By Meredith Dietz

How much pre-date online ‘stalking’ is acceptable? My interview with Lifehacker Australia clarifies difference between staying safe and being creepy: #onlinestalking #googlesearch #onlinedating

Meredith writes, “Part of the reason that Hinge is my favourite dating app is the ability for people to really show some of their personality in their profile prompts. In addition to basic safety and vibe concerns, it’s useful to have a jumping off point for small talk about each other’s interests. Similarly, I’ve argued before why Twitter can work well as a dating app — even though that’s not always the case. Currently there is a stranger who slammed head-first into my Twitter DMs by telling (not asking) me to go get drinks with him. His argument is that we should “get to know each other in person” over “small talk” online. I responded that what he sees as “small talk” is what I see as “basic politeness,” as well as a way to sense whether or not he plans to chop me up into little pieces (which is always a non-zero chance, people). Also: Yes, I’m single, please pick your jaws up off the floor.

The “blind date” is dead. We live in a time where if I can find out your name, then I can find out what year you graduated, what your sense of humour is like, and maybe even how tall you really are. Given the ability to do some “light stalking” (more on that term in a second), why hold myself back? As long as you exercise some self-control, it makes sense that you’d use the digital tools at your disposal to ensure your potential date doesn’t have any major deal breakers.

Although I’m an advocate for looking people up before you date them, you don’t want to sabotage a relationship with too much information too soon. So, what should you know about researching a date online before meeting up in person? I casually tweeted this question to my fan base network and did research of my own to bring you some clarity.

Stay safe from stranger danger

The most obvious reason for a quick Google search of your date’s name is to get a general idea of who they are before you meet them. After that first date, you might Google some more, because at this point, you’re making sure they are, in fact, who they claim to be. In an interview with INSIDER, relationship expert Susan Winter said people should “not feel ashamed if they’ve [Googled their date], because it’s fairly common. And it becomes a more common practice once you actually like a person after the first date…You want to fact-check.”

Besides, cursory stalking is a basic expectation for modern interactions, romantic or not. In response to my tweet, author Nikki Haverstock (@RancherNikki) shared that “A quick google seems like a good safety protocol, but I wouldn’t call that stalking. When I take a class I will often do the same for my teacher so I have an idea of their experiences. Many of my writing/coaching clients do the same to me.”

I know that background checks don’t sound romantic. Know what else isn’t romantic? Going on a date with a catfish. Or a racist. Or your cousin. You get the idea.”

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