Googling Your Date

Friday, June 08th, 2012

Magnifying glass held over a website address and a figurine of man
With Facebook, LinkedIn and hundreds of other social networking sites around it’s easier than ever before to do some ‘detective work’ on a potential date before meeting them, but how do you go about it and how moral is it to do so?

At Muddy Matches we don’t take a strong view as to whether you should or shouldn’t look someone up online, so we’ve outlined the pros and cons below for you to make your own decision.

The most important thing to remember is that it is possible to find out about people online with just a few details, so we’ve also included a few tips for how to protect your own online identity.

How to find out more about your date

We’re not talking about how to become private detectives here, more about how to have a quick nosey around the internet to find out more about someone.

The most obvious place to start is by typing someone’s full name, their email address or their phone number into a search engine. However, if you know a combination of facts about someone you can look them up online without knowing their full name or email address. For example if you know that your date is called Sarah, lives in Chippenham and is helping out at the local barn dance you might be able to find out more.

So what are the pros and cons of Googling someone?

Pros

  • An extra level of security– At Muddy Matches we vet all of our profiles and members can report any concerns that they may have. However, if you’re unsure about someone it can be helpful to have a look online to see if what they’re telling you matches with what they’ve said elsewhere. Trust your instincts and if you really feel that something is amiss, don’t arrange to meet them.
  • Social connections-When you first arrange to meet with someone it can be reassuring to know that you have friends in common; so it can be helpful to find out that your date is a friend of a friend on Facebook or another social networking site.
  • Curiosity- Let’s face it, sometimes nosiness (let’s just called it curiosity), gets the better of you and you can’t resist finding out more about someone.

Cons

While it’s easy to look someone up online, and as we’ve discussed there are reasons why you might want to do so, it’s also important to consider that there can also be a negative side to Googling someone.

  • You can look like a bit of a stalker- It’s likely to scare your date if you admit to having spent hours looking at their information online and it’s surprisingly tricky not to accidentally reveal your findings when you meet face-to-face. It’d be hard to explain how you know that they’d got their dad’s tractor stuck in a ditch when they were 15 if they’d never mentioned it on their dating profile.
  • You might have looked up the wrong person- If your date happens to have a common name the chances are that there is more than one person with their name in their area. For example, you don’t want to reject a perfectly innocent John Smith just because another John Smith is a wanted man.
  • You’ll head off on your date with preconceptions– It’s easy to make assumptions about someone by piecing together oddments of information you’ve found online and jumping to conclusions. For example, you might think that you’ve found a picture of your date and his ‘gorgeous ex-girlfriend’ on Facebook, when it’s actually a picture of him and his sister at a family party.
  • People may not update their details– With social media, there’s always a new trend, and therefore old profiles can lie dormant. Your date’s information may say ‘in a relationship’ or say that they work somewhere different to what they’ve told you, but that could be because they haven’t logged onto a particular site in years.

How to protect your own details online

Knowing how easy it is to find out information about others online, it’s important to check what other people can find out about you!

Try Googling yourself without being signed into any of your accounts. If you can easily find your own address, your phone number and what you bought for lunch… it’s time to increase your security settings. All of the major social networking sites, including Facebook and LinkedIn allow you to set your privacy settings so that only people you know can see your details.

Also, be careful posting your details on sites such as Gumtree and Freeads, as your name and contact details can be on the website for years, even if you sold your sofa five years ago. Most sites allow you to contact other members through a private messaging service, which allows you to hide your personal details.

Once you have got to know someone through online messaging you will want to exchange details to arrange to meet up. Here are some suggestions of how to keep your details safe until you’ve met someone and found out that you want to stay in touch:

  • Set up an email account just for dating- Set up a free account with an email address that doesn’t contain your full name or date of birth, and don’t use it for anything else apart from online dating.
  • Think about what phone number you’re going to give out- Don’t give out your work mobile number which is linked to your work address and other information about yourself. Only give out a number that you could easily change if you’re getting unwanted calls.

Join the discussion on Facebook to find out what other members think about Googling someone before going on a date with them.