If you’ve read my safety page, you already know many of the tricks necessary to protect your identity when you try online dating. This page already assumes you know that stuff. My tech tips are geared more towards protecting your sanity than your safety.
Most of my email-related tips are for Gmail, as I believe it is the most efficient, user-friendly, and robust tool for the job. Gmail lets you do a lot of stuff that’s specifically useful to online daters, which is not possible with all other free webmail services. Even if your main email address isn’t with Gmail, you can still make your online one via Gmail so you can make use of these tips. I try to keep this page updated, but stuff changes SO FAST in the tech world that it may not always be spot-on. Feel free to drop me a line with corrections, or ask me if you’re confused about something.
Creating a safe, anonymous online dating email address
Regardless of what email service you use, your special email address for online dating purposes should be anonymous. Don’t use your real/full name when signing up for any online dating account, and don’t put your real/full name into the email address itself. (Examples: “John.Single@gmail.com” = bad. “John.S@gmail.com” = better. “Johnlikestoski@gmail.com” better still. “email@example.com” = best.) To be fully safety-conscious, you shouldn’t graduate to using your ‘real’ email account with someone until you’ve met them at least once and gotten a positive vibe, and you both would like to continue seeing each other. Don’t give them your MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, etc. account until you know each other better. And no matter what, DO NOT use your work email. If you want to get really fancy, you can come up with a Google Voice number too; it’s up to you how paranoid or cautious you want to be!
Creating a new Gmail account
1) Go to the URL http://gmail.com.
2) Click the ‘Create an Account’ button.
3) Fill out all the info, using an alias instead of your real name whenever required. You can use two words to substitute for your first and last name. (This is so that your real name doesn’t display in the contact information that is automatically associated with your new email address.)
4) Click ‘I accept. Create my account,’ or whatever the current button may say. Et voilà! Use this safe and anonymous email address for all of your online dating correspondence. See below for more detailed tips on how to manage your new account.
If you consider yourself a little tech challenged, you may want to watch this video before creating a new Gmail account. (Click the YouTube icon in the video if you need to see it bigger.)
Changing your Gmail display name
If you’re having trouble figuring out how to change your display name in Gmail, this may help:
Creating a Dating Filter
This teaches you how to corral all your dating contacts into one place that isn’t your primary inbox. I recommend this, because the influx of new messages can be overwhelming, especially for women or gay men. (Sorry, straight dudes! You’ll have your own special issues to tackle, trust me.) There’s a psychological component to separating out this type of communication, too—it helps you back off on replying too quickly or excitedly, and it can help keep your head on track with your normal stuff like, you know, having a job and ever thinking about anything except all these exciting dates you’re about to go on. So here’s how we do this!
After you receive a message from a service like Match/OK Cupid/eHarmony, open the email, go to the little settings arrow next to the reply arrow, and select the option that says “Filter messages like this.” Make sure the option that auto-populates seems like it accurately reflects the type of emails you want to filter, then select “Create a filter with this search.”
Next, check the boxes you want. I personally like to choose ‘Skip the Inbox’ and then ‘Apply the label’, and I select a label like ‘Online Dating’ to filter all my dating site emails into one easy-to-browse place that is DIFFERENT FROM my main Inbox. If you want to also filter emails you received prior to creating this filter, which I recommend, select the ‘Also apply filter to X matching conversations’ box next to the ‘Create Filter’ button.
Click ‘Create Filter’, and there you go! You can always modify these parameters later by going to the ‘Settings’ link near the top right corner of the screen, and then choosing the ‘Filters’ tab and selecting ‘edit’ or ‘delete’. Note that you may need to create multiple filters for each service, because sometimes Match sends you messages from a different email when it’s marketing stuff as opposed to a Match user contacting you. Just be patient and repeat this process until your Inbox is no longer hectic.
Forwarding your Gmail account to another account
1) Click on ‘Settings’ at top right corner of page.
2) Select the ‘Forwarding and POP/IMAP’ tab.
3) Forwarding: Check the ‘Forward a copy of incoming mail to ______ (insert email address) and _________ (choose what to do with Gmail’s copy).
4) Click the ‘Save Changes’ button at the bottom of the menu.
Replying from your Anonymous Account through your normal Gmail account
SAFETY NOTE: This is is not totally secure with every tech setup! Your Gmail info is still displayed in the detailed headers that very determined users can browse to, and some email clients (like Microsoft Outlook) will make it really obvious. It’s best to reply to emails from the actual new Gmail interface you created. If that causes you annoyance because you’re already a Gmail user, consider doing this in an Incognito/Private browser window, or consider using a completely different browser for your online dating Gmail account. This is a worthwhile safety step if you’re the paranoid type. Non-paranoids can do whatever works for them. :)
1) Click on ‘Settings’ at top right corner of page.
2) Select the ‘Accounts’ tab.
3) Click ‘Add another email address you own’.
4) Follow the instructions regarding sending verifications, etc.
5) Check your other email account and retrieve the code.
6) Plug in the code and click ‘Verify’.
I like to keep the option selected that says ‘Reply from the same address the message was sent to’ so you will automatically respond messages sent to your anonymous account with that same anonymous address.
Now you have another email account set up! You can now send email FROM this account, while still being able to see what messages come in via your normal Gmail account’s interface.