It’s the 21st Century, ladies. Gone are the days of safe dating – when Sally knew she could trust Johnny, because he grew up just down the street. She knew the cheerleader who stole his first kiss, she knew his mom used to call him Little Winkie, she remembered when he broke his leg scoring the winning touchdown. And Johnny better behave, lest word of unsolicited fondling got back to his father, Butcher Pete.
These days, women are more likely to have broken away from the small-town bubble, and thus, open themselves to a much larger, more mysterious dating network. And since Dateline has programmed the modern woman to believe every stranger is out to axe her and bury her under his patio deck, she’s forced to take precautions.
Luckily, Sally now has a tool that turns this seven-continent, 6,800-language world into her very own small town. It’s called Google. Little Johnny can run, but he can’t hide.
In Hannah’s recent poll, the jury seems to be split on the merits of pre-screening a date. While 50% of you think it’s a good idea to graze his public records before setting foot into his car, the other 50% of you think it’s best to leave it a mystery. After all, if you already knew he rowed crew in college, what the hell would you have to talk about?
As for me, I’m of split opinion as well. My Google-sleuthing has become so good that I once dug up a friend’s illegitimate sibling with only a ballpark knowledge of his birth year. But I’ll be the first to say that this craftiness isn’t always a good thing.
See, with a world of information at one’s fingertips, it isn’t easy to stop at a criminal background check. I once Googled a guy before meeting him for coffee, and walked into the java joint fully briefed on whom he’d previously slept with, pet names he used with his ex-girlfriend, and prescription drugs he was taking (FYI: disclosing your full name and profession in forums isn’t too smart). I walked into a first date already the jealous, embittered, concerned-for-his-foot-fungus woman that a six-month relationship would have produced. Though I tried to feign ignorance, it couldn’t go any further than coffee.
While Googling a date shows the kind of common sense that would make your mother proud, too detailed a search could suck the spark right out of the whole encounter. My recommendation: perform a “surface” search before the first date – skim the search hits, check out social network profiles, but don’t read wall posts older than August 2010. If the date blossoms into something more, there’ll be plenty of time for extracurricular snooping. But nosy broads beware: we all have our checkered pasts, and some things are best left uncovered.
Jenni Perez authored the 2008-2009 edition of the popular sex issues column, “The Wednesday Hump,” in UC Santa Barbara’s Daily Nexus. Her leap from writing about early twenties dating angst to late twenties relationship anxiety is a natural fit.