It’s natural to want to learn about the person you’re planning to meet for that first date. Perhaps the first thing on your mind is a prudent concern for security, whether you’re a man or a woman.
Yet there are other reasons you may want to do a Google search of your potential ideal partner before heading out on that first date. There are also some pitfalls.
Should I Investigate My Online Dating Match Before We Meet?
If after considering the pros and cons you decide that a pre-date investigation is in order, we offer a few tips to streamline the process for you and make it easy.
Reasons to Do a Background Search of Prospective First Dates
There are some compelling reasons to learn more about your next date prior to meeting them.
We all want to feel safe on that first date. As a man in my late 50’s returning to the dating scene, I certainly had less to be anxious about than a woman. Yet I’ve encountered a few troubled women over the years, and I didn’t want that to be part of my re-entry to the world of dating.
Things to talk about
It helps to have a few things to talk about on that first date. A little preliminary research can provide some topics to discuss based on shared interests.
A bit of research will reveal if their dating profiles are truthful. For instance, if their profile says they’re a doctor but their social media profiles shows them to be a teacher, move on.
I had one date who said she was interested in a few specific things on her profile. Then she lied about it in person claiming no such thing was in her profile. I hadn’t done any pre-date research. But if I had and it turned up a mis-representation, I would never have agreed to a date.
Find out if they’re married
This came as a shock to me when I started dating again, but apparently married people like to use dating sites, too. Some quick background research will likely reveal this blatant lie.
Whether you’re dating to find a partner or dating to have fun, you don’t want to date a married person. That’s what’s known as an “affair” and it leads to nothing but trouble.
Granted, you might run across people who are separated with plans to divorce. That’s a different story and it might be ok.
Eliminate major red flags in dating
For example, a social profile with pictures of your prospective date drinking in every photo might be a red flag. I say “might” because you don’t necessarily want to judge until you get the full story.
News stories about them being arrested and jailed could be troublesome, too. It could be a sign they have some unresolved issues.
Reasons NOT to Do Research Before Your First Date
All of which brings us to the flip side. There are also some pitfalls to avoid when you start doing a little pre-date research.
If you have a somewhat obsessive nature, you might find yourself spending too much time going down the digital rabbit hole. If so, we have some tips later in the article to prevent that.
Potential to reject good candidates
A person’s digital presence is not a complete representation of who they are. We humans are too complex to be understood fully via the internet.
Because internet files seemingly live on forever, a negative story might be from their distant past. For example, people with troubled childhoods frequently grow up to be successful, happy, well-adjusted adults. And they might be a good match for you. But you’ll never meet if you reject them based on one item you found online.
Don’t make assumptions about things that could be ambiguous. For instance, if the woman has a bunch of photos of her with different guys, don’t assume they’re all exes or that she’s playing the field. They could be her brothers, cousins, friends, or co-workers at a company gathering.
Sensible use of information
Always use common sense. Remember that this information is about another human being. They deserve respect, privacy, and dignity.
Let’s say you do a lot of research and you let that fact slip during the date. It can make your date uneasy.
Think about it. How would you feel sitting across the table from someone who knew all kinds of things about you, yet you knew almost nothing about them except for what’s on their dating profile? It borders on the creepy.
So, if you do a lot of research, keep it to yourself for the first couple of dates. Get to know them in real life.
On the flip side, if your date is talking heavily about social media, or she says she did some research, you might ease into some of what you did.
Is Pre-Date Research Worth All the Trouble?
Ultimately, you’ll make the final determination on this. However, quite a few men and women found that pre-date research sways their decisions one way or the other.
“According an April 2017 survey of Hinge users, 89 percent of respondents reported “researching” their matches online prior to going on a date.”
They go on to say that 52% of the women found something that swayed them TO go out with a match, and 61% found something that persuaded them NOT to go out with a match.
The percentages for men were just a few points lower for each.
So yes, you can certainly find information that will push your decision one way or the other.
The Smart Dating Approach – Tips on Researching First Dates Later in Life
I see people approach dating in two ways, as shown below.
There is the Quick Dating Path, which seems to be how younger people under forty prefer to date. It’s all about the action. Meet briefly online, then date.
Then there’s the Smart Dating Path for more mature people who aren’t looking for that quick fix. The point of dating is to get to know someone. And pre-date research like we’re discussing can help the process along.
The “smart dating” path is how it went when I met Daisy.
First, a few messages on the dating website. Then when Daisy was comfortable, we moved on to exchange emails. Next, we had a phone conversation. Finally, we met for the first date.
It was natural, comfortable, and exciting as we moved from one step to the next, with Daisy taking the lead on when to reveal information. I certainly didn’t feel deprived by not going immediately to the first date.
These days, dating sites also offer a video dating feature to add to your pre-date research. I wish that had been available when I was dating, although I doubt it would have made a difference with how I viewed Daisy.
Another reason to take the slower path is that you don’t necessarily want to give out your full name until you feel comfortable. That’s hard to do if you go right to the first date.
Is pre-date research necessary?
Anyone, any age, can date in any manner that suits them.
But if you’re just getting back into dating later in life, it’s wise to use some smart dating techniques.
A little bit of research can offer a lot of comfort. It can actually make that first date go better. And one or two good dates will make you feel pretty good about yourself and your new dating adventure.
Here are a few common-sense tips that will help your dating research.
Set a time limit
Give yourself a limited, fixed time for each “research” project. When the time’s up, that’s it! You don’t want to waste any of your valuable time when you could be having fun on a date instead.
Use a list
Have a checklist of sites, or a methodology that you’ll use for your research and run through it the same way every time.
I’d suggest Google first—it’s the most comprehensive search engine and it might save a bit of time. If your potential date is active on other social media sites, this will appear on Google, which will speed up your search.
Some of the most common sites to search are LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest.
Use Google image search
With online dating apps you won’t necessarily know the name of your potential date unless your date provides it. That’s for obvious security reasons.
(And men, please don’t ask women for their full names at the start. They will volunteer it when they are ready. I believe I offered up my full name first so that Daisy could do research and get comfortable with me prior to the date. It’s a good-faith action that will inspire trust.)
Yet if you want to start with some research without their name, there is a way to do it.
- If possible, download one or two photos of your “subject” or get the URL’s to a photo or two.
- Go to Google Images
- Click on the camera icon to “search by image.” (first image below)
- Click on “Paste Image URL” or “Upload an image.” (second image)
The search results will list web pages with that image on it, if there are any.
Which leads me to my next tip.
Use unique images in your dating profile
If you want to retain some privacy and anonymity, don’t use images in your dating profile that appear anywhere else. Otherwise they can be found, as we just showed you.
Keep an open mind
Unless you find compelling evidence that someone isn’t right for you, or that they’re downright dangerous, keep an open mind.
Dating is a process. Research is just an initial step in what you hope will turn into a long-term and fun series of dates. During those dates you’ll learn a lot more about your potential partner.
Remember too, that some people might not have any digital presence, by design. That’s not a negative sign.
Final Thoughts on Dating Research
The purpose of online dating apps is to match you up with an ideal series of dates, perhaps leading to your ideal partner.
The fun and beauty of a new relationship is in letting it unfold naturally, without digital intervention, and in person. If it suits you, do a little bit of pre-date research and use common sense and courtesy with the knowledge you gain.
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