Wednesday, 15 June 2011

In which Googlestalking is not okay

In a recent, somewhat baffling, tweet, Debrett’s, the last word in all things impeccably mannered, said the following:

If you're going on a blind date, quiz the matchmaker and use social networking sites to gather advance information.

Um, you what now?

(As an aside, this vexes me. Heads up, Debrett’s folk: this isn’t what we’ve loved you for over the years. We’re perfectly capable of having a one night stand – we don’t need to be told how to do it in an socially acceptable fashion (as one of your more recent volumes outlines). But it’s conceivable that, actually, we might want to brush up on quite what the deal is when you’re invited to grand dinners at posh military regiments, or exactly how to address a thank-you note to someone titled AND divorced, which your guides no longer cover, and are the worse for it.)

It’s bad enough that the bastion of etiquette feels it needs to comment – it is, after all, not a matter of manners. But the fact they’ve given the advice they have, and stuck their necks out and sanctioned a pre-date cyber-stalk?! Not okay.

I’d argue that if you really must indulge, the Googlestalk is something to be done furtively, guiltily, and never admitted to, much less spoken of openly, unless to the best friend.

For a start, it removes all and any mystery about the person you’ll be dating. One of the great delights of the early stages of a relationship is getting to know someone; discovering what makes them tick and the tales of how they’ve got from where they were then to who they are now. A good, thorough cyberhunt removes all that.

And, whilst you might think that the information gleaned will give you something to talk about on your date, you’re actually doing yourself out of the simplest, most crucial first date conversations.

It’s less likely you’re going to be discussing your date’s views on Gourevitch’s account of the Rwandan genocide than you are where they grew up and how many siblings they have: don’t preempt a vital twenty minutes in which – if you’re listening – you’ll be able to gauge so much more than just the fact that he’s an only child. And the inevitable glaze that will come over your face when he tells you what you already know and that he spent a year travelling round India isn’t overly likely to endear you to him.

Words on the pages of the internet are also – sometimes dangerously – lacking in context. It might be that the gap of several years on the LinkedIn profile is down to a long period of worldwide travel that he’s not put on the form, or maybe just laziness in filling it in, but those out there (especially women) with overactive imaginations are wont to leap to the wild, worst and wrong – “God, was he in prison?!” – conclusions.

And honestly, who wants to know their life has been checked out online before they’ve even met someone?! Frankly, it’s a bit creepy to know that someone’s run a full credit check on you before you’ve had the chance to have a gin and tonic.

I’m not a total dating luddite when it comes to these things, of course: I’d argue that it’s fine to look ‘em up briefly – after all, blind dates are nerve wracking enough. It’s always good to know at least what someone looks like. You don’t want to be faced with the situation of getting to the bar for a well-deserved Friday night G&T and fighting the temptation to flee before you’ve even acknowledged you’ve arrived.

But nothing more. No knowledge of school awards won; holiday pics or the name of the family dog. It’s just not cool. And it’s definitely, despite what Debrett’s might say, not good manners.


Please Don't Eat With Your Mouth Open said...

I hark back to 2009, when me and the now Bastard Ex made a mutual pact not to check each other out on Facebook during the dating days. Best decision I've ever made.

As you say, it's the complete lack of context that makes it such a bad idea.

nuttycow said...

I noticed today that a chap I went out with on a blind "date" (it wasn't really a date, sadly, as he had a girlfriend - it was more of a blind "amuse him") looked me up on linkedin before we met.

This amused me more than scared me.

I think there's something to be said for facebookstalking (or otherwise) to a certain extent. I mean, what happens if he "likes" strange things on facebook... do you really want to make the effort?

On the other hand. Book. Cover. Judging.


P.S. Word verification for this comment was "orkshaft" - has your blog moved in to Lord of the Rings stylee porn?

HC said...

I am 2 1/2% certain you looked me up on LinkedIn. Confess!

Brennig said...

I'm with you and the broad consensus; to do this thing is bad form. The date itself should be about discovery and learning. Doing analysis and research beforehand? That's not acceptable.

Cat said...

The worst of the worst of first dates has to be the one where a guy admitted that he was disappointed that there had been little information about me freely available on the internet and why didn't I have my Facebook profile page open to all. He also confessed to having had a long conversation with a mutual friend about me prior to our meeting.

Talk about revealing your hand...

A girl called Tom said...

Oh dear Debrett's. Oh dear.

I understand they need to adjust to modern situations, but as you say some of us do go to formal occasions and don't want to look an utter fool.

And that is before I have even got to the advocacy of cyber stalking. Grrr.

Blonde said...

PDEWYMO: Ah, now not having them on Facebook at all, even once you've started seeing them... That's a whole other thing (and a view I think I can see the merit in, should things not turn out as intended). But yes: the lack of context when you don't know a person can be terrifying.

Nuttycow: I'd far rather discover all that kind of stuff about someone in person. I dread to think the half-arsed picture someone might concoct of me just from looking at Facebook. PS - that's terrifying.

HC: Not me, I'm afraid. Sorry to disappoint.

Bren: Quite. Glad you concur.

Cat: That is TERRIFYING. I trust you didn't give him a second date?

Tom: Quite. They have Let Us Down.

HC said...

I am disappointed. No-one stalks me.

Liberty London Girl said...

Can you imagine the HORROR if someone Googled me? They'd run SCREAMING in the opposite direction. LLGxx

Cat said...

Definitely no second date for a number of reasons! As if that wasn't bad enough the photos he had uploaded onto his internet dating site profile looked nothing like him at all. He was also very hungover on the date and insisted that we meet at a bar where I ordered a G+T and he a Red Bull which made me feel like a raving alcoholic. On the way home (very early I must add) he asked would we meet again and I said that I was sorry but I didn't fancy him. If he could have pushed me out of the cab and into the street I think he would have. Shared lift due to close proximity of houses. Thankfully have never set eyes on him again.

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