Do you Google your potential dates before deciding to meet? While it's important to stay safe, there's a fine line between being cautious and being nosy. Your snooping might expose irrelevant information that could prevent you from meeting a potential partner. Whatever you read online will contribute to forming your opinion of his or her character.
To Google or Not to Google?
A client of mine was recently faced with the decision of whether or not to snoop:
"I realized that by giving me his email address, I now have Bob's last name. I did a Google search, and he popped up on the web. What's your advice on researching public records? A little, as much as possible, or leave it alone?"
I advocate for doing as little background checking as possible, unless your gut tells you something feels off. When you Google a potential date too thoroughly before meeting, chances are you will find out something that seems like a red flag. The problem is, you don't have the full picture. This can lead to filling in the blanks with information that may or may not be true.
When I first started dating online after my divorce, I connected with a chiropractor from New Jersey. He disclosed his full name and profession, and on a quick Google search, I found a legal document. A patient had sued him for misconduct. If I hadn't asked him about it, I wouldn't have known that the lawsuit was dropped because the patient made false allegations.
If you've been chatting or emailing with someone new, and you have a gut feeling that something doesn't line up, do a brief Google search. If you have a last name, you can check into whether or not they are legit and their stories match up. You might uncover that he/she goes by several names. This is a red flag. Report abuse to the dating site and block further communication.
You might uncover a minor legal issue like the one I discovered with the chiropractor. In that case, speak up. Tell him/her what you found, and ask about it. Minor infractions are worth an inquiry. If s/he gets defensive, that's a bad sign. If s/he calmly explains what happened, you get to decide if it's a deal breaker for you.
However, if you learn that there's a restraining order against him/her, or s/he was convicted of domestic abuse, embezzlement, or the like, your search has helped you dodge a big bullet.
How do you Google your date with limited information?
If you don't yet have his last name, you can still do a search with his first name and city. For example, "Bob, Sacramento, California." At the very least, you'll probably find a LinkedIn or Facebook profile.
Or you can do a Google Image search. Drag and drop his/her image from the dating site to the slot at http://images.google.com. Or you can right-click the image, grab the URL, and drop the URL into the Google images slot. You will probably find out his/her name, website if s/he has one, and perhaps some surprise information you may not have expected.
I once discovered that a man I was about to date was a dentist with a long record of unhappy patients who were mistreated and deceived. That helped me make a decision to never date him. The only drawback to Google Image search is it relies on a web presence. If s/he's not online, you won't find anything.
Don't Google yourself out of dating.
I don't believe in doing an extensive Google search unless something feels off. Find out just enough to rule out the big, hairy, scary stuff. And trust your gut as to whether a person is legit or not, because your intuition is brilliant.
Online dating is still one of the best ways to find love. Stay safe and date in public places until you've developed trust with someone. And please don't be overly cautious, or you'll stop dating altogether. Go on that first date because it's your best barometer for how you're going to feel when you're together. Google can't tell you that.