Meet Group co-founder Catherine Connelly talks dating safety

When it comes to online dating safety, there is good advice that’s been around for years and new advice based on the pandemic.  And that’s why we spoke with Catherine Connelly, co-founder and senior vice president of marketing at The Meet Group, which operates several dating sites, including MeetMe, Skout, Tagged, LOVOO and GROWLr.

General safety advice

When it comes to general advice, Connelly recommends the following:

  • If you’re going to meet in person, always meet in a public place
  • Tell someone you know and trust where you’re going and who you will be with
  • Arrange your own transportation
  • Avoid drugs and alcohol
  • If you get an unsafe vibe, trust your gut and get out of the situation
  • Never send money to someone you’ve met online

Regarding safety, she said, “there are some cool technologies available that that can help you with some of this.” The Meet Group partners with an app company that lets you help stay connected in an emergency.

Red flags

It’s always been important to watch for red flags while getting to know potential romantic partners. In the era of online dating, Connelly recommends looking out for “anyone who’s asking for you to share personal information. So your social security number, your home address and details about your daily routine.”

Also, beware of anyone asking for money. “Never send money even if the person claims to be in an emergency,” she said. “And if you are in a situation where someone has asked you to give them money, you should report it to the site’s or app’s trust and safety teams.”

In general, and especially during COVID-19, she recommends that people pre-screen prospective dates by video. “It’s a much richer experience than just looking at a person’s photos, which could be old,” she said, or even fake.

The FBI warns people to be careful about anyone who claims to be from the U.S. traveling or working overseas and suggests that you only deal with reputable dating sites. Other red flags include the person quickly pressuring you to leave the dating site to communicate via email or text message or someone who professes instant feelings of love.

If anything seems too good to be true, it probably is.

Dating during the pandemic

“Despite the pandemic, people are looking for ways that they could still meet and do so safely,” Connelly said. “People need those connections, It’s so important to be forming relationships.”

Her company has a Safer Dating Advisory Board that includes epidemiologists and infectious disease experts “to figure out guidelines to help our communities date safer if they do choose to meet in person.”

Pandemic dating tips

The Meet Group offers the following pandemic dating tips*:

  • Check your area for increased coronavirus activity and follow government warnings and protocols
  • Pre-screen potential dates on video
  • Discuss COVID-19 risk factors openly and honestly
  • Don’t go on a date if either of you are sick or have had contact with someone who is
  • Keep initial dates outside and in public. If you do go inside, minimize time and wear a mask

*You’ll find details and more tips at The Meet Group’s Meet Safely page

Increase video dating & “high-intention” relationships

Since February 2020, Connelly said that the company has seen “the number of speed dating rounds on our live platform double to nearly 250,000 per day, and time spent in video increase by more than 30%.” People are flocking to their video platform because it’s much safer than meeting in person.

She said that they also see more “high-intention relationships” developing quicker during the pandemic. “Maybe they’ve decided to move in together sooner than maybe they would have in non-COVID times because of the threat of lockdown,” Connelly said. “They’d rather be locked down with someone.”

Love has been in the air a lot longer than COVID-19 has been airborne and will be with us long after the virus is history.