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Online Dating Safety and How to Recognize Red Flags

Native Americans and Alaska Natives experience domestic and dating violence at higher rates than any other ethnic group. From manipulation to stalking and harassment, it can all happen online.

In a world of dating apps and flurries of dm’s, it’s easy to get caught up in the romance of meeting someone new but starting a relationship virtually can be confusing. What does a healthy relationship look like? What are some of the red flags?

Online Dating Red Flags

Be on the lookout for these red flags when online dating:

An incredibly vague or incomplete profile
This can be a sign that they are trying to hide something, or catfish you into believing something other than reality. This could include not having many pictures or never fully showing themselves (maskfishing has become popular during the pandemic) in Snapchat or TikTok videos. It is important to get to know the person, not the profile.

Sending sexually-explicit messages right away
If the person you matched with sends you sexually-explicit pictures without your consent, this is a clear red flag. Another red flag is if they ask you to send sexually-explicit pictures right away. Both of these are signs that this person does not respect your boundaries, and will most likely continue to disrespect your boundaries throughout the relationship.

Becoming irritated by the lack of haste in your reply and/or over-messaging
“Hello… Hello, how are you... Not going to respond?... Did you lose your phone?... You know you could have just said you didn’t like me.”
Be cautious when it comes to people who are overtexters. While this might just be a sign of excitement or nerves it could be more telling. If they use small forms of guilt and manipulation to get you to respond, this is a clear red flag that they do not respect your time and boundaries. They are looking to hold the power in the relationship, and decide when and how you communicate with them. If angered, this could lead to harassment and verbal abuse online.

Not respecting your digital boundaries
A red flag that may not be as obvious is a match who does not respect your boundaries online. If your match is suggesting moving the conversation off of the dating app or trying to follow or friend you on a new platform, and you are uncomfortable with that, they must respect your decision. A person who gets upset with you or says “Well it’s just Snapchat, what’s the big deal?” probably isn’t going to respect your boundaries when it comes to larger issues in the relationship.

“Don’t swipe right if you…”
While dating app prompts like this could lead to a funny ice breaker such as, “...don’t think frybread is the best part of a pow wow” when taken too far it could be a red flag. While something like “...don’t smudge every day” could indicate a person who feels superior when it comes to your spirituality and culture. The start of a healthy relationship should not begin with hard to reach expectations.

Protect Yourself

Here are some tips to help protect yourself while online dating:

  • Use a nickname on your dating profile, so it’s harder to find your other social media accounts
  • Don’t be afraid to say no if you’re not ready to meet up
  • Have your own transportation to the date, if possible, don’t walk to or from the date
  • Tell a friend or relative the details of your date
  • Meet in a public space or with a group of people (when pandemic restrictions allow)
  • Never put yourself in a situation where you are alone with a stranger
  • Ask a friend to come along and sit in a different table or area
  • Have a FaceTime or Zoom icebreaker date before actually meeting someone
  • And most importantly, TRUST YOUR INSTINCTS.

Starting a new relationship can be exciting and confusing but the one thing it should always be is safe.

If you have questions about dating and healthy relationships, StrongHearts advocates are here to help. StrongHearts Native Helpline acknowledges and supports all victims regardless of age, gender, sexual orientation or relationship status.

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