Gemma Styles: Looking For Love In 2016? Watch Your Step

100 million people have now downloaded Tinder - but last year there was a huge hike in crimes related to dating apps. Here's how to stay safe after you swipe right... Photograph by Matilda Hill-Jenkins

Gemma Styles: Looking For Love In 2016? Watch Your Step

by Gemma Styles |

Long time single? Newly single? Got that unmistakable feeling that something is awry and you might be single pretty soon? You are not alone my friend. We are now getting well and truly stuck into break up season. Many believe this period of winter is a relatively safe one. Once you’re halfway through December, you are protected by the comforting umbrella of Christmas, New Year’s and the looming spectre of Valentine’s Day – times during which, surely, a break up is just too heinous to consider.

Sadly, it seems that this may not be the case. According to various compiled data sources, it seems that any time from early November, break ups are in season, and continue to ramp up to peak Ben & Jerry’s consumption (assumed) in the month of March. Maybe give extra consideration to picking up your wet towels off the floor for a while… just in case.

With this rise in singledom, a fresh influx to the dating pool logically follows and in this delightfully modern era that can only mean one thing: apps. Tinder reported it’s biggest single day in active user growth earlier this month, and since its launch in September 2012 the app has now had 100 million downloads. That’s plenty of opportunity for a rebound fling.

However. This surge in dating app usage has a slightly darker side to it when combined with other numbers in the news. Data released by UK authorities this week has revealed a huge hike in recorded police incidents related to the use of dating apps, specifically looking at Tinder and Grindr. Statistics were taken from reports from 30 police forces across England and Wales and show a worrying increase in crimes that mentioned Tinder or Grindr; from 55 incidents in 2013, to 412 in the year up to October 2015. Reported crimes included in these numbers included grooming, rape and even attempted murder. Experts have also warned against cases of 'sextortion,' where users are exploited or blackmailed after, usually compromising, contact with someone.

Now I wouldn’t want to scare anyone off here – lots of people have very positive experiences with dating apps, including one Tinder-advert-worthy friend of mine who is now blissfully happy, joyfully cohabiting and now a new mum. Hooray for smartphones! While news stories like this are often intended to shock, they are also a good opportunity to review your habits and make sure you’re being a Sensible Susan. Because Sensible Susan has a jolly old time but also gets home safely and remembers to unplug her straighteners.

Top tips to remember when you’re online dating:

Maintain an air of mystery

With more and more features being added, you can often find out a lot about someone on a dating app without ever even speaking to them. New profile additions such as employment information and where you went to school are great for finding out what you may have in common – but also allow someone to find you a lot more easily. Bear in mind the information that you’re giving out on your profile and don’t be worried about sticking to Tinder messages for a little while before the inevitable transition to Whatsapp.

Tell someone where you’re going

Stick to the age old rules. If you’re going to meet someone who is effectively a complete stranger, on your own, then it’s a good idea to tell someone where you’re going, what time - and check in with them later on too. You may feel a bit overcautious, or even silly, but better safe than sorry. A good friend will be just as keen to make sure you’re alright – and if they’re anything like my mother will also insist on a screenshot of his profile so they have a picture of him to use on the news (just in case). True story.

If they’re dodgy – report them

Reporting functions are built in to protect you, and other users, from people who might misuse dating apps like Tinder. While a lot of the crimes reported in the above story will have happened in person, if you have a strong indication that the person you’re chatting to is a bit of a creep, or they’ve been offensive in their messages – report them. You might well save someone else from dealing with a weirdo.

Like this? You might also be interested in:

How Tinder's Stopping Us Having Sex

Foolproof Ways To Ask Someone On A Date

Gemma Styles: How Instagram's Helping Us Learn To Love Ourselves

Follow Gemma on Twitter @GemmaAnneStyles

This article originally appeared on The Debrief.

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