“Well, there’s a whole photo series of him hanging out with 20-year-old girls, and I think I saw an Ed Hardy t-shirt somewhere on there. Oh and he has at least two posts waxing poetic about the frustrations of HTML so…”
This, ladies and…ladies, is a perfect example of the type of fodder I hear all the time from my girlfriends when they are being set up, have just met someone, or are potentially interested in a friend of a friend (of a friend). It’s the hubbub of pre-screening that occurs on the world wide web long before we’ve sat down and had a real conversation/slice of pizza with the person.
Now, it’s usually mix of good and bad things—we tend to piecemeal these internet-available facts about men into a Frankenstein who represents either our ideal (“She is soooo good with kids!”) or our worst fear (“Ok has he really tweeted thrice about Star Wars in the last week??!”). It’s not even that we are vain or shallow. I think it’s in human nature to sort information into categories and schemas, and on some levels, I find this research totally innocent. You just want a little dirt. You’re piecing together some data; you’re a part time detective, and, dammit are you good with google images—so what’s the big deal?
Don’t get me wrong, vetting potential set-ups can be a good precaution (hello, Catfish), but I guess only if you can honestly put aside those judgement calls when you do meet the person. And let’s all admit it, this can be really hard. We’re a snap-judgement group, and first impressions leave their…well, impression. And mostly it’s a lasting one. I am obviously a part of the problem; I’ve done this too many times to count. It’s almost too tempting not to: we have Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and the entire world wide web at our fingertips. I’ve even stooped to LinkedIn. I know; I should be ashamed.
I even sank as low as to come up with a name for it: dude diligence.
And wouldn’t you know it? Every time I came to a conclusion about a guy I was being set up with or who had gotten my number, I almost could never shake it. Even if it was just a tiny part of who he is or was, even if there was a perfectly good explanation for those questionable profile pics. Just last week, amidst talks of a potential set-up, I heard myself say (as a reason not to go out with him), “Sorry, his Facebook profile just gives me the creeps.” And somewhere all of my female ancestors had just slapped their palms to their foreheads in frustration.
But what really gets to me is considering what someone could dig up on me from a google search. Sure, some facts would be right on (Yes, I make puns. That much. Always.) But the available info online certainly wouldn’t tell the whole story. Like my heart, or spiritual beliefs, or love of cooking (ok that one’d be taken care of on Instagram, who am I kidding?) As we all know, we’re complex beings made up of many parts—some conflicting, some outstanding, some NSFW. They’re parts that can’t be taken without knowledge and appreciation of the whole person.
So what am I saying? I say we cut everyone some slack. At least online. At least until you’ve sat across from them and heard them out, listened to their stories, and saw the human element that connects us on at least some level. Maybe go as far as to allow yourself an actual blind date—no internet snooping beforehand, no screening or scheming. Then, by all means! Feel free to dump him, not call him back, or decide he’s not for you (he’s actually your friend Nichole’s type!) But as my friend Clare would say, we’re all kind of a mess. And we all choose someone where they are, not as we idealize them or villainize them. And perhaps that’s the beauty of loving someone.
So, I’m curious, do you ladies have any blind date rules? How much information gathering do you do before a date? Do you think this helps or hurts in the dating world? Do men do it too? (Methinks the answer here is yes.) Talk to me.