There’s an old joke that “On the internet, nobody knows you’re a dog.” It’s originally from a 1993 cartoon in The New Yorker and while the internet looks a lot different from how it looked back then, it’s just as relevant in 2021: With a couple of tricks, you can be anyone online. And your dates can as well.
That’s probably why many people now choose to do a little online research before meeting up with a date in person. To just how many people are searching — particularly in the age of pandemic dating, when bars and other ways to meet in-person aren’t an option — Avast conducted a global survey that included 15,000 people from Argentina, Australia, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Indonesia, Japan, Mexico, Russia, Spain, and the UK.
The survey found that, globally, half of all daters who use online dating apps or websites have searched for someone they met on a dating app. Of this group, 30 percent found something objectionable or didn’t find anything at all and decided not to meet up.
The reason behind daters’ online sleuthing varied, from wanting to learn more about their match (60%), verifying the person was actually real (50%), fact-checking what their match told them about themselves (34%), and wanting to see how their potential date interacted on social media (26%).
“Searching or not searching a person ahead of a date is a personal decision, as long as it is being done with respect for someone’s privacy and sticking to public information available online,” Petra Moravcová, Consumer Insights Expert at Avast, says. “It does not come as a surprise that people are curious and search for details before the first date. This is a reminder that everything you share online is a reflection of your identity, and people should be thoughtful of how they present themselves online.”
In other words: Be mindful of what you share online or you might lose out on a date.
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Interestingly, most of the potential dates/amateur private eyes kept their searches pretty light. Seventy-two percent stuck to social media, like Facebook, Instagram, or TikTok and 35 percent turned to search engines. A much smaller number (17%) checked out professional social networks (like LinkedIn) or did a reverse image search on their potential date’s profile pic (23%).
As for folks who are leaving sleuthing out of their dating experience, 18 percent said it was because they didn’t have info to even start searching; 44 percent didn’t think it was necessary; 35 percent preferred to meet in person and judge from there; and 16 percent didn’t think it was ethical.
And, finally, many online daters are also taking care to be safe when they do choose to actually meet up: 50 percent meet in a public place; 37 percent tell a loved one who they’re meeting (or even share a live location with them); 41 percent choose a familiar meetup spot; and 6 percent ask a friend or family member to be at the date location at the same time.
Whether you choose to internet-research your date beforehand or not, it’s important to remember that the ways we present online — both in our behavior on social media and in our search results — have consequences that reverberate beyond the digital space. Be kind, keep an eye on your search results, and give each other a little bit of grace. Because don’t we all deserve that?