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Is online dating really as dangerous as some fear?

Dating apps such as Tinder have become popular for smartphone users to find dates. (Kelsey Mallahan, MyNorthwest)

The murder of Ingrid Lyne, who police say was killed by a man she met online, has sparked a conversation about online dating, dating apps and the dangers they can pose. But are modern forms of meeting people really more dangerous than old-fashioned dating?

The news stories are not hard to find. A simple search can bring up a range of incidents between predators and victims who met via a dating app or website. But while the novelty of those mediums earn them a lot of press, they may not pose any more dangers than regular dating always has.

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Former Seattle University Professor Mara Adelman, who specializes in communications, says there haven’t been any hard studies to get numbers of domestic-violence incidents or attacks as a result of online dating. That makes it hard to compare.

“You should be using similar precautions (on an app) as you would with a blind date. Even though your friends have vetted your date, perhaps, you still just don’t know,” Adelman said. “For every case (with a dating app), there are other cases of tremendous abuse though plain dating. Notice the online gets publicity and fear potential.”

Statistics still point to the fact that most violence against women isn’t from strangers — it’s from someone already known. But fear of stranger danger is nothing new. Wariness in the dating scene has been around for a long time. Adelman notes one particular scare in the 1970s that was inspired by another medium: film. That fear was directed toward men at bars, a classic setting where singles meet.

“When ‘Looking for Mr. Goodbar’ came out, a lot of women stopped going to bars. We stopped looking,” she said. “We became very closeted at that point. That film had a tremendous impact.”

The film about a woman who is murdered after meeting a man at a bar is difficult to take.

Adelman thinks online dating can actually be a good thing if used well, and has the potential to be safer than dating a stranger met in public. That’s mainly because there’s potential of being on equal footing. You can put a person through a background check or simply Google your date. A person can have access to their photos in advance and control what other information is provided.

Adelman is quick to note that in any case, blaming the victim is not appropriate. She notes that whether it’s online or traditional dating, bad incidents commonly occur when precautions are not taken, such as meeting in a public place.


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