August 10, 2015
In some ways, three years seems like no time, and in other ways, it seems like a lifetime ago. Just over three years ago, I wrote an article called To Google or Not to Google? That is the Question. The article discussed how much “research” to do before meeting someone from an online dating site in person. At the time, I said this:
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.
I stand by this statement. In three years, nothing has changed. I then went on to say this:
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.
Here’s where a lot has changed in three years. I can’t remember the last time I showed up to meet a new person, date or otherwise, and the person didn’t already know something about me. Maybe it was the fact that I own a business, maybe that I have a dog, or maybe that I play in a weekly mahjong game… you can find anything online! Three years ago, I may have been offended if someone asked me a question about something I had yet to share. Today, I kind of expect it.
People, understandably, see your online footprint as a way to verify that you’re real. (And it’s no secret that, sadly, some people do lie online.) Unfortunately, they don’t just stop there, which is where things get hairy. It’s one thing to check my LinkedIn account to make sure I am, in fact, a business owner. It’s another to look at all of my Facebook pictures and comment on my trip to Prague last year. What if you have a particularly ugly divorce that’s lingering in Google land, or you got a DUI when you were 22? Should your first dates be privy to that information before you’ve even said “hello” to each other in person? Whether they should or shouldn’t, they will be.
I can’t tell anyone not to do some due diligence—though I actually do give the advice not to exchange last names over an online dating site if you don’t want to. First names are plenty for a first meeting. I can tell you, though, just as I did in the article that feels like it was written just yesterday, to draw your own conclusions about someone separate and apart from what you find online. eHarmony provides similar advice if you are going to, in fact, look:
- Keep your search short and simple.
- Savor the slow reveal.
- Don’t assume anything.
As a side note, New York Magazine actually called not Googling your date “the new abstinence.” So what does it mean not to Google, Facebook stalk, or Instagram snoop? I guess that would be celibacy.
Just remember that degrees, photos, and jobs you can find online. Character, values, and essence, you can only discover for yourself in person.