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Online dating can be great if you know how to go about it the right way. It has allowed people in less populous areas to meet people that they never would have otherwise, and helped create lifelong couples. It’s also great for people who are just getting into the dating game again after awhile. It’s a very nonthreatening way to get to know someone, without the pressure of meeting face to face for a while.

And the benefits are progressing every day. Time (http://time.com/2900033/online-dating-facial-recognition-match-three-day-rule/) just released word that Match.com is coming out with a program that will allow users to find a partner based on a photograph. So, if you use the photograph of a celebrity, your friend, and ex, whoever, the program will then recommend other users on the site who look like the person you submitted.

While that may sound a little creepy, there are more serious concerns to address when you decide to try online dating. But with the proper precautions, you can avoid a negative experience. Some are more obvious, such as meeting for the first time in a public place or being honest in your profile description. But what’s just as important to be careful about is how you approach the topic of physical intimacy for the first time.

When you meet someone online, chances are you’ve had more of a chance to talk and get to know them before meeting in person. It’s understandable that the increased communication could lead you to feel closer to them and trust them more. However, that doesn’t mean you should risk your health when you both decide that you’re ready to get intimate with one another. The best way to protect yourself is by making sure that you’re taking all precautions ahead of time, which starts with what kind of online dating system you decide to use.

Studies have actually found that you run a higher risk if you use a dating app. Daily Mail (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2656326/Dating-using-smartphone-app-makes-likely-STD.html) even posted a study conducted by a sexual health clinic in Los Angeles that found a link between using dating apps and the increased likelihood of contracting an STD. The article cited that the increase was because “smartphone apps make it easier to meet potential partners more quickly than online or more traditional methods, thereby boosting the chances of anonymous and riskier encounters.” People who used a dating apps were reportedly 23% more likely to get gonorrhea and 35% more likely to get chlamydia.

It’s important for people new to online dating to understand that some apps are designed with the specific purpose to connect people who want to meet specifically for sex—not relationships. By avoiding apps like this and being sexually safe, you can greatly decrease your chances of catching an STD.

Adam and Eve(http://www.adameve.com/t-ae-safer-sex-guide.aspx) marks several things to consider for “safer sex” because, as they wrote, “by no means, is all lovemaking totally safe.” To significantly decrease the risks, they suggest discussing sexual history, defining boundaries, and contemplating dangers. Finally, always, always use protection. No matter how much you may trust your new partner, they can be unaware that they’re infected. Of course, you also both want to prevent any unwanted pregnancies. Discussing condoms and sexual health with your new partner might not seem romantic, you can avoid any awkward disappointment in the heat of the moment if your partner has a latex allergy or a condition that you should know about ahead of time.

Don’t let some of the concerns of online dating sour you on the idea in general. Online dating can be a great way to meet your next partner. As long as you’re safe, it can be one of the best things you ever do for yourself. Who knows, maybe Mr. or Mrs. Right is out there—he or she is just waiting for you to take the plunge!

Author Bio: Michelle Creter is a blogger and freelance writer. She loves spending time at the beach, fashion, and good southern BBQ.