To Google or not to Google potential dates?
May 18, 2011 12:33 PM   Subscribe

If you Google your dates before meeting through online sites, how do you handle the knowing the answers to the mundane areas of their life before being told?

I prefer to be selective when it comes to going on dates. I mainly use OKC and find their questions useful. I still like to research potential dates before we go out though. I'm a very adept Google sleuth. Often, I can find little pieces of information that end up linking me to a person's ancillary internet handle and I go from there. I don't go so far as to pay for a background check. I mostly look for big deal-breakers. For instance, I once found out a guy had a foot fetish (no thanks) and another guy was religious (again, no thanks).

Most of the time though, I don't find anything that scares me off, since OKC weeds out a lot of men that would not be a good match for me. I mostly find mundane information - college, workplace, pictures taken on vacations, etc.

I feel slightly awkward learning these little details about a person before he has told me them himself. How do you handle a situation where you know a fair amount of details about someone, but the person doesn't know you know? I feel disingenuous asking what college he went to, when I already know the answer. I recently found a date's personal blog that was not meant to be public any longer, but Google still had it cached. I ended up reading it and now I feel bad. I know I probably shouldn't have read it, but it was interesting and actually made me feel more attracted to him.

How do you handle this type of situation? Should I avoid Googling people before we meet? If so, should I just ask these potential dates point blank whether they are porn fiends or religious fanatics? I would really rather not waste my time or anyone else's when I know there are certain things I cannot tolerate in a friendship, let alone a potential relationship.

(If it matters, I'm a 32-year-old woman living in a major US city.)
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (66 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Why not actually meet the guy and go on a date before you Google stalk him? Things that you think might be deal-breakers (like religion) could end up NOT being, if the guy is otherwise perfect, or things have changed since whatever was posted on the internet about them was posted.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 12:41 PM on May 18, 2011 [6 favorites]

Yes avoid googling people before you meet. I don't know how common it is, but have to say that from my point of view it doesn't seem very healthy.
posted by Not Supplied at 12:41 PM on May 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

Do a quick Google to make sure they don't come up as an axe-murderer, go on the first date and if it goes well enough to have a second date then search more if you feel the need. You'll get most of the "regular" stuff on the first date and still find any potential dealbreakers before you invest too much time.
posted by mikepop at 12:44 PM on May 18, 2011

I've dated people that I know a decent amount about (because of metafilter) and the answer is...if you already know where he went to college, don't ask. That's weird. Talk about other stuff.
posted by the young rope-rider at 12:44 PM on May 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

If you want to be true to yourself, tell them flat out that you googled them and read such-and-such. Then let your date decide if they want to date someone who would thoroughly internet-detective them in order to judge them by what they are foolish enough to leave open for viewing, possibly without their knowledge.

Just because you vette someone through google doesn't mean you are viewing material they personally generated (their internet handle might not be the same for all sites and someone else has a particular handle on a site, generating information they are not responsible for), getting an accurate picture of that person, or are protecting yourself from all the "bad stuff" they might bring. People with something to hide know how to be private.
posted by griselda at 12:44 PM on May 18, 2011 [2 favorites]

Should I avoid Googling people before we meet?

Yeah, probably. Or at least do a cursory search to make sure they're not a born-again Christian, a convicted felon, or an ex of a close friend, then leave it at that. It's kind of creepy to be looking at someone's vacation photos before you've even met them.

Honestly, your question makes you sound like a bit of a creep anyway. "I don't go so far as to pay for a background check"?! That's wayyyy over the line, but your current behavior is still a good foot or two over the line, and you should cut it out.

Disclaimer: I'm married to someone I met on OK Cupid.
posted by booknerd at 12:44 PM on May 18, 2011 [4 favorites]

I think there's a happy medium between reading someone's personal blog (over the line) and going in blind (probably fine, but potentially dangerous). Don't break out the crazy google-fu, just do a cursory search to make sure there's no big obvious red flags, go on your first date, and take it from there. I wouldn't be surprised if a date had googled me, but if you went out of your way to find and read a blog that'd be a dealbreaker.
posted by axiom at 12:44 PM on May 18, 2011

When I was doing the online dating thing, I googled everyone and, like you, I was quite adept at it. It's not a hard skill to pick up (I'm a lawyer, and I spend much of my days running different searches online), but I think it's a hard skill to keep in perspective. It's fun, and voyeuristic, but it doesn't really tell you the answers you'd really want to know. Yes, you may learn that Mr. X has a younger brother, and Mr. Y went to Catholic University, or Mr. Z recently changed jobs--but for the most part, you don't find out that the younger brother is autistic, and Mr. X was a primary caregiver because his parents were drunks, or Mr. Y only went to the Catholic University because he made a promise to his dying grandfather, but it wasn't really for him, and that Mr. Z's job change was because he is doing a night post-bacc program to go to med school.

Just ask the questions you already know the answers to (which takes five seconds) and then asks the questions you have no idea about (which is where the things get interesting).
posted by Admiral Haddock at 12:45 PM on May 18, 2011 [24 favorites]

I'd go with "I read online that you went to University to study Concentration. What was that like?" If you're uncomfortable with admitting to that much, stop clandestinely Googling people. It's creepy.
posted by halogen at 12:46 PM on May 18, 2011 [5 favorites]

Should I avoid Googling people before we meet?If so, should I just ask these potential dates point blank whether they are porn fiends or religious fanatics?

OK Cupid has questions about this. Profiles display the person's religious affiliation along with a self-identified indicator of how religious they are. And when you are answering questions, you can specify particular answers as mandatory that will make people who aren't good matches show up with very bad match scores. You can even go through and read every single answer that they have not specifically marked as private. So personally I don't really think there's a need to go digging for more info online.
posted by burnmp3s at 12:50 PM on May 18, 2011

Also, how you are entirely sure the people you're finding via google are the people you are meeting IRL? I have a fairly rare name, especially here in Canada, but even if you googled my full name you'd come across a couple other people who could, theoretically, be me. And frankly - those people suck. I'd be pissed if I thought people were prematurely judging me based on those asinine facebook profiles.
posted by cgg at 12:53 PM on May 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

Googling someone before ever meeting them doesn't give them the chance to speak for themselves, or to address or contradict the things you may read about them online. And not everything you see online is going to be true. Writing people off based on what amounts to hearsay is kind of unfair. Also, what you are doing is creepy and it sounds like you feel creepy about it as well, since you aren't comfortable telling these people that you internet stalked them.
posted by Dilemma at 12:56 PM on May 18, 2011 [3 favorites]

It's pretty creepy, although I'd say it's more silly than creepy. I used to Google my prospective roommates - I found one person's trove of Harry Potter fanfic. Good stuff. I've abandoned that habit, however, for the most part.

If you're going to keep this habit up, you might as well suck it up and play a little dumb when you ask backgrounder questions. Who cares if you already know where your date went to college? Just ask "so, where did you go to school?" and when he responds, say, "oh, what was that like?" and so on. You'll already know where he goes to school, fine, but his personal opinion and trove of stories about college will not be on Google.

(Also, I give a big, hearty "thbbbffffft" to the idea expressed upthread that you are somehow ensuring your safety by googling these men beforehand. How many axe murderers do you suppose you're meeting on OKC, where their names would already be on Google for axe murdering-related activities? Give me a break.)
posted by Sticherbeast at 1:05 PM on May 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

Hi, I'm a google/facebook stalker. Yup. That's me. I've come to accept that about myself.

I'm out of the dating scene, but this is what I would do (and have done in the past, and it's turned out just fine):

-Google them all you want. Make sure they're not felons or junkies or otherwise dangerous. Disregard all other potential "deal breakers".

-Go on date and get to know the person as they are outside of the internet world.

-When something you already know comes up, say, "I'm going to be honest, I already tracked you down on facebook [or whatever]." Then immediately divert the subject to something interesting you found out about them, like, "did you really study abroad in Argentina? That is so cool! Tell me more about that!"

-If they say something like, "you googled me!?!?" you can just say, "well, haha, I wanted to make sure you weren't an axe murderer or something, hahaha...and then I got distracted by [interesting thing you found out]. I just wanted to be up front about it, I'm not trying to stalk you or anything."

In my experience, this works out fine. We live in a reduced privacy, internet-centered world now. Googling is fine. Just don't lie about it or try to hide it. It's only creepy if you make it creepy.
posted by phunniemee at 1:07 PM on May 18, 2011 [17 favorites]

I see nothing wrong with asking the question you've googled for. Often times, the answer may be much more interesting that what you already know.

"I want to blah blah blah college...where did you go?"

"Oh dude, I went to your rival school and I so helped steal your school mascot last year which inspired our team to beat ya'll for the national championship! IN YOUR FACE!!!"
posted by jmd82 at 1:07 PM on May 18, 2011

Not to google! Do you google the endings to movies before you see them? The fun is in learning about the other person. Google results mean very little. Hone your spidey senses. Do not go on dates with anybody unless you are excited to talk to them in person about where they went to college, their first jobs, their successes... and possibly - their failures, their quirks, their peccadilloes.
posted by pazazygeek at 1:09 PM on May 18, 2011

I don't think it's creepy, and I kind of expect that people do it. To me, the proper etiquette is that you pretend you didn't do it, and don't ask questions that you already know the answer to (and don't let on that you know if they bring it up in conversation). Then you tell them a few months later, maybe.

I do think it's a tiny bit weird to read someone's blog, if they get all personal in it, but at the same time, this is what happens when you put your personal stuff on the internet and one ought to be prepared for that.
posted by hought20 at 1:09 PM on May 18, 2011 [7 favorites]

What's so wrong with being upfront about the fact that you looked them up on line? I mean, it's 2011 - who wouldn't look their date up to find out more about them?
posted by Mars Saxman at 1:10 PM on May 18, 2011 [4 favorites]

Personally I don't think there's anything wrong at all with seeking public information about a date on the internet, to determine if this person is safe and you are compatible with them. If you met this guy through friends, you'd ask questions about him to the friends, right? It's the same thing to me.

Now, if you're seeking information about someone who wants you to leave them alone, or seeking information in order to do harm to the person, or just being nosy for nosiness's sake alone, that's different to me. But that's not what you're doing. Personally I'd never go out with a guy that I couldn't find any information about, I just wouldn't feel safe doing that at all.

I'd just say listen to your own conscience -- if you felt guilty reading that deleted blog, then you shouldn't have read it. As for the other stuff, finding out what college he went to, just don't bring up those topics. But I don't think there's anything wrong with letting him know you checked him out online, if you say it in a charming/flirty way instead of a creepy way. (Like smiling, blushing, and saying, "It's kind of embarrassing, but I couldn't resist looking up your name online before we went out.")
posted by Ashley801 at 1:10 PM on May 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

(Also, I give a big, hearty "thbbbffffft" to the idea expressed upthread that you are somehow ensuring your safety by googling these men beforehand. How many axe murderers do you suppose you're meeting on OKC, where their names would already be on Google for axe murdering-related activities? Give me a break.)

So true.

Personally, I don't Google people beforehand. I sometimes worry about people Googling me because I was once arrested for a stupid thing, and though the case was instantly dismissed (it was a rotten arrest), it shows up on a Google search because the local paper posts arrests, and I imagine that leads the mind to put guilt alongside it.

So, y'know, not a fan.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 1:10 PM on May 18, 2011 [6 favorites]

Creepy camp: +1
posted by Glinn at 1:11 PM on May 18, 2011

Thinking more on it: I'd say that looking someone up on Facebook or equivalent is pretty normal and socially acceptable. Back when I was dating, women from OKC would add me on FB, presumably to make sure that I was a real person and not just a trained dog or whatever. Didn't bother me.

Reading someone's blog is sort of creepy, though, mostly because it makes it seem like you're engineering information asymmetry for first dates, which is sort of blecchy behavior.
posted by Sticherbeast at 1:13 PM on May 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

Also, I give a big, hearty "thbbbffffft" to the idea expressed upthread that you are somehow ensuring your safety by googling these men beforehand. How many axe murderers do you suppose you're meeting on OKC, where their names would already be on Google for axe murdering-related activities? Give me a break

You'd be shocked, man. I'm just saying. Maybe not axe murderers, but it's astonishing how many people reveal their very questionable activities online, in very findable ways. I've found guys who've talked about killing animals with pitchforks for fun, guys with profiles on multiple sexually disgusting websites, etc.
posted by Ashley801 at 1:14 PM on May 18, 2011 [4 favorites]

I wont tell you to stop, but I would say that it would be slightly healthier if you maintained a slight cognitive disconect between the sleuth you and the on-the-date you. Even if you've read something and know something already about someone, its better to let things unfold naturally. Think if this person as a book... you've skimmed the first chapter, you haven't read it.
posted by Nanukthedog at 1:21 PM on May 18, 2011

I totally Googled prospective internet dates and think it's a perfectly fine thing to do, particularly for women who sometimes need to be a little more careful. I would be surprised if people who set up dates with me didn't Google me, frankly. I think you just ask all the normal questions, even if you think you already know the answer - maybe you'll find out that, gasp, the internet is wrong; maybe you'll catch them in a blatant lie. Just nod agreeably if they tell you something you already know.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 1:26 PM on May 18, 2011

You may be saving time by not dating the people whom you discover have deal-breaking qualities, but I think that comes at the expense of other (potentially good) dates unfolding smoothly and naturally.

If it's a safety concern, well - even if you've googled someone, you should still be meeting them in a public place for the first date or two and/or letting a friend know where you'll be anyway. Nothing is a guarantee that someone is trustworthy anyway - my friend mentioned that someone in her circle was date-raped by a person who is a licensed therapist.
posted by needs more cowbell at 1:27 PM on May 18, 2011

I'd go with "I read online that you went to University to study Concentration. What was that like?" If you're uncomfortable with admitting to that much, stop clandestinely Googling people. It's creepy.

I second this. There is doing a perfunctory name+city or online handle search, and then there is going a step farther like checking every last cached page, etc. I would not be at all creeped out by someone figuring out my alma from Google- it would be easy to do and I would expect my potential dates to be clever and curious enough to accomplish this. I'm a scientist, I like data.

But then there is limit somewhere. The line is fuzzy, but you don't want to be digging so deep that you're finding pictures of them with their ex girlfriend beaming on a beach in Costa Rica. They probably wouldn't bring up the romantic vacay with you on the first date, but if you already know you've sort of violated their right to disclose things to you as they want or feel they need to, because they probably have good reasons for doing so, and beyond the most banal stuff you probably can't guess their reasons.
posted by slow graffiti at 1:30 PM on May 18, 2011

I always google people, check them on facebook, etc. I assume they do as much on me, and though I don't mind it at all, I also think it would be weird to mention "hey, I googled you and found x". I would not ask questions that I specifically knew the answer to already. I don't really search out pseudonyms, though -- their name, city, and maybe the username they used on OKC or whatever.

There might be information asymmetry if you find their blog, but I wouldn't be able to hold back from reading it either, and once stuff's online, well.
posted by jeather at 1:31 PM on May 18, 2011

Again, I wouldn't do it but I'm too scared to go on internet dates anyway!! But in real life most of the fun is finding out about the other person- and the craziest person I ever went out on a date with made for a great story later.
posted by bquarters at 1:35 PM on May 18, 2011

When I was actively dating, and the conversation turned to web presence, I'm just be honest about the google sleuthing and mention it. If I can find it without any particular subterfuge, it's fair game IMHO.

So, I gently teased my (now boyfriend, but then just a) date about finding how he bragged about what a stud he was on his twitter feed, and while he was a bit sheepish about it, it wasn't a relationship-killer, obviously.

If you find something they really shouldn't have easily found online by someone who knows little more than their name, then you're doing them a favour by pointing it out.
posted by Kurichina at 1:39 PM on May 18, 2011

Oh, yeah, and if I weren't married, and someone I dated said they knew where I went to college, that would be the last date we went on.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 1:39 PM on May 18, 2011 [4 favorites]

Should I avoid Googling people before we meet?

If you googled my extremely common name to look for a white male with a beard and long hair you would be receiving a great deal of inaccurate information, and you might end up knowing less about me than if you just properly viddied my okcupid account. Also, that's really creepy and I would probably be able to tell through conversation that you pre-stalked me before the date. It also indicates to me that you don't trust initial impressions and perhaps you have a thing where you think everyone is hiding something and you are looking for something incriminating that is possibly there. I wouldn't want to be in a relationship with someone like that. To me, it implies a baseline paranoia that is above normal.

Anyway, how would you feel about the reciprocal action if someone googled you? Based on that, why would you ask this question anonymously? Are you concerned that people will google your name and learn you asked this question? If you have that concern about your online behavior why wouldn't you extend the same courtesy to others online communication that has nothing to do with your life? To me this indicates that you recognize that this is unappealing and inappropriate behavior and you are afraid of your online dates finding out that you google-stalk them. It feels awkward during dates because IT IS AWKWARD and creepy and your date is definitely picking up on this.
posted by fuq at 1:40 PM on May 18, 2011 [2 favorites]

Just one point of reference: I Googled my own (pretty uncommon) name a few years back, to see what would come up. Within the first couple pages of results was a newspaper article online about someone with my exact name and fairly close description and age who had stood trial for meth distribution a year earlier. The event happened in the same area of the country that my parents are from. I wouldn't blame someone for thinking it might be me. (No. It wasn't.)

All that to say, yeah, be careful about Google background-checking. It may not be what it appears.
posted by The Deej at 1:41 PM on May 18, 2011

What's so wrong with being upfront about the fact that you looked them up on line? I mean, it's 2011 - who wouldn't look their date up to find out more about them?

This. Also, I did find out that one of my would-be dates was a very married family man. Eww. And another one supposedly had a restraining order out for him AND more than one prostitute complained he'd skipped out without paying, but it's true I didn't verify these things- I wasn't terribly interested in him anyway and had just googled him out of morbid curiousity because he was setting off my creep-dar.

Yes, I have spent my share of time on myredbook and other such sites, for no useful reason except that it's a world I know very little about.
posted by small_ruminant at 1:44 PM on May 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

FWIW, I usually google email addresses or phone numbers, and not so often names. I'm also usually very upfront about having done so, and so far no one has batted an eye.
posted by small_ruminant at 1:47 PM on May 18, 2011

I do it, and usually play dumb about it. In other words I don't volunteer the information I've found and let them bring it up.

Sometimes if I really click with the person, or if what I found out is really interesting or especially complimentary, then I'll confess, "So I was google stalking you a little, and I found out you [did X awesome thing]. What was that like? Did you get to meet [Y person I admire]?"

Usually the google stalking doesn't tell me a whole lot of specific information one way or the other, just confirms that they are a legit person, do what they say they do, etc. I don't think I've ever found out anything that really altered my opinion of them. I guess if I found out something that was a huge red flag, I'd probably just pull away in the way you pull away from people like that regardless of how you found out the information.

I generally try to treat internet dating somewhat casually. We're not married, we just had coffee once. If I'm not interested (for whatever reason), I'm not interested, and I don't owe you anything.
posted by Sara C. at 1:48 PM on May 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

It's not that hard to be a reasonable accurate sleuth on the Web. I certainly do a quick Googlesearch of anyone I might go meet, and if I will continue to see the person, I'll do more searching. There are enough scary men (my preferred dating gender, and statistically more likely to commit date violence) that this is not negotiable.

As far as filtering, OKCupid and other sites already do lots of filtering. Maybe I'll meet a great, 19 year old, very religious, woman that I want to date. But the odds are against it, so I'll keep filtering. And, anyway, as the song says, Thou Shalt Always, Always Filter.
posted by theora55 at 1:48 PM on May 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

"How do you handle a situation where you know a fair amount of details about someone, but the person doesn't know you know?"

Don't reveal that you Googled him/her. See if what he/she tells you about him/herself matches what you already know via your online research. It's a good way to figure out quickly whether someone is a habitual liar / bullshit artist. Consider it the final stage in your Google screening mechanism -- now that you know all this stuff, do the respective stories add up?
posted by Jacqueline at 1:48 PM on May 18, 2011 [3 favorites]

Ok, practically speaking I decided to try this on myself and I've determined that you are an idiot if you use google to vet people.

After that, I feel pretty comfortable telling everyone here that my name is Joe Morris, you can google that and see how much you can find out about me. Not Joe Morris or Joe Morris or Joe Morris, but me. Even if you think you are being clever and you scrape my alma mater you will still not get relevant information pertaining to the Joe Morris who is me because there are actually other Joe Morris' involved with my very large institution. You are definitely receiving inaccurate information and at risk of making a fool of yourself and ruining a potentially good date.
posted by fuq at 1:53 PM on May 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

Even if you think you are being clever and you scrape my alma mater you will still not get relevant information pertaining to the Joe Morris who is me

This is less true in for us hippy kids with the weird names.
posted by small_ruminant at 1:55 PM on May 18, 2011 [3 favorites]

Oh, and on the "Axe Murderers? What axe murderers?" issue.

I'm usually not checking to see if they're a violent criminal (though, sure). It's more just with the notion that a lot of people stretch the truth on dating websites. It's nice to google someone's name and see that they are who they say they are.

Though once I did see a profile on OKC of a known con man who'd been taking women in my neighborhood for thousands of dollars. He wasn't really someone I'd have considered dating if I didn't already know about it, but it was still eerie to run into his profile.
posted by Sara C. at 1:56 PM on May 18, 2011

I've been Googled by a potential date on OKC. Without even acknowledging that they'd Googled me, they asked me some questions about a few articles I'd written a couple of years previously for my college newspaper. I was very icked out by it and didn't continue the correspondence. We had only emailed back and forth a few times by that point, and we'd never met in person. If they would've at least admitted they'd Google-stalked me, I would've been slightly less creeped out, but still somewhat annoyed.

(I do want to point out that this was about 4 years ago - I'm now married and no longer part of the dating scene. Maybe things have gotten more lax with regards to Google-stalking.)
posted by pecanpies at 1:57 PM on May 18, 2011

"If you Google your dates before meeting through online sites, how do you handle the knowing the answers to the mundane areas of their life before being told?"

If I did that it would probably end up similar to this type of situation:

COP: Jim Smith is dead.
SUSPECT: I didn't drown him!
COP: Who said anything about drowning?

Also, all the other reasons people mentioned for not doing it.
posted by Room 641-A at 2:00 PM on May 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

Sorry, clicked post too soon. Anyways, my advice is simply to keep Google-stalking to a minimum. Respect their privacy (or the illusion of privacy - I suppose that's all the internet's left us with). And if you're going to Google-stalk, keep the results of your sleuthing to yourself. Don't volunteer that information.
posted by pecanpies at 2:00 PM on May 18, 2011

Kind of surprised at the advice to "not Google." Of course you Google! You just acknowledge it up front. Even if you don't google, they're still going to think you did. A million years ago when I was dating we always had a laugh about googling each other. And it was nice: it meant that they liked you *even more* because you passed the Google test, too.
posted by Mo Nickels at 2:04 PM on May 18, 2011 [2 favorites]

Ok, just this: I thought I was unique until a guy I'd met tried to add me on facebook. He googled me. He found my correct resume, but the wrong facebook. We were communicating through texts and somehow it never came up that he'd added me, or that some things didn't line up - he thought I was just eccentric!

There is a girl out there with my same name, who looks enough like me that if you met me in a club where it was dark you could think...well that's not exactly what I remember, but that's got to be her. She has the same major as me, the same interests as me, she writes a bit like I do. It's creepy. So, he thought he knew all about me, we meet for the date, and he realizes that I'm not that girl. The date ends awkwardly.

{that girl and I are now friends, because this happens a lot}
posted by nile_red at 2:05 PM on May 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

Should I avoid Googling people before we meet?If so, should I just ask these potential dates point blank whether they are porn fiends or religious fanatics?

You'll be more likely to find out this information by reading their OKCupid profiles along with their answers to the muliple-choice questions on OKCupid, than by Googling them.

Religion (including level of devoutness) is given in the "details" section of the profile. I would assume if someone is a religious fanatic, they'll be very eager to mention this all over their profile. Religious fanatics generally aren't shy about their beliefs.

Does everyone publicly admit if they're obsessed with porn? Of course not, but if they don't admit it on OKCupid (which has many multiple-choice questions about porn use), they probably haven't admitted it on a Google-able webpage.

Some people think it's unacceptable to Google someone before a first date. Other people are fine with it. So your answers will be all over the map. (There have been past threads about this.)

One of the comments in this thread said reading your date's blog is "over the line." Huh? Anyone with a public blog is essentially asking for it to be read by the world!

I've been on a first date where I mentioned some fact about myself and she immediately said: "I know, I Googled you." Didn't bother me. If I didn't want the general public to know the information, I wouldn't have put it online. She was just doing some basic research about someone she was interested in -- me. That's very flattering and perfectly normal from my point of view, but obviously many people disagree with me. (Data point: I'm a 30-year-old man living in New York City. The idea that women should be so deferential to my privacy as not to read my blog, despite their own concerns about security and not wanting to waste both of our time, strikes me as odd.)

As I see it, you have basically three options:

1. Don't Google them at all. Problem solved!

2. Google them, but only briefly -- just enough to satisfy your curiosity and check that nothing horrible about them comes up at the top of the results, but not so much that you'll find yourself anticipating their answers to all your questions.

3. Google them all you want and don't bother to hide it if it comes up. Hopefully they won't be bothered. There's a chance they might be, but that's life; move on.
posted by John Cohen at 2:13 PM on May 18, 2011

I think a certain amount of google-stalking ahead of an internet date is okay. If a friend wanted to set you up with someone, you'd ask the friend questions like 'what does he do? is he from around here? what's he into?' before you said yes. If the internet wants to set you up with someone, the internet should be allowed to answer those same questions.

Deleted private journals that happen to have google caches, however, are a little far over the line.

I do think, though, that if you need Google to give you the basic information about someone, you might be better to spend a little time chatting with them online before meeting them in public. It doesn't need to be a weeks long email courtship, but if you don't at least have a sense of who the person is before the date, the date seems a little rushed. I know there are people who seriously disagree with this and move from email to date in as short of a time as possible, but I've always just let those ones go -- I'd rather feel a little more comfortable before meeting up with someone.
posted by jacquilynne at 2:17 PM on May 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'm a 23 year old woman, so maybe this is a generational thing, but I always Google people before I meet them, making sure to keep an open mind about it for the reasons others have said. I've also been on multiple dates where the other person admitted to Googling me beforehand, and the conversation usually goes something like this:

Date: I know this is kind of weird, but I googled you, and I just wanted to say I really loved reading your travel blog!
Me: Haha, thanks, it was fun to write. I googled you too, but didn't find much besides where I assume you went to college. No double axe murders, or at least none where you got caught, which was really all I wanted to know.
Date: Of course. Yeah, I'm pretty private on the Internet. But hey, I especially liked that post about Bosnia. Can you tell me more about it?

I would find any other state of affairs utterly bizarre. If you can Google me, why wouldn't you? Maybe dropping the Google-bomb on a date is a good way to find out about people's ideas of Internet privacy...
posted by besonders at 2:18 PM on May 18, 2011 [4 favorites]

If you email a few times back and forth, you can get an email out of the person.

As suggested I also googled my phone number and a couple of usernames as well as my email and I pity you if you are trying to get information about me that way. I'm no fool. Maybe I'm just the exception to the rule and google returns accurate results for other people's common names, but there are so many people in this world and so many similar people that google-stalking doesn't seem worth the risk to me. Anyhow, my experiments indicate to me that the information that you get from a google search even with a variety of operators including large cities and poorly-thought-our usernames nets more noise than signal.

P.S. I never let my football career get in the way of my consulting or jazz playing.
posted by fuq at 2:21 PM on May 18, 2011

Whether you Google them or not, I'd NOT say right off, "I read everything I could find about you on the Internet." It kind of cuts the conversational buzz and makes things a little awkward to find that out, for one. For two, their point of view on things might be different from what you read (and yes, it's a good lie detector moment too if you're worried about that). And for three, as others have mentioned, you may not have read up on the right Joe Smith there.

I don't remember who I know IRL who's read any of my websites, but on the rare occasion when one of those people is all, "I know, I already read that on your website," it kind of cuts the conversation dead for me there. That seems like something that would be especially awkward to do on a first date.
posted by jenfullmoon at 2:27 PM on May 18, 2011

I did some online dating a while back and discovered through google that a couple of men I was considering were older than they claimed, and a couple of others were married. I dropped them.
posted by mareli at 2:33 PM on May 18, 2011

I'm in favor of googling potential dates. My aunt didn't do that and managed to go out on a date with a convicted murderer. (She's fine, but was really freaked out.)
posted by Logic Sheep at 2:41 PM on May 18, 2011

Just do some basic Google-searching and then be upfront about it when you meet your date. "So, I looked you up - I know, I know, but internet dating, you know? - and I saw that you're [something really obvious you can make lighthearted conversation with that came up early in search results so it doesn't look like you're an obsessive weirdo]." Because your date has likely Googled you, too. It's only weird if you're weird about it.
posted by katillathehun at 2:49 PM on May 18, 2011

Saying it's creepy is ridiculous to me because I Google tons of inconsequential shit all the time and knowing who I may going out with is way more important than most of the crap I look up.

However, I have given up the habit, too, just exactly because of the questions you raise here. I always felt super uncomfortable pretending I didn't Google. Then I asked questions I already knew the answer to so that it looked like I didn't Google. Then I felt even more uncomfortable because when I ask something I know the answer to, it's basically lying, and it's not cool to have told 23 lies within the first hour of knowing obviously couldn't handle the Google.

With that said, I did find the name of one guy I dated listed on a website as an alias for a sex offender. When I clicked on the profile, the picture was funny. It looked sort of like him but different. When I asked him about it, he said it was his brother. His brother had used his name as an alias. This did make sense. I wished I had never Googled then, because I was so shocked initially. That guy did end up being a creep, though, so I guess I could say Google did warn me that he at least had a shady family.
posted by amodelcitizen at 3:20 PM on May 18, 2011 [2 favorites]

The idea of going out with someone you've met online but never seen and don't know from Adam, and then preferring to know less, rather than more about that person just boggles my mind. Even if it is because you might want the excitement of discovery, or you think it's rude to read what they wrote on the internet, or you think they might be offended that you looked them up, it still doesn't make sense; that person put their information online by choice, to be looked at! (Google might be a poor substitute for a mutual friend, but it beats nothing.)
posted by Anitanola at 3:42 PM on May 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

Someone did this to me and he was up front about it. Though I was a little taken aback in the moment, it was okay. "So I read that you did postgrad at X in X..." It kind of felt like someone doing their homework before an interview. I'm flattered when people are prepared and have gone to the trouble to make questions specific rather than generic. And I love it when people don't waste my time in subterfuge.

Nothing is out there I don't want out there anyway; so why pretend that we don't live in a time when we know that people regularly do google searches,? Or that we don't know that checking up can protect us from scary or unsuitable people?

Maybe it's a bit "extra" as the kids say, but it's better than the dumb dance of "So, what do you do?...Tell me about yourself... ad nauseum. Then you can get to more real, interesting conversation than just selling your surface self.
posted by ofelia at 4:49 PM on May 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

I am also in the camp that doesn't really understand the "creepy" reaction. It's google. Of course you use it! Yes, you have to filter the accuracy and relevance of the results, but it seems like a good idea to me. After all, the other party can google you too, if they like. You're not necessarily creating an information imbalance-- if you met them online, they have internet access, so the special google magic is not an ability that only you have. I too prefer to operate from a position of knowing more rather than knowing less, and I have no problem whatsoever with the other party doing the same.

Well, I shouldn't be speaking in present tense, really. But when I was dating, these were my thoughts on the matter.
posted by Because at 5:13 PM on May 18, 2011

I think it's reasonable to google someone you're considering going out with, but I wouldn't bring it up in conversation with them. I agree with people upthread who suggest not asking questions you know the answer to, or seeing if the other person brings things up and they match.

I would probably expect a prospective date to google me if I were currently looking for internet dates, which I'm not—as others have said, I wouldn't put things on the internet under my own name if I didn't want them to be seen. I wouldn't mind and might even like if someone looked at these posts/profiles/whatever because they are things I want to be associated with (jobs, petitions for causes I support, a poem I made that looks like a giraffe, etc).

I have engaged in a bit of googling prospective dates in the past. Like Mareli, I found it off-putting when one lied about his age—enough so I didn't want to go out with him, in fact, because he was something like twelve years older than I was instead of six, which is a pretty big thing to lie about.
posted by mlle valentine at 5:33 PM on May 18, 2011

I think you do yourself a disservice when you use the internet to do anything other than find out basic information about the person. Once on a craigslist-date, the woman told me she had googled me and wanted to know why I was being arrested and put into a police car. (The picture showed up under my name because I was the journalist who wrote the bank robber story and TOOK the picture of the guy being put into the cop car.) Needless to say, she didn't get a second date.
posted by Happydaz at 7:53 PM on May 18, 2011

This is 2011, folks. People put up more about themselves that Google + Facebook will find in five minutes than the mundane conversation. Also, it has a proving sheen to things - unless he lies about being 35 in both places, of course.

The thrill of dating used to be about learning about the person; personally, I'd prefer the experience with that person over asking them about their alma mater. Haven't we reached the point where it's sort of assumed you Google someone?

Then again, being a blogger and a very heavy internet user, I'm sort of used to being 'out there'. Some elements of my life are still private and personal, of course; if someone's going to look, they'll have no problem finding me.
posted by chrisinseoul at 7:54 PM on May 18, 2011

Hmmm... if you were to google my real name, you'd find about a kazillion links to a guy trying to sell a "how to get rich on the internet" scheme. That is not me.
posted by Diag at 8:17 PM on May 18, 2011

I don't Google potential dates. Facebook, maybe, but not Google.

Shit... maybe I should hide my old angsty Blogger and MySpace blogs.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 10:16 PM on May 18, 2011

Talk about the internet as if it's a mutual friend that fixed you up and shared the basic facts.

"so, Google says that you used to live in Ann Arbor. What's that like in a college town when you're not actually associated with the college? or were you?"

At the same time, if a gossipy roommate was sending me on a date with somebody and told me waaaay more than I needed to know, I'd probably just avoid mentioning it. I've never been creeped out by people knowing my basic info from online, but when someone has clearly read and remembered a lot of a blog I wrote years ago, it makes me worry that this person is obsessive and/or sneaky, and has somehow managed to find information about me that I didn't even know was out there including the time I got in trouble in 8th grade and totally lied to my mom about it and nobody knows but me and the middle school filing cabinet, OMG, I can't trust this person with my secrets, get me out of here!!

If you feel that the depth of your search has gotten out of hand, and you've seen all his vacation photos of Italy already, including the ex-girlfriend, just keep your mouth shut. You can ask, "Do you do much traveling?" or "Where have you been in Europe?" or "If you had the choice between going somewhere historical and somewhere busy and modern, which would you choose?" because those aren't things you actually know the answers to, even if you know he once went to Rome. This is also good cover: by the next date, it's much less weird that you've seen photos of him in Italy; he told you about it, so you could presumably have found them with less-obsessive google skills.
posted by aimedwander at 7:23 AM on May 19, 2011

I would just ask the getting to know you questions anyway, even if you know some of the answers, because that's what you do on a first date. Similarly, I always introduce myself to people and ask their names when meeting them, even if it's a situation where we're wearing nametags, because I don't know how else to start a conversation with a stranger.
posted by Ragged Richard at 8:48 AM on May 19, 2011

Oh, easy. I was once a googler kind of person, and I still came across as totally normal.

1) Pretend you didn't google it. Feign surprise or, more genuinely, delight that they are telling you this fact about him/her self. Why a person tells you something is often much more interesting than the something itself.

2) If it's something you knew, follow-up: "Huh! I'd like to hear more about that."
posted by nicodine at 12:31 PM on May 19, 2011

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