If you use dating apps, you know how easy it is to see a match's Instagram and your mutual friends. Throw in where they went to school and where they work, and you can probably find them on Facebook or figure out their ex's name or find their mom's Pinterest, if you're really determined. But should you stalk your crush online?
You don't want to mess around with your safety, so it might be worth running a few basic checks before agreeing to meet up with anyone. You could try to verify their employment on LinkedIn to see if your match is who they say they are. Or you could run their name through Google to make sure there are no hits like, "Alleged Serial Killer On the Run," with their name and face.
But even if you're only out to maintain your safety, it can be pretty tempting to go full-on Nancy Drew and creep on the object of your affections. But that can lead you to stumble across a cringe-worthy paper they wrote during their freshman year of college, or a long-forgotten YouTube account they made with their high school friends, or a treasure trove of photos with an intimidating ex. And don't even get me started on what could happen if you accidentally double-tap a photo from months ago. So yeah, stalking has its risks.
I talked to 10 women about how much research they do before a first date. How do you stalking habits measure up?
This woman is pro-stalking for a very good reason.
"If a guy from a dating app wants to meet up, I'll always try to find them on social media before agreeing to go out with them. It might eliminate some of the fun of the first date, but a quick browse over their Instagram profile can confirm they're who they claim to be. It's fun to learn about each other's likes and interests together on the first date, so I try not to scroll too deeply into their social media or anything like that. Plus, an accidental like on a three-month-old post is basically a death sentence.
During my sophomore year of college I made plans to meet up with a guy I met on Tinder, which was still a relatively new app at the time. It was my first time even using a dating app, so I was extremely nervous and decided to look the guy up on Facebook to make sure he was who he claimed to be. When I found his profile I noticed we had an interesting mutual friend — my aunt. I asked her how she knew him, and as it turned out, we're third cousins. Since then, I've stuck to meeting people the old-fashioned way!"
— Holly, 22
This woman almost never stalks.
"I like to do it the old-fashioned way and maintain some element of surprise for the actual date. I know I'm probably in the minority, but isn't that the whole point of a first date? Going into the date blind and using the conversation to get to know them? Also, it keeps me from making any judgments about the person before I actually meet them, so I can be fair!
One time, I went out with this guy who told me during the date that he had stalked me very thoroughly online, to the point where he knew the name of my ex-boyfriend because he'd found my Venmo account!"
— Shaila, 23
The more interested this woman is, the more she stalks someone.
"I'll check a guy's Instagram if he shares the handle in his bio, but otherwise, I don't really stalk. It depends on how much we've been talking and how interested I am — if I think a guy's really cute or charming, I'll usually do a bit more research. And if I'm into someone after our first date, I'll stalk him like a f*cking PI. But honestly, I want to hear about a guy's interests, hobbies, and crazy stories in his own words — not from a social media page.
A friend of mine looked up a guy I was supposed to go out with once, and found out he was some sort of 'love psychic' scam artist? It was both interesting and alarming... and I came down with a sudden 'cold' just before our date."
— Genevieve, 24
This woman used Instagram to help her decide how to swipe.
"I met my boyfriend of two years on a dating app. Before I met him, I'd go through guys' Instagrams to see their likes and interests (if their Instagram was linked to their Tinder). I found that bios and pictures on a dating apps kind of gave a very small, quite often misleading impression. I got a better glimpse into their life and understanding of their personality on Instagram. It helped me judge the compatibility factor. For example, this one guy had just had pictures of him in groups, with his dog, and of his back. His description was a quote and he said he was a director/writer. But when I saw his Instagram, I found his work to be misogynistic, and he was a huge alcoholic and proud of it. So obviously I swiped left."
— Radhika, 21
This woman has found majorly important intel on Instagram.
"I sometimes stalked if they had their handles in their bios, or if I thought I might know them. But if they didn't have information readily available, I usually wouldn't deep-dive stalk them (unless I was really into them). I wouldn't want to waste my time looking up a person that I didn't really want to meet.
But I've found things on people's Instagram accounts like Confederate flags, which totally turned me off, or seen their Facebook posts and realized they don't seem that intelligent. (I also always appreciate a good shirtless shot on Instagram to get me more interested, haha.)"
— Katie, 22
This woman runs a brief background check.
"I do stalk on Facebook sometimes. If I get their number from talking, I'll copy and paste it into Facebook to find their profile. And if they have their Instagram in their bio, I'll look that up."
— Becky, 20
This woman discovered her match had a girlfriend.
"I check their Facebook to make sure they're real, and their Instagram and Twitter if I want to get a feel for who they really are. One time, I found out via Facebook that a match had a girlfriend of four months. It was over the summer and I think they were apart, and he was just trying to get some side action. I wouldn't have known without Facebook — he was totally sweet and charming over the app."
— Courtney, 22
This woman doesn't stalk, but she wants to see her matches' basic info.
"I don't really stalk anyone, but when I match with people, I try to vet them. I make sure they have a bio, so they seem legit and not like a catfish. If they're verified on Bumble, that's a good sign. If they went to an actual school or work at an actual company and don't have anything cheeky in their bio (like 'school of hard knocks,' or whatever), that's a good sign. And if they have something written in their bio that's not outrageously offensive, that's also a good sign."
— Devin, 25
This woman doesn't stalk unless she gets weird vibes from someone.
"I don't stalk unless they seem sketchy. I like to be surprised and get to know them in person. If they seem fake or weird, I'll look at their Instagram to make sure I'm not in danger or anything. If there's not much to go on, I'm much more cautious about where I meet them, if I meet them at all."
— Yolany, 18
This women only looks up men she actually wants to go out with.
"I don't do any research in the conversation stage, but if I'm going to go out with someone, I look them up on Facebook and Instagram. Once, I found this guy on Facebook a few days before we went out. Based on our convo, I knew I probably wouldn't be interested, but his Facebook definitely told me my instinct was right. He was an active Facebook user and posted all the time, which to me, is odd for someone our age. And it looks like he had just started dating someone a few months before, so I was curious as to why he was already dating again."
— Chelsea, 25
This woman started stalking after she learned her boyfriend was married.
"Yes, I look people up! If they have their Instagram, it's easy. If not, you can put their number into Facebook or LinkedIn and see if you get a name that way. I only started doing this after I began dating someone and then got a call from his wife telling me I was a wh*re. Now, I won't go on a first date with someone without some kind of proof that they are who they say they are. A Facebook profile is often the best way to do that without asking them directly."
— Christina, 24
After I spoke to these 10 women, I felt more confident in taking a stance: I'm pro-stalking. A little bit of research never hurts, especially when it weeds out dudes who are married, or who proudly wave Confederate flags, or who happen to be your cousins. Yikes.
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