In this day and age, almost everyone has an online footprint… even grandma. And whether through Google, LinkedIn, or Facebook, it’s easy enough to track someone’s entire life in 15 minutes or less. When it comes to dating, the temptation to search before a first date is strong. To Google or not to Google? That is the question.
When it comes down to it, it’s hard to resist the urge to Google or Facebook your date once you have his or her full name staring you in the face, yelling, “Search me! Search me!” I’m not going to tell you that you can’t look (who wouldn’t?). But no matter what you find, try your hardest not to create a firm impression of this person in your mind before you meet. Unless you find out that he or she is a criminal (which actually happened to one of my clients who discovered that her date was wanted for securities fraud!), just go on the date, have fun, and try to put it all in the back of your mind.
When I was on JDate, I honestly didn’t even think about Googling someone. Facebook was the first thing on my mind. Why would I Google someone to see the awards he got in college or his marathon time when I could Facebook him instead and see all of his pictures, credentials, and status updates? Google is, like, so 2005, right? Before meeting each other in person, Jeremy and I actually joked in our e-mails about whether we were allowed to “Facebook stalk” each other before the date. I even asked him outright (half-jokingly) whether he was planning to stalk me. Jeremy’s response? “What kind of person would I be if I didn’t at least make sure your Facebook picture wasn’t you punching a kid ;-)? But you’ve got my name, too, so we’re in the same boat, right? Stalk away.”
No matter whether you do your pre-date “research” or not, please remember that stalking does not equal “friending.” Friending someone on Facebook before the date is the kiss of death (and the experts agree). Unless you already know each other, do not friend your date on Facebook either before you meet or after the first date, even if it went really well. The last thing you want is to see all of his pictures with other women and get jealous before you’re even together! Plus, there’s something to be said for leaving some mystery. And if the date (or next date) doesn’t go well, do you really want him/her knowing all of your business? I think not.
Lastly, if you decide to look up your date, feel free not to mention you did so unless you’re sure he or she won’t put you in the “creep” category because of it. (And for those under 25, it’s probably assumed that you looked!) Stalking = okay. Talking about stalking = creepy. Know the difference.
Erika Ettin is, as the Washington Post has noted, a “modern day Cyrano.” She is the Founder of A Little Nudge, where she helps people with all aspects of online dating. An archive of all of Erika’s columns is also available. Want to connect with Erika? Join her newsletter for updates and tips.