Vitamin G: How To Avoid False Intimacy When Online Dating

These experts share red flags and tips to navigate digital courtship

In the age of remote work and social media culture, online dating has taken a front seat in Zillennial culture for the good and bad. Through constant discourse and situationships, this generation has a lot to say about the dating pool. With platforms like Hinge, Bumble and Tinder entering the formula for meeting new people, it’s easy to move faster when dealing with someone online. According to Pew Research Center, 57 percent of men who have dated online say their experiences have been positive. In comparison, women users are roughly split down the middle (48 percent positive, 51 percent negative).

For many older Gen Z’ers trying to get their foot in the door regarding dating, it can be overwhelming looking for the perfect match while staying alert for the red flags. A conversation that goes under the radar when discussing internet dating is the blurred lines when creating a false sense of intimacy. According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), in 2022 alone, 70,000 Americans fell victim to deceitful online romances. “Healthy boundaries are important when forming online connections,” says Dr. Mia McNeil. “They are essential in safeguarding physical and emotional safety, along with privacy and security.”

With the help of experts McNeil and Founder of Black Female Therapist Amber Dee, we’ve curated a list of tips and ways for you to maneuver online dating safely and realistically.

Do Not Introduce Yourself As A Victim

Throughout the texting and phone conversation phase, it can be easy to be open about past traumas and obstacles. However, when meeting people online, you need to ensure you use extreme discernment to determine who should be trusted. “Predators will prey on your past failed romantic relationships, so avoid divulging too much too quickly,” McNeil says.

Ask Open Ended Questions

Building a rapport with a potential online partner is the most important way to build trust in dating. It can be hard to break the fourth wall digitally, so you have to be intentional with your questions while getting to know someone. “Getting some to open up about different topics helps avoid false intimacy,” Dee says. For example, instead of asking yes or no questions like “Did you have a good day?” try asking more open-ended questions like, “What’s something good that happened for you today?” Asking open-ended questions gives them an opportunity to share more.

Do Not Dismiss Red Flags

In an era when boundaries are a top priority in the dating realm, it’s important to stand firm on what you will and will not tolerate. Avoidance, gaslighting, excuses, and empty promises are easy ways to trap someone in the fantasy of false intimacy. “Having a set of rules of engagement and having a trusted family and/or friend to keep you accountable is advisable,” McNeil tells GU. “You should set clear expectations upfront and feel comfortable speaking up and calling out triggering behaviors.”

Focus On Self-Awareness

“Self-awareness helps you manage your expectations and avoid projecting unrealistic fantasies onto potential partners,” Dee says. Do not get absorbed by the idea of someone when getting to know someone and finding a potential partner. You must be realistic and see what actions are being taken rather than the fantasy in your mind.

Be Communicative

As you build trust, the main focus should be telling each other what you want. “In online dating, there is an unfortunate risk of falling in love with a persona instead of a genuine “real” person,” McNeil says. “Getting off social dating sites and communicating via video call is a good next step, when there is good chemistry and a connection strong enough to suggest a potential match for a committed relationship if this is the goal.”

About the Author: Kenyatta Victoria is the lead writer for Essence GU, working on all things pop culture, politics, entertainment and business. Throughout her time at GU, she’s garnered devoted readers and specializes in the Zillennial point of view.

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