As a college student, you have a huge number of opportunities to meet new people. In addition to making friends on campus, you may meet people online, such as in virtual clubs, interest groups, and fandom spaces. It’s easy for these friends to become as close as the people you see on a regular basis. If the opportunity arises to meet up with online friends, you’ll definitely want to take it. However, there are steps you need to take to ensure your safety.
1. Check Your Friend’s Identity
There are several ways to confirm someone’s identity. For instance, you could ask to follow the friend on social media and check if the account seems legitimate. Even better, you could have a couple of video chats before you meet up. Online friends who are unwilling to do either of these things may be lying about their personal details.
2. Go to a Public Place
It’s best to meet in a public place — just in case the encounter doesn’t turn out as you expected. A good choice is a local coffee shop. Alternatively, if you originally connected over a shared taste in music, a hobby, or an interest, bonding at a concert or convention could be better still.
3. Arrange Your Own Transportation
Never rely on someone you’ve only just met for transportation. If you don’t have your own car, go somewhere you can reach by public transit. This will mean you can leave at a moment’s notice if you feel uncomfortable.
4. Involve Another Friend
It may be worth inviting another friend to come along with you, both for your safety and to prevent you from feeling awkward. Choose someone you believe will get along with your online friend — perhaps someone who is talkative and will keep the conversation flowing.
If you don’t want to bring someone with you, at least let a friend know where you’ll be. This is useful whenever you go out, but it’s extra important when you’re meeting someone new. You may even like to share your live location.
5. Prepare Some Icebreakers
Another way to avoid an awkward situation is to think about possible topics of conversation beforehand. Remind yourself that you do know this person — just because you’ve never met before doesn’t mean you’re strangers. Ask personal questions and continue conversations you’ve had online.
6. Have Clear Plans
Let your online friend know what you expect from the meeting in advance. For instance, make it clear where you’ll be meeting, how much time you’d like to spend together, and if anyone else will be coming along. Feel free to set boundaries and let your friend know if anything makes you uncomfortable. Anyone who’s worth spending time with will respect your boundaries.
You also need to have an exit plan — just in case. You could have an excuse in mind to use if you want to leave early or have a friend call or text you to give you a reason to leave.
If your meeting goes well, you may want to arrange to see your online friend more often. Once you get to know each other better, this could include inviting your friend over to your home. However, it’s difficult to entertain guests when you’re living on campus — which is another in the long list of reasons why you should find your own apartment. An alternative to Niagara College residence is Foundry Lofts. Our spacious apartments are ideal for entertaining. Plus, you’ll have access to common areas like the outdoor courtyard, movie theater, and fireside lounge. Book a tour to pay us a visit before you sign a lease.