Creative Investigation

Love in the hands of Google


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.”

Get more Postmodern Love ?
  • I need to clear mine soon from very bad fashion…lol, Nah, I’ll live it there, I still wear the same stuff.

  • Karen Liesens

    Haha who doesn’t google someone? It’s natural!

    xxx Karen –

  • Bitty Berlinghoff

    I feel like it’s our responsibility to provide a good representation of ourselves. In a world where even potential employers use social media to “creatively investigate” us, the least we could do is give them something great to work with. That being said, a good social media platter is like a push up bra, they work really well and do their job, but one might argue false advertisement..

    • Alanah Jones

      Yo girl. Sold boob analogy !

  • That’s the best part of the digital age…the moment a guy ask for my number I Google, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Jack’D and A4A him before I call him back.

  • Aubrey Green

    I agree with not googling someone prior to meeting them, I also don’t typically google someone in general either though. I don’t have facebook, but I did at one point and anytime I met a guy and the first thing he did was friend request me, I immediately lost interest in him. I therefore had a rule to not be friends with anyone I was dating :), you avoid having to unfriend them, etc.
    I think it kind of shows lack of trust that we feel the need to google someone, because aren’t we looking for something by googling them in the first place – I mean something that they aren’t telling us? It’s just kind of sad, I get it, but it’s a tad evil too, aren’t some things better left to the imagination? Doesn’t it create an automatic wall within the relationship?

  • liv

    I don’t think there is anything wrong or creepy about creatively investigating someone you are considering getting intimate with, especially if there are no mutual friends between the two of you. With the amount of people out there living double lives and hiding very unsavoury pasts, I think it is something that single women should do as a precautionary and safety measure, just to avoid running into any crazies who know how to put on a good show. I personally have never Googled a potential love interest, but then again, I met my current beau organically at a college social event hosted by our good friends. But I do think, especially with the increase in online dating and such, that it’s not a bad idea just to make sure who you’re dealing with isn’t harbouring a dark side. Dramatic? Maybe, but better safe than sorry. I once went on a date with a guy who was definitely not my type, but he was very polite in his approach that I figured, what the heck, why not? The date was okay, but two weeks later his girlfriend of x years started calling me and harassing me nonstop, trying to find out where I live etc., because she thought I was trying to “get with her man.” Some guys are really shady, and sometimes they have even crazier women in their shadows. So, Google away and save yourself any unwanted drama!

  • Quinn Halman

    PREACH! This is too true and so funny! There are for sure a lot of pros and cons do the accessibility the internet has given us. It’s similar to your Tinder piece where we can come up with who we think one person is based on their “likes” and who they follow” and have it be completely false.

  • Patss H.Espejo

    hahahahahah poor girl!
    Cleaning your search history is the key for avoiding these situations to happen (stop google people isn’t under consideration)

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  • Alyssaspeaks

    OMG I totally feel this article! I’m still all for “researching” your potential date though. What if this guy ISN’T who he said he is? I’ve come to realise names are nothing if not verified by Facebook or some form of evidence that this man is who he says he is. #truestory

  • s

    shit, i google everything… why not a potential lover too?!

  • Aha I love that story! It’s so likely to happen to anyone…

  • oyoy

    your search history is sacred and should be yours only (well maybe you and the NSA). the last 3 things I googled were “calories in double whiskey”, “pain on left side cancer”, “how can I check if I fart during my sleep”. And it gets much dirtier when I’m not on a work computer where I do this all on a strategically placed minimized window.

  • Can’t win…

    Not having anything pop up on Google is just as bad as having some embarrassing pictures. Without any social media accounts to my name I feel like I am viewed as the ultimate skeletons in my closet freak.

  • Belén

    I’m so guilty for this, but I actually googled Leandra’s dad, and then his brother, and then I got to their facebook’s page, her nana’s and then Leandra’s, and Amelia’s!. Fan lvl: creep. On the other side, my boyfriend is not a very “social media” kinda person.. so I have to take it out on someone.


  • Ale

    I once googled one of my dates and I found that he was a drug dealer… :/ Sometimes it’s good to know who are you dating, it could save your life.

  • Mel

    Hahaha I read this as I was about to stalk my ex boyfriends tumblr.
    “The thing is, just because we have the tools doesn’t mean we have to use them.”
    Damn, touché. No more googling away at his name/blog anymore. Thanks for the wake up call.

    P.S. the sudden realization he is a self absorbed dunce may have made me seriously consider changing my ways prior to this but sometimes you just need a sign to push you the extra inch ya know?

  • Misha

    Hahaha my mom is not so techno savvy and when I was trying to explain to her the concept of following on instagram or twitter she was like “so when a person is following you it really means that they are stalking you?”
    and I just burst out laughing.

  • Adrianna Grężak

    I don’t really understand why Googling somebody is so bad. I noticed older people consider this to be a great offense, whereas I don’t understand why they think public information is private. If anything, I’ll google somebody because I’m curious about their accomplishments.

    I once spent an entire NYU college semester talking to Alden Ehrenreich in class before googling him to friend him on Facebook and realizing that he was a legitmate actor who was discovered by Steven Spielberg. I just thought he was a nice guy who wasn’t too shy to talk to new people (a frustrating dilemma at NYU)

  • 33

    It’s natural to want the world to see the best side (case in point: all the fashion bloggers out there). People on the look out for a romantic interest do this all the time, shining objects only. Skeleton in the closet is better for when a prey is under lock and key.
    SInce I don’t have FB, tumbler, twitter, or any other social media account, I can only google. Even so, I can’t see the profile unless I sign up as a member, too (which I never do).
    In this day and age, one can never be too cautious. I never let people I just met know my name, phone number, and address. Dates are just that, dates, not a chance to disclose my personal data. I usually take a long time to call a guy a BF. By then I am pretty sure he’s legit, no funny business.
    If I must, I can always pay a private eye to uncover everything about a guy from grade school report cards to the latest direct paycheck deposit without him knowing about it.

  • I Googled my (now) partner when we began dating, since he was a footy player and I wanted to see him in his get-up. We now own two houses together. Yep, it worked out.

  • Amelie
  • Barb

    Great article! I really enjoyed it and it speaks the truth. People are always googling other people and it sure spoils the magic of the “firsts”. Hope I can learn from it and not do a Julia.