Once upon a time, my friend Julia went to a bar and met a man she called her soulmate. They had almost everything in common, but just enough things not in common to provide fodder for faux-bickering in that annoying flirty way two individuals about to get it on — either emotionally or literally — are known to do. He was cute, she brought him home.
Fast-forward through their mundane mid-week text exchange and cut to Sunday morning after a third sleepover at her apartment when he asked to use her computer to check his bank account or email or look for rings at Jared, whatever. She told him yes — of course her soulmate could use her computer.
But as he inched toward the computer to power the monitor on, Julia remembered what she’d done. It was too late to turn back now. The screen came on and there it was: his name typed into Google, and the slew of search results listed below it.
“You googled me?” he asked her. I would imagine the note of horrification on his voice matched the look on her face but I wasn’t there, so.
What I do know, however, is that what we have here is a common case of Creative Investigation, which is a term coined by my friend Danielle to define the inevitable “digital research” that takes place between one half of a whole (typically romantic) interaction prior to, let’s say, a date.
So, in other words, Julia was “creeping.”
We’ve all done it at some point, it’s just that unlike poor Julia most of us don’t get caught, and similar to watching MTV’s 16 and Pregnant, no one admits it. Creative Investigation ranges from the more common surname-plus-school Google search to highly advanced, CIA-style excavations involving a sum of every blurry detail you gathered save for his or her actual name. I know a guy who researched a girl he met in a bar based only off the sport she played in college and her hometown which she’d briefly mentioned. By their second date, she knew nothing about the fact that he knew all about her recent trip to Canada.
Our access to personal databases are as quotidian as brushing our teeth now. To follow an entity on Instagram or Twitter is, essentially, to stalk: Amelia Diamond is now following you. And to post, I suppose, is to elicit that attention. A notification that, in the past, might have driven someone to call the police — You have five new requests from strangers! — now equals nothing more than a number tied to self worth. Who cares if your newest follower is the masked killer from Scream? He just bumped you into triple digits on Instagram, baby. But mind the steak knife.
The thing is, just because we have the tools doesn’t mean we have to use them.
I only know of one person who flat out refuses to investigate potential dalliances using creative resources — even if it’s a blind date. “All I need to know is his name, and maybe what color sweater he’s wearing,” she says. “Usually I just look for the dude sitting solo, pretending to text someone.” No Lulu, no LinkedIn, nothing. It’s old school, really. When asked why she doesn’t use the tools made readily available to her, she responds with two answers: 1) she wouldn’t want someone looking up her history and coming upon unflattering shots from photo agencies and 2) she likes to give people the unique chance of starting with a clean slate. After all, no googling means no prejudices (see: Oh! He rowed crew!, or alternately, Ew! He rowed crew).
As for my friend Julia and her “soulmate” — he bolted shortly thereafter. She’s moved on and has conceivably learned her lesson as evidenced by her recently telling me that she clears her search history on a daily basis now. In that same breath, though, she did also say, “I really don’t think he stopped talking to me because I googled him. He probably just hated my sneakers.”