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In an article that ran earlier this week, Glamour writer Samantha Henig makes a compelling argument for not Googling your dates.
"The more you learn about someone, the harsher you may judge him," Henig (sagely) writes. Not to mention the fact that the more you learn about someone (creepily, by your own endeavor), the weirder your interactions become, the more unbalanced your burgeoning relationship is in terms of information flow, the harder you have to work to keep straight the things you know about someone legitimately vs. the things you know about someone simply because you read the backlog of their Tumblr.
On top of that, Googling someone can provide you with a false idea of who they actually are. When you base your entire assumption of a person off of a few Google results, the impression you get is so unlikely to be representative of what the person is like face-to-face, or more importantly, what your chemistry is like.
Much better, much smarter, much safer, to keep away from Google, and learn about them the old-fashioned way: through conversation.
So, yes, Googling your dates is a bad idea. Very very bad. Don't do it!
(...Are you still going to do it? Yeppppp, me too. Here are some tips on how to Google-stalk your dates like a mother-effing pro.)
1. Google Your Date + College They Attended
If googling your date's name results in thousands of hits for "Brad Smith," and you're just looking for dirt on the right Brad Smith, try searching their name with the college they attended. It'll be easier to make sure that you've got the right guy, plus you might get all kinds of vintage goodies: sports teams they played on, radical political groups they were affiliated with, quotes in their college newspaper ("Brad Smith, a sophomore, also thinks the tuition hike is excessive..."), fraternities they were in which got discredited due to unscrupulous hazing practices...
2. Google Their Username
If you met your date online, try Googling their username. A satisfying username takes forever to come up with, so a lot of people have a username that they use for everything from online dating sites to comment boards to Yelp to basically anything they don't want to have show up on a Google Search of their name. (HA, as if that would stop you from finding it.)
3. Don't Open Directly From Google
If they have a website or blog, don't open it directly from Google, but rather copy the URL into a different tab.
Because some people have traffic trackers, and some people are self-obsessed enough to frequently check their stats, and see the search terms that have led to their site, and see that somebody's been Googling them.
And, yeah, that's not the most damning thing in the world. But if you work at a big corporation and are searching from work, then the name of your company could show up on the ISP. Or if you live in a particular neighborhood, sometimes that shows up. Anyway, my point is, if you can avoid having someone even suspect that you've been Googling them, might as well.
4. Don't Google More Than 2 Pages Deep
I know I literally just suggested Googling someone's username so that you can read, like, the oeuvre that is their Gawker Comments, but that is probably overkill for a first date. If you're in the early stages of getting to know someone, there is really no reason to go more than 2 Google pages deep, as bloodthirsty for knowledge as you may be. A cursory look at their Twitter, blog, work associations, and any other hits that would come up on the first or second page is permissible. Thoroughly investigating every single place their name appears on the internet is overkill. (Just to be clear: I have absolutely done this.)
5. Erase Your History
Seriously, the last thing you want is for someone to see "Brad Smith" come up on auto-fill next time you're searching "Breaking Bad season premiere."