Treat Your Online Safety Like You Would Your Physical Safety

Adam Dodge (EndTAB) invites audience members to engage in ways to take back control and boundaries when connecting with others online. 

Columbia Health
November 09, 2022

Sexual Violence Response hosted Adam Dodge from EndTAB for Relationship Violence Awareness Month’s signature event, Surviving and Thriving When Dating Goes Digital. He reframed the online experience, outlined ways for users to set boundaries online, and shared other pointers to stay safe online, both in the dating world and in general. 

Life looks different online as it does in real life – why is that?  

Adam asked a series of questions and polled the audience throughout the webinar to better illustrate ways people portray themselves (both good and bad) online and what those behaviors can lead to when it comes to dating and meeting people in the digital space.  

Adam examined three distinctions between online and offline life: 

  • Communicating online offers anonymity.  

  • There are no real time consequences.  

  • Conversations are happening in an empathy vacuum. Users are missing the social cues they’d otherwise experience face-to-face 

Altogether, these distinctions result in behaviors that can be uncomfortable (unsolicited photos) or downright dystopian (Stalkerware or Deepfakes). How do we make sure that the boundaries we set in our real life don’t disappear online? By changing the way we view our online experience and setting the same healthy boundaries that we would in real life. 

Reframe how you think about your online experience 

To ensure the things we value in a relationship like boundaries, consent, and safety aren't minimized online, we must begin understanding that our online experience is part of real life, not something outside of it. 

“If safety is critical to us in a thriving relationship, then that cannot change when we go online, right?”  

What happens to us online is real. If it is negative, abusive, challenging or unhealthy, it impacts us. 

As we get more comfortable with how to protect ourselves online and aligning and setting boundaries online in the same ways we do our real life, we can “create systemic change, and push platforms and the institutions that are designed to keep us safe to actually start keeping us safe.” 

“We need to start treating our digital safety like we treat our physical safety because the truth is: people tend to make decisions online that they would not make offline.” 

Simply put, ask yourself: “if I am not OK with it in-person, I am not OK with it online, unless I say otherwise.” 

It’s important to set boundaries in our online environment, too. 

Rather than relying on law enforcement investigators or the platforms to secure our privacy and protection, it’s important to be aware of the things that you can do to protect yourself. 

Adam encourages people to shake up the online experience by being conscious of what our online presence looks like. Even non-tech savvy people can use the internet to find an abundance of information about a person with a few keystrokes. 

Here are some things you can do right now: 

  1. Google yourself. If you find your information easily, so could an average person.  

  1. Look for yourself on data finder/data broker websites. Request to opt out so that this information be removed. 

  1. Be intentional with what you share. Would you openly share your name, city, photos, and other personal information with someone you haven’t met in real life? 

  1. Check your social media’s privacy settings or set your accounts to private. 

Online resources mentioned: 

About this event

“Surviving and Thriving When Dating Goes Digital” is part of SVR’s “I am and I can” campaign for Relationship Violence Awareness Month. “I am and I can” reminds everyone in our community that from small steps to big leaps and everything in between, whoever you are or wherever you're from, you can help build a compassionate and accountable community where relationship violence can end.  

We hope community members take the skills, the tools, the resources that are shared and integrate them into their own lives and share with others. 


About Adam Dodge, EndTAB  

Adam is an internationally recognized digital safety expert who believes you do not have to be a tech expert to protect yourself or others in the digital age. He advises the White House Task Force to Address Online Harassment and Abuse, sits on the World Economic Forum's Digital Justice Advisory Committee, and has worked with technology companies like Bumble to improve the safety and wellbeing of people online. Adam's work and expertise has been featured on CBS and in Vogue, MIT Technology Review, the Washington Post, SELF Magazine, GQ, VICE, and others.