When Adam posted a picture of himself and his infant son on the dating app Hinge, he did so with deliberation and purpose. The 45-year-old sales manager at a corporate event company wanted any prospective partner to know who he was and what he prioritized in life: being a dad.
The Toronto father of two, who asked for his last name to be withheld to protect his childrens’ privacy, had posted four photos of himself, with one clearly showing a man enamoured with the baby sleeping contentedly on his chest. There was much thought put into the decision to use this picture as part of his online dating strategy.
“It was honest, and told [prospective partners] about my situation in a simple photo, as opposed to 100 words,” Adam told HuffPost Canada.
In his mind, using such an image did some immediate filtering for him by showing who he was – a loving father – to anyone who may be considering whether or not to swipe right.
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After separating from his wife, the father of a son and a daughter cautiously entered into the online dating scene, starting with Bumble, and moving on to Hinge at the suggestion of a friend. In each instance, the picture of him and his child was part of his online profile.
“I figured a photo of me holding a child would draw attention to the fact that I had kids for those who saw my photos only and skipped past my bio. It would start a needed conversation,” Adam said.
To post, or not to post?
When single parents venture into the online dating world, the decision to include pictures of the most important people in their lives – their children – is fraught with uncertainty for some, and resolute determination for others. The results of doing so – or not – can range from a surprisingly successful relationship to a worst-case scenario that most hopeful singles would hope to avoid.
Clare Kumar, a productivity coach in Toronto, is strongly against the idea of revealing images of her kids as part of her online persona. The 51-year-old mother of two has tried a number of dating apps: Plenty of Fish, Tinder and Bumble, to name a few, and on each of them, the only picture that she presents is that of herself.
“I don’t feel it’s relevant,” she told HuffPost Canada. From her perspective, it’s more important to get to know a potential partner and perhaps build a relationship before revealing information about one’s kids.
“We need to find out about each other before the children,” Kumar explained “I don’t think kids have a role to play [at the beginnings of a relationship].”
While she does reveal immediately that she has kids, any further information about them will be revealed only if and when the relationship progresses. And she feels the same about any potential matches she’s met through dating apps, she explained.
“I wanted to know if the person had kids, how many and their ages early, but didn’t have to meet them for months.”
Valerie Ward has had less-than-perfect experiences with online dating.
“The quality of the people I’ve met is really low,” the 50-year-old mother of three from West Chester, Pa., told HuffPost Canada.
After connecting with a number of men through the apps, she quickly learned that everything presented online is not really what it appears. Her many experiences include: one man who claimed to be an undercover FBI agent, another who was desperate to marry her, though he needed her to send him money first, and yet another who was secretly married, which she sadly found out well into their relationship. Others have requested gift cards, iTunes cards and more, often shortly after connecting through the dating app.
And the sex. In Ward’s experience, so many online suitors are out for one thing and one thing only.
“They want to sleep with as many people as they can,” Ward said.
This is the key reason why she says she purposefully includes a picture of her son on her digital dating profile. In her mind, doing so weeds out the bad guys and leaves potential mates who have a higher set of standards and, hopefully, compatibility.
“[The picture with her son) humanizes me. I’m a mother.”
Security experts warn against it
People are right to be wary of those who seem too good to be true online. There are many scams and “catfishing” attempts by people using dating apps for nefarious purposes, said Claudiu Popa, the chairman and co-founder of KnowledgeFlow Cybersafety Foundation.
The security and privacy expert cautions people against using pictures of their kids in their online profiles. There are many ways to find out details about one’s location and more from the images posted on dating apps, he explained.
“By disclosing the existence of children, [those who date online] also inadvertently profile themselves. With such information, a potentially malicious person can infer a number of details about them,” Popa told HuffPost Canada.
Apart from mundane details such as the type of device a picture was taken on, and the shutter speed, digital images can also store very precise location information about where the image was taken.
“That means specific geographic coordinate systems that can take anyone with a GPS right to your doorstep. So it’s always a good idea to ensure that the camera and/or the websites you use filter out EXIF data, but it’s an even better idea not to include children in pictures intended to be viewed by the public,” Popa said.
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As well, he explains that dating apps are rife with people just looking for their next con on an unsuspecting party.
“Scams abound on dating services, because it’s human nature for users to differentiate themselves from others. In so doing, they help fraudsters, scammers and malicious predators to fine-tune a romance scam scenario just for them, making them feel special and connected. It’s a sinister, dangerous and illegal situation to avoid.”
Valerie Ward learned this the hard way, but still remains remains hopeful to the possibility of meeting “Mr. Right.” She will continue to use the picture of her and her son to weed out the “losers,” as she calls them.
Adam, now happily in a relationship with a woman he met through Hinge, says that posting the picture of him with his son was the right decision.
“Plain and simple, it helped me meet the right woman” he said. “I’m sure it precluded many women from contacting me, but posting a photo of my son was honest and let them know who I was, my responsibilities, and who comes first in my life.”