A new study from people-searching site Spokeo is out, and according to them, 71 percent of Americans would “search for information about someone they are in a relationship with, or considering being in a relationship with in order to feel safer.” The other 29 percent of Americans are mystery people to me, but I am assuming they just don’t understand the amazing possibilities of the internet, because Google is basically designed for researching your dates. Researching your dates is the whole point of the internet, except for cat videos, which are also the point of the internet. (And maybe porn. Maybe.)
Which isn’t to say pre-date research doesn’t have some problems. Critics worry Googling your potential partner before you’ve even had coffee together allows you to get real judge-y, real fast. Finding out your potential BF is super unfunny on Twitter, or was, in 1998, an active participant on Celine Dion fan boards can make you write him off before you’ve fully considered his real world charms.
Conversely, it’s possible you’ll like what you find a little too much. He writes poems and they’re actually not that bad! She was in the all-female a cappella group at University of Maryland! It’s easy to get really excited about a person who isn’t actually a person yet — just a bunch of incongruous facts on the web, plus a cute Instagram account and a passable Twitter feed (maybe he’s funnier in real life?).
And then there’s the whole issue of how much to let on you know. If you know the maybe-girl-of-your-dreams has a Jack Russell puppy, but she’s never actually told you that, do you pretend you don’t know she has a Jack Russell puppy? Do you admit you saw it on Instagram? Do you casually bring up dogs, but casually leave out the whole Instagram thing? The risk of knowing things you’re not “supposed” to know and then seeming like a creeper is real.
Real, but, I say, dumb. Yes, I get that you cannot judge chemistry from the Internet. Yes, I get that it’s easy to treat researching potential dates like researching potential blenders (it has good reviews overall, but what’s that single one-star rating all about?). Yes, I know that this is a sign that romance is dead, that Google leaves no mystery, and that we should all just get back on our horses and ride into the pre-industrial sunset. I also know that in the Google game, it’s real easy to get caught. But the bottom line is, I love Googling people — not just dates, like, randos I worked with on some local political campaign in 2004 and haven’t spoken to since — and I’m not ashamed to admit it. Or rather, I’m a little ashamed to admit it, but I also realize that I have never once been put off when someone’s confessed to Googling me.
I expect to be Googled. In general, I’m flattered to have been Googled. That means you thought about me, which I’m pretty into. Once on a first date — an already good first date, which is probably important here, but still — a guy sat across from me at dinner and declared, “let’s review what we know about you.” Some of that was stuff I’d told him. Some of that was absolutely not stuff I’d told him. And I was into it. He was honest about Googling, and if he did anything super off-putting, something involving intense technical knowledge or contacting my mother, he edited that part out. I was charmed: dude was as obsessive as I am, and he was open about it. That honesty took the pressure off. Maybe it even suggested we were a good match: creep, meet other creep.
So I’m in favor: Google at will, 71 percent of Americans, but for god’s sake, be honest about it. Let’s take the stigma out of putting our research skills to use. But please, please don’t be like the 21 percent of women and 29 percent (!) of men who said they’d pay more than $25 for external searching help — you can do that yourself. Or hire me. I’m way cheaper.