To Google or Not to Google
Molly tackles the age-old (okay, years old) question: should you Google your dating app match?
Q. This isn’t so much a question as it is a debate. I am a single 27-year-old woman and I use dating apps as my primary means of meeting people. One of the first things I do when I match with someone is Google their name and look up their social media profiles. This is as much for safety as it is for curiosity.
One of my best friends (who is in a relationship) says I am ruining my chances of connecting with someone by doing all this “spy” work. She thinks it’s weird that I’m pouring over the Instagram account of someone I don’t know and forming opinions based on random Google searches. Her argument is that finding out too much about someone before I actually get to know them will turn out badly no matter which way it goes: either I will start to obsess over them (has happened…) or I will dismiss someone I would otherwise like for a stupid reason.
Any thoughts or insights? Who is right here?
Victoria Z., 27, San Francisco, CA
A. Short answer: neither of you is “right.” There are pros and cons to online stalk-a-thons. This is one of those modern day dating issues that is definitely not black and white.
Let’s start with a fact: you’re not alone in your “investigative” behavior. According an April 2017 survey of Hinge users, 89 percent of respondents reported “researching” their matches online prior to going on a date. What we can deduce from this staggering (but not shocking) statistic is that the guys you’re dating are more than likely Googling you prior to dates, as well. Even is even, right?
Well, kind of. Just because “everyone is doing it” doesn’t make it the right move for you — though there are valid arguments for and against the rampant practice.
Several dating app users reported finding out their matches were married after “coming across their wedding websites on Google.” Others cited uncovering “criminal record[s]” as the reason for calling off the date.
Still, many found positive Google results that helped them make a decision about an on-the-fence match.
“I found a newspaper article calling the guy a ‘hometown hero,'” one Hinge Member said. “It made me want to go out with him even more.”
Another dating app user said her match’s profile photos “weren’t the best,” but decided to go out with him after looking him up on Facebook.
“His photos were way better on Facebook and I could tell we had compatible senses of humor based of a goofy video of him on his timeline.”
Personally, I cannot online stalk without going down a frighteningly deep digital rabbit hole. Somewhere between making sure he’s not a murderer and actually meeting the poor guy, I find myself reading about his great aunt’s $120 donation to Jimmy Carter’s campaign. This is the risk you run when conducting online research, and what I think concerns your friend: when your stalking goes beyond ensuring personal safety and eliminating major red flags, you risk passing up fantastic people for reasons that might not matter as much as you think they will.
Here’s an example from my own life: I dated a guy for several months who I met on a dating app. When we met, I wasn’t looking for a serious relationship. Because I wasn’t viewing this guy through the “potential husband” lens, I didn’t bother Googling him or scrolling backwards on Instagram to his birthday party…five years ago.
Months passed, and one day he revealed a “fun fact” about himself: as a college freshman, he had been “arrested” (I put this in quotes because…well, wait for it) and suspended for having alcohol in his dorm room, on a zero-tolerance campus. The local newspaper (small town, much?) wrote about this incredibly serious infraction.
That newspaper article still shows up when you type his name into Google.
Without context, this information would probably have been enough for me to shut down the notion of even meeting him — the person I enjoyed several great months with. I am a straight-and-narrow kinda gal when it comes to trouble of any kind. Arrested?! And suspended?! What else could this cat be up to? I probably would have spent the better part of my evening imagining the Breaking Bad-esque drug enterprise his “alcohol addiction” definitely led to.
But I didn’t know, and I got to know him “the real way” — organically, and over time. What would have been a dealbreaker turned out to be a funny story about a person I know now as a dynamic individual with zero criminal record. (Yes, he was let off.)
So, who is right here? I think you both are. I’ve found there is a happy medium between Super Stalker and Going in Blind — do a quick Google search, confirm the person is not a serial killer, and move on to enjoy your date with someone who is at least a bit of a mystery.
Molly Fedick is the Editor-in-Chief of IRL. She has written extensively on the role of technology in modern dating for publications including Glamour, NBC, the Chicago Tribune, Elite Daily, and Huffington Post. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram @mylifeasmolly. Send Molly questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.