Is Online Stalking The New Normal?

By Erika Ettin
Tribune News Service

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Dating expert Erika Ettin says don’t go out of your way to research someone in-depth before a date. Ettin says that while it is certainly tempting, it can also taint that first date experience.

Tribune News Service

A few years ago, when talking about the topic of online stalking or “researching” or whatever you want to call it, I would have said that doing it before the date is not only not the norm but it’s also on the creepy side.

Now, fast forward to 2019, and, while I’m not saying I like it, most people’s norm is to do their “due diligence” before a date to see if everything this person has written in the profile checks out.

I am still of the opinion (and still give the advice) not to look someone up before the date, but I recently realized that I am outnumbered. It does, however, make for a more authentic and open-minded first date when you don’t come in with preconceived notions about the other person.

When we do too much research, we’re dwelling on this person’s past, perhaps divorces, old photos, or financial information.

Is it fair to judge someone in the present using information from the past?

While I know many will say, “Of course it is, history repeats itself,” or “I want to know what I’m getting myself into,” I’ll instead say that people change. Maybe they don’t change in fundamental ways, like their values, but certainly their financial situation can, in addition to many other things you’ll find if you dig hard enough.

How do I know times are changing? I look to my clients. One guy on OkCupid recently refused to go out with a client of mine because she wouldn’t readily give up the link to her Facebook profile. He “wanted to make sure she was who she said she was.” She was (of course), but she was turned off by the lack of trust. Now, it’s true that he had likely been burned, or catfished, in the past, but I wouldn’t recommend projecting that distrust onto new, potentially wonderful people. Yes, some people lie. That’s a shame. But not everyone should be punished for it.

Another one of my clients recently scheduled a date with a man on Match.com, and from his first name, city, and age, she found his resume, or as she emailed to me, “FYI – an 18-page CV. Oy!”

I’ve had it happen to me, too. I experiment sometimes with putting my job, dating coach, into my own online dating profiles.

When I’m not in a relationship, I, too, utilize online dating. It would be silly not to use the tools I’m best at!

At a time when I was not disclosing my job (people often make incorrect assumptions that I am on the site for business, not personal, use), someone found out a lot about me on the internet using my first name and where I went to college, and then proceeded to ask me questions about my job, even though I had not told him what I do. It almost felt like an invasion. But, this seems to be the world we live in now. There’s no shame in online stalking, and there’s no longer shame in sharing that you did it.

Here’s what I propose: Don’t go out of your way to research someone in-depth before a date. While, with enough information, it’s certainly tempting, it’s also tainting the first date experience.

Go in with an open mind instead of an encyclopedia of information at your disposal. Maybe this person isn’t thrilled that his or her divorce papers are splashed around the internet and would prefer not to talk about it.

Or, maybe this person is really proud of a particular accomplishment and wants to share that information in person, rather than someone knowing at the outset.

I know that I prefer people to get to know me, the real me, in person. Online dating is the tool for meeting someone, but there’s no substitute for a real, in-person conversation where you get to know someone, not where you confirm what you already read.
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(Erika Ettin is the founder of A Little Nudge, where she helps others navigate the often intimidating world of online dating.)

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