to assess who you're really talking to,” says Rose. “Most people who use apps and other online platforms to meet people will have an active digital footprint. It shouldn't be too difficult to find your new friend's social media feed, public forum posts, or even things like YouTube clips. That way at least you know they are who they claim to be.”
According to April and Ian, before meeting in real life, they added each other on Facebook to get a glimpse of what the other was like. “I guess we were quite lucky that both our Facebook profiles are quite representative of what we are really like in person!” says April.
Plan that date
Of course, the whole purpose of meeting new friends online is to eventually meet them in person. “Let a close friend
know about your meeting with your new friend beforehand, and always choose a public place to meet – you’ll be more comfortable in a space where others are present,” says Rose.
Need more tips for staying safe when making new friends online? Here are more by the Singapore Police Force, who’ve been dealing with scams which started as innocent “online friendships”:
- Know the tell-tale signs of a fake dating profile: e.g. poor grammar that doesn’t fit their stated level of education, or a fake photo sourced from the internet.
- Do not respond to any requests for money, even if they sound desperate or troubled.
- Do not send money to people you do not know well, especially if you have never met in person.
- Meet all requests for money with a cool head; be in control of your emotions knowing that it could be a scam. Consult a trusted friend or relative before you act.
*Identity theft - Where others obtain the personal or financial information of another person for the sole purpose of assuming that person's name or identity to make transactions or purchases