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What Google Has Done To My Love Life


What Google Has Done To My Love Life

Is it a good idea to research the people you romance? One man shares his surprising story.

By Steve Friedman


he was smart and funny, and even though I hadn't met her yet—she was a blind date, after all—I knew things about her. Knew is the important word here. Not thought, or suspected, or been told by my setter-uppers. No, I knew about Ginny, or so we shall call her, because I had Googled her before our lunch date.

She was a writer, which to the Googler is better than gold. She was a sex columnist (which, speaking for all men, is usually a good thing), whose wit and wisdom were there for anyone with an Internet connection to read online. But some of her work, I thought, was kind of smarmy and self-righteous. Still, I'm an open-minded guy, willing to meet a person before consigning her to the scrap heap based on mere cyber information.

So we met for lunch.

“I thought you were really nice when we met at lunch,” she emailed me, “but then I Googled you.”
We talked about movies, politics, all manner of things. I didn't mention what I thought of her more offensive public writings because, well, she was an attractive sex columnist who seemed to like me.

Besides, to object to her writings, I would have to mention how I knew of them. And something told me that mentioning my pre-date Googling might not work to my advantage.

I called her the next day, and we made a date to see each other that weekend. But before we met, she Googled me.

"I thought you were really nice when we met at lunch," she emailed me, saying she couldn't meet up with me that weekend, or, for that matter, ever again. "I really looked forward to seeing you, and to getting to know you, and exploring things together." (Speaking for all men, when we hear "exploring things together" from a sex columnist, that's usually a good thing).

And then, the kicker: "But then I Googled you, and I read the story you wrote about dating. I would never go out with someone who wrote that. In fact, I would never talk to someone who even thought that."

But, I thought, my story was satiric, bemused, gentle.

But, I thought, your crack about the giant condoms was a million times more appalling than my self-deprecating little tale of romance gone awry.

But, I thought, I was willing to overlook your sexist, predatory take on men, so shouldn't you be able to see that you should get to know me a little more before consigning me to the scrap heap based on mere cyber information?

Googling anyone is sad and shallow, but let's get real: It can be fun.
I didn't bring up these points with her, but the incident did get me thinking about how these days, rather than just getting to know a potential love interest through idle conversation or occasionally quizzing their friends, all we need to do is enter their name in an on-line search engine. But should we tap into this wealth of information, or are we only opening up a Pandora's Box of potential problems? After much reflection and more than a few conversations with friends, I have come up with some unifying principles regarding Googling and dating. Here they are:

Rule #1: Googling a prospective date is shallow, intrusive upon your date's dignity, and betrays a fundamental lack of faith about life, love and the divine sweetness of the universe. "It's incredibly rude," says an attractive and intelligent 34-year-old woman I know. "If I find out a guy has Googled me, it's over."

Rule #2: Get real. Everyone Googles. We do it because it's there, and because we're curious. And if you're really all that offended and refuse to go out with folks who admit to the activity, you might be doing a lot of refusing. My 34-year-old friend does.

Rule #3: It's a search engine, not a crystal ball. You may learn about athletic accomplishments, university affiliations and other public achievements. I even know people who have discovered (or had discovered about them) Botox injections, divorces, stints in rehab centers, bankruptcies, and obsessions with casting pewter frogs. But here's what you probably won't discover: Whether he/she is moral, loving, sweet, possesses good character or is a good parent.

Rule #4: Just because you do it doesn't mean you have to mention it. You know that your date once lost a job because he clashed with the powers that be at his company. Interesting? Sure. But does, "So I read that you lost your job because you clashed with the powers that be" really set the mood?

Rule #5: Googling is at its best after the relationship's over. While most people told me they occasionally Google prospective dates or current people they're seeing, they always Google exes. "Mostly for the satisfaction that comes when I see that the aging process has not been kind," says a 40-year-old administrator I know who's spotted her ex in online photos from business conferences.

Bottom line is, Googling anyone is sad, and shallow, and betrays a lack of faith in oneself and the divine sweetness of the universe. But let's get real. It can be fun. I found that out when I recently Googled said sex columnist. She's had some more things published since our last email exchange. But not as many as I have.

Steve Friedman is the author of seven books, including Lost on Treasure Island: A Memoir of Longing, Love, and Lousy Choices in New York City. More information at Stevefriedman.net.
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