April 02, 2019 at 05:00AM by CWC
While in the deep end of New York City’s dating pool, there were two things I did before every single rendezvous: shave my legs and internet-stalk my date ahead of time. I couldn’t help myself, and even though I’m now in a committed relationship, I still can’t (I Google everyone else’s dates before they meet). It’s just too tempting not to scope out these people pre-date given the tools we have at our fingertips—social media profiles, employment info, and, hell, even their “reputation score” (don’t ask) can come up in a flash if you so desire. And, it seems, everyone does.
But, just as Googling certain things can just make matters worse—ever have the Internet diagnose you with a fatal illness when you simply have a cold?—stalking a potential romantic interest rather than giving them the benefit of the doubt and simply judging them when you meet in person can pose some downsides.
People can’t resist doing it for a variety of reasons, one of them being control. “Stalking, in whatever form it takes, ultimately reflects an attempt at controlling the outcome of the date,” says Clara Artschwager, modern dating and lifestyle coach. “We stalk in hopes to glean information about a person in advance of actually meting them to—ideally—avoid some sort of discomfort.” That discomfort can mean a slew of things, like an awkward date (the worst) and getting hurt.
And so, says Artschwager, the reason so many daters task themselves with scrutinizing a potential fling’s social media profiles is to see if they’ll potentially ghost you, cheat on you, hurt you, etc. “What you’re really trying to do is ‘figure someone out,’” she says. “But this notion ultimately represents a false sense of control.” So, with the following tips in mind, learn to kick your pre-first-date stalking habit for good.
Close your browser and live in the present with these 3 downsides to pre-date internet stalking in mind.
1. You begin with a preconceived story
This one goes out to all the people who have scrolled through a stranger’s Instagram and thought to themselves, “This person is full of themselves.” (Been there!) Perusing someone’s social media profile leads you to construct a narrative of their identity without having even met them. “You start to create a story about them based on random information and your personal dating lens, which consists of all your fears around dating and relationships,” says Artschwager. “It’s very, very hard to remain objective. And then on the actual date, you’re less focused on taking in the person in the present moment and more so hunting for clues that align with your preconceived story because you’re working to avoid an upsetting scenario down the road.”
2. You already know things
Chances are that your online detective work dredged up facts about the person, like what their fave sports team is, where they’ve traveled, and the name of their ex-girlfriend’s mom’s dog. This means that the first date—which is all about learning about the person—is less fun.
“You don’t want to find out too much about the person so you have nothing left to chat about on your first meeting.” —Andi Lew, wellness coach
“You don’t want to find out too much about the person so you have nothing left to chat about on your first meeting,” says Andi Lew, wellness coach and author of #instalovers. “If you’re going to stalk, only do it enough to find out if they’re a fake profile.” Fair point.
3. It’s hard to stay fair
“Honestly, I find it near impossible to remain objective,” says Artschwager of stalking pre-meeting. “Even more importantly, the only way to truly get to know someone is through in-person interactions.” To this point, rather than searching for answers to, say, where the person went to college or who they last dated, simply observe them closely in person. “That way is more fun anyway and more informative when it comes to determining if you actually want to continue getting to know them.”
Clearly it’s not a best practice to find yourself two years deep on your date’s Instagram feed before you meet. But if the anxiety-producing factor of not knowing who you’re getting dinner with is the impetus to your investigative work, Artschwager strongly advises to lean into the weirdness of the whole scenario. “I’m a dating coach, and when I was dating, I still found meeting a new person for the first time odd,” she says. “You can both commiserate in the silliness and beauty of those first date jitters.”
And if personal safety is a concern, rather than judging away based on a persons’s social media presence, call upon strategies that you can actually control. For instance, only meet your date in a public place, tell friends what you plan for the date is, and don’t let your date walk you home (or get you an Uber or find out your address in any other way) super early on. That way, you can feel good about not Googling to oblivion, let your date make their own impression on your IRL, and still avoid a potential You situation.
If you’ve ever wondered about the truth behind whether opposites attract, read up here. And here’s the low-down on alpha and beta personality types in relationships.