Picture this: you are sitting at dinner with a guy you met on Tinder a couple days prior. On the app he introduced himself as Matt, gave you his number to text him, and his profile links out to his Instagram page. In the few days spent texting and making plans to meet up, you have also done a little bit of background research. It first started with a brief scroll through his recent Insta photos, then a quick Google search (just to make sure he’s not an escaped convict). Before you know it, you’ve got Matt figured out: you know he likes a good IPA from his photos (caption: “Grabbing a beer at Brooklyn Brewery!”), that he has questionable political leanings from his Twitter (RT @ScottWalker: “The founders did not declare their independence from one big government only to create another” http://sw.gop/z -STAFF #FourthofJuly”) and that he has decent (but not entirely groundbreaking) taste in music from his Spotify (Mumford & Sons new album most recently played, really!?). Now, you’re sitting across from him; it’s at this point you’re supposed to start getting to know Matt, but your perception is clouded.
Whether we like to admit or not, if you’re single and dating online, you’ve probably done this background check at least once (if not every time you go on a date with someone new). This tendency is partly motivated by safety, partly by curiosity, but is it necessarily a good thing? And how much “stalking” is too much stalking? One thing is certain: the “blind dates” and set ups common to 90s dating culture are a rarity now. With a couple pieces of distinguishing information, a person’s entire internet identity is up for grabs before we even make it to the handshake.
A clip from You’ve Got Mail, when blind dates were still blind and dial up was how we connected to the World Wide Web
Now a little disclaimer about this paragraph before you continue reading: it wasn’t in my original draft for this post. While I was touching on broad concepts, my editors (Aditi and my roommate, Phoebe) pointed out that I didn’t delve into my own experiences. I thought for a second about why this was and then realized: I had sent the URL for this blog to a guy as soon as we launched. We’ve gone out on a couple dates, and I was nervous about him reading this post and thinking of me differently; an honest and raw version of myself online (rather than my well-curated Instagram feed).
When you’re filtering someone’s offline personality through what you’ve already learned about them online, you’re not letting them give you the full picture. Truth be told, I make these judgment calls in my dating life all the time: I regularly look up guys online before meeting them, then jump to conclusions and fill in the blanks before I even hear their story. Lately I have been trying to remind myself that this is only one part of who we are; it is the polished, uncomplicated part of our very complex, IRL selves.
While I support searching for someone to make sure you don’t end up on the next episode of Catfish, avoid the temptation to dig any further than you have to (stick to a cursory glimpse at their LinkedIn or Facebook profile, and that’s it). We won’t hit it off with every Tinder match, but keeping our “blind dates” as blind as possible maintains a bit of the spontaneity and excitement we’ve lost in the digital age of romance… and who knows how many potential relationships were ruined because of a snap judgment made about one too many brunch pics?