Dating and meeting a person for the first time is a vulnerable thing, and no one likes being rejected or spending time with someone with no possibility of a future. So if working Google for a few minutes can help you find out if he's got a stable career, whether he's married or single, what his ex-girlfriends look like, or if he's wanted by the police then do it. It can help put some of your fears to rest, or confirm a hunch you had. Call me a cynic, but people don't always tell the truth—and his friends will cover for him too. But while his best friend may keep his secrets, Google will never tell you "You can't see those search results because John's a good friend of mine and there's no way you should know that he subscribes to the following gay porn sites."
Let's suppose that instead of a man, you're looking for something else. A car. A vacation destination. Would you make that purchase after talking to someone about it for just a few minutes? Or would you jump online and see what people had to say about the item? How was it rated? Did it live up to the advertising? You can take something you buy back to the store, but you can't say to someone "Thanks, this isn't going to work out. Can I please get my time back?" Google an ex, and see if you find anything that would have raised a flag or prevented you from spending so much time with that person. Remember to value your time, because time spent with the wrong person is time that could have been spent with the right one.
I have to say that the romantic in me sometimes wishes for simpler times when you asked someone out, went out on dates, got to know each other, held hands, shared kisses, and then poof, a relationship was born. But Google never prevented anyone from holding hands at a concert, making out in the rain, or spending a long weekend at a bed and breakfast—it can prevent you from doing any of these things with the wrong person, though. Google him, and don't feel bad about it. If he's smart, he's doing it to you as we speak.
Give me his name and 30 minutes, and I'll give you his life story as told through Google, from the name of his childhood pet to a comprehensive collage of ex-girlfriends. I'm all for exhaustively Googling dates and digging up what's out there. I'll admit, I've even canceled prospective blind dates after finding red-flag information—why waste time and sit through a date with someone when you know that his hero is Brett Michaels or that he spends the majority of his weekends upside down over a keg with his bros?
There are a lot of dealbreaker qualities and habits that we're willing to overlook once we've fallen for someone, and that's not always a good thing. It's also a good idea to see how honest he's being with you before you start dating. His online dating profile may say he's a non-smoker, but if he has a cigarette hanging out of his mouth in every single picture on his Facebook profile, he's probably not telling you the whole truth. Smoking might not be a dealbreaker for you, but lying should be—and he's not going to get any more honest as time goes on. If it's public information, it's fair game, and I intend to find it.
That said, I've also had this backfire on me. I once got search-happy when I made a date with someone highly-Googleable, but two margaritas in on our first date, the stories he told me on the phone and in emails and the ones I found on my search-fest started to blur together. I found myself tentatively nodding along all night as he talked.
So have I changed my ways since then? No way. As long as there are questionable Facebook photos and old blog entries to be found, I'll be searching for them, first-date mystery be damned.
ON THE SOAPBOX
Abraham Lloyd is a divorced dad, closet geek and aspiring author dating in New York City. He believes all men should own at least five jackets, know how to dance, and pay on a first date. You can tweet him at twitter.com/abrahamlloyd.
Diana Vilibert is Marie Claire's Associate Web Editor, a chronic oversharer, closet romantic, and blind-date addict. You can e-stalk her at diana-vilibert.com.