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Internet Stalking: It’s Totally (Mostly) Okay

A woman stalking a guy online.

Although it’s something everyone has done at some point, there’s still a stigma against Internet stalking. In lieu of friendly conversation and asking a real human honest questions, we’ve become more comfortable finding the information we want on our own, behind the privacy of our computer screens. It’s a little intrusive, yes. But in an age where stranger danger has taken on a vast and unpredictable online persona, Internet stalking, to a degree, can be considered wise.

If there’s someone you met online who you’re considering meeting in person, doing a little digging can be a smart move. Dating profiles are designed to show people’s best side, so how do you know you’re not getting duped? Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts tend to be more authentic because they’re friend-facing, and not meant to be introductory.

That being said, it’s a fine line between getting a sense of the person you’re dealing with for your own security and peace of mind, and being, you know, creepy. Just so you don’t find yourself blurting out your new date’s sister’s boyfriend’s name in a conversation, here’s some guidelines.

Totally Acceptable

These moves are pretty harmless and can give you some valuable information.

A cursory scroll through her photos

What he or she chooses to share is as good an indicator of personality as the photos themselves. Is she a selfie-holic? Are his weekends riddled with red Solo cups? Does she love her dog as much as you love yours (a near-impossibility)? The photos your date chooses to share on Instagram or Facebook are probably pretty close to some of the first things you’ll learn about them organically, so if you’re nervous whether or not you’ll hit it off, take a look at what their photos say about their personality and see if it appeals to you.

Another smart idea: Forward a pic or two to a trusted friend. We’re all aware of stranger danger, but letting someone know whom you’re with and how to identify them is a good way to cover your bases, safety-wise.

A look at his interaction with his mom

How someone treats their parents can give insight into how they’ll treat others, and since every mom on Facebook likes and comments her kids’ photos and statuses incessantly and indiscriminately, you can usually gain some knowledge about who they are as a person and what kind of background they come from. Do they have a witty rapport with each other? Is it a lot of loving support? Do they always like and reply?

Scrolling through his status updates

What a person chooses to share with a few hundred peripheral friends can be very telling. Are they an over-sharer? Are they witty? Do they have a penchant for drama? Do they like to get political? Do they love the same memes as you? This is a great way to stake out your compatibility in a way that’s not quite as guarded as a dating profile or initial personal interactions.

This is also a good way to identify any red flags. Everyone has their own deal-breakers, and if, for example, hashing out drama with an ex via Facebook, using foul language, or posting revealing photos is one of yours, you’ll likely learn about them.

Whoops, Too Far

These behaviors don’t quite respect a person’s space, past, or privacy. They’ll also make you feel crazy.

Cataloging his exes

This may be the fastest way to torture yourself. Walking into a dinner date feeling like you have to measure up to past loves can be a serious hit to your confidence, not to mention, it digs up a past for which you have no context. Everyone feels a sense of competition on the dating scene, but his or her past relationships ended for a reason, his or her platonic friendships are platonic for a reason, and the only way you can really learn the truth here is through patience and honest discussion.  Knowing whether or not his last love was better looking (in your opinion) is only going to make you feel more nervous.

Friend requesting her under a fake account

If his or her account is on lockdown, there’s a reason why, and more often than not, the reason isn’t a shady one. You’ll have to get answers the old fashioned way: by chatting. A locked or limited profile can be full of intrigue, but trying to hack your way in sneakily is dishonest. Imagine the moment your new love finally learns that random friend request came from you!

Use the intrigue to your advantage! Everyone loves a little mystery, right?

The deep Google search

You’re not actually a private eye. If you find yourself on page three of a name search and you’re delving into his high school track records, it’s time to take a serious step back. If the tables were turned, would you feel comfortable with your date knowing where you parents live and all your brothers’ names? Probably not.

If you’re feeling a little worried and you do a quick Google search to make sure your date hasn’t been in the news lately, that’s okay.  Anything past that, and you’ve ventured into a territory that a) should only be reserved for your favorite celebrities, and b) could run the risk of upturning what could be an actually intriguing talking point when you’re getting to know each other the old fashioned way­ – over dinner.

Finally, take everything you learn with a grain of salt. Even though personal social media profiles give you a little more insight into a person, they can still diverge from who someone truly is, and that’s what you’re aiming to learn! A good match’s personality is bound to shine through, so don’t worry about sleuthing too hard.

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