Meeting Strangers in Real Life
There are many reasons you may want to meet someone you know only online in real life. You may have become good friends, have common interests or hobbies you want to pursue in real life together or you may have found love (or what passes for love). You may be applying for a job or interviewing candidates. You may be looking for babysitting or landscaping gigs, offer catering services or booking a handyman. And, while you might think you have found your soul mate, only time (in real life, not just online) will tell.
Check them out in advance.
You may know their favorite foods, mucis and all about their frist loves. You may have been given pics of previous job sites and audition tapes. But check out their reputation online. See if they have a Facebook page, or what Google, Bing or Yahoo! has ot say about them. Search their name, screen names, email addresses, addresses and telephone numbers. Search for images as well as text posts. (Check out our Google Yourself post for ideas on what you can search for about anyone, not just yourself.)
Treat any first "real life" encounter as a first encounter.
No matter how much you know about them, you don't really "know" anything. Take it slow and trust your gut. (And bring a friend to meet in a public place.)
Be honest and demand honesty.
Shaving off a couple pounds or a few years may not be criminal. But it's not smart to start a relationship off built on lies. (Some cyberdating sites offer background (and marital status!) checks.)
If things don't add up, do some subtraction (like leaving the place, ending the communication or defriending someone).
It's easy to research someone's Facebook and pose as their perfect mate, for lots of different reasons. Don't let them follow you home or see your car, if it can be avoided.
Don't share personal info too early and guard your privacy.
Use the site's email anonymizer, so you don't have to share your real email with anyone online. Get a disposable email address, like Hotmail, Gmail or Yahoo. Use that for all communications and if things don't end well, toss it away. Consider buying a pay as you go cell phone for early phone communications. It can't be tracked to your house or disrupt your life if you need to stop using it.
Check out our using Craigslist and other f2f offline shopping sites and cyber-romance page.