Social media can be an addictive and poisonous to a naturally curious and instinctively skeptical person, like myself.
I look up everyone online.
It's so easy to get lost in the depths of an Instagram feed or a Facebook photo album from a Vegas bachelor party, and frequently I let myself do it. I let myself be the creepy stalker I was because I assumed if they didn't want me to know, it wouldn't be so public, so attainable.
I made excuses for my sketchy behavior.
Only it was getting a little out of hand when it came to the guys I would find on dating apps, like Bumble, and, occasionally, Tinder.
I have issues with strangers, and I'm inherently distrustful. So, researching them helped me relax and gave me a sense of serenity; just seeing that they were real people with real friends and had real jobs put my stressed brain at ease.
But sometimes I took it too far. Sometimes I moved on to their friends, their cousins, their old high school teacher that comments "congratulations!" on their life achievements.
I knew I had to be stopped. I needed to walk into my dates with no information, no preconceived notions. I wanted my opinion of them to be completely untainted by their social media presence.
I wanted my outfit to be picked out based on what I liked rather than based on the girls in his photos' outfits.
So I did it. I didn't even take a peek at their Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, or anything. I had no idea whom they voted for in the 2016 presidential election, and, honestly, that's a huge deal.
My pre-date prep simply included curling my hair and struggling with fake eyelashes, but no cyber stalking.
The results were astounding.
It made a HUGE difference. The biggest difference I noticed: I was significantly more nervous. It was a good nervous, an excited nervous, as in a "he could be a murderer and/or the love of my life" type of nervous.
The next apparent difference: I was genuinely interested in everything he had to say. I had no idea he had spent so much time in Europe and when he offered to show me the pictures, I happily looked at them -- and didn't even need to act surprised by them. I had actually never seen them!
I found that I was more present in our conversations. I wasn't fixated on something on his profile that I was impatiently waiting for him to bring up. I wasn't wondering if he's secretly still in love with his ex because she's still in his profile photo.
I also found that sometimes I can be a little judgmental when looking at social media profiles, and I shouldn't. I don't need to find out you like one of my least favorite bands until at least the fourth date when I've already decided I like you. Plus, differences can be exciting!
Hearing about a person's life firsthand is way more exciting than cheating and checking their social media beforehand.
It feels great to disconnect and let casual conversation dictate what you find out about a person. It feels like a '90s rom-com, and I'm Meg Ryan.
I have now made a promise with myself and my iPhone that I will not research my dates before I go out with them. I will not go on their social media profiles unless they offer them up freely and want to follow each other.
So far, everything has worked wonderfully, and I am meeting people in a more organic manner -- well, as organic as a planned internet meeting can be, but still.
I haven't found my Tom Hanks yet, but I feel more confident now that I will, and the story will be far cuter without the social media stalking woven in.