Having just written about the degradations of stalking my various love interests over the years, I would like to offer a slight clarification. Stalking, as in staking out the campus gym or writing notes about the daily comings and goings of one’s better looking classmates, is degrading. Not only are actions of this sort pathetic but they will also cause you to catch a cold eventually. As such, I would advise any would-be stalkers against the stake out approach to romantic encounters.
Virtual stalking, however, is an entirely different matter.
A few weeks ago, an old friend came to visit me in Philadelphia. She informed me that one of her co-workers had set her up on a blind date.
I asked the obvious question. “What does he look like?”
“I don’t know!” came her incredulous reply. “It’s a blind date!”
“You mean you didn’t Google him?”
“No,” she shook her head. “I found him on Facebook but his security settings are too high to see his profile.”
“Facebook?” I cried. “Facebook is for amateurs! You need Google. Let me show you.”
Without missing a beat, I whipped open my trusty laptop and headed straight for my interest browser. Within approximately sixty seconds, we had his full name, his alma mater, his professional credentials, and thanks to Google image search, his picture.
“Wow,” my friend gasped, her eyes glued to the screen. “He’s cute. Thanks.”
I wish I could take full credit for my Google stalking skills but really, they’re genetic. My mother is the ultimate Google stalker. When I was seventeen, I went to Spain for a few weeks and fell in love with this obscure flamenco pianist (and with my gorgeous German flat mate, but that’s another story for another time).
Do you think I had the forethought to purchase this pianist’s CD before leaving Spain? No. Do you think I would have at least written down the name of album? No. Instead, I returned to the US, made a nuisance of myself until I left for college and added the CD to my Christmas list.
“Santa needs a little bit of help,” my mother emailed me a few weeks later, “Does this CD have a name?”
“Yeah, but I don’t know it,” I wrote back.
Lo and behold, I found a package from Spain under the Christmas tree that year. “I Googled it,” my mother explained, “and I stumbled upon a blog written by this guy who’s traveling in Spain. You had the artist’s name spelled wrong but he had it correctly so I Googled his spelling and there it was.”
Long story short, my mother can find anything, whether it’s a CD of obscure flamenco music or an online discount code for Match.com. We’re always telling her that she should work for the FBI, or at least the Library of Congress or something. Instead, she volunteers for the Quaker library here in Philadelphia and is slowly but surely passing her Google-stalking skills onto me.
Given the high potential for untruths in online dating, I’ve always “research” my dates before meeting up with them. Over the course of the past few months, I’ve found everything from college sports records and television clips to academic publications and op-eds. I generally try to forget my findings, lest I slip up in conversation and reveal my methods, but I’m afraid I’ll never be able to forget what I’ve discovered about PSM#3.
The career section of his eHarmony profile was rather vague. I figured this was just because he didn’t want to say too much about a career that was, presumably, still a work in progress. Because my career is, in many ways, still a work in progress as well (it’s only recently that I’ve stopped mumbling when family friends ask what I’m doing with myself these days), I decided that his ambiguity suited me just fine.
But his career is not a work in progress. Quite the opposite. I knew nothing more than his first name and his alma mater a few days ago but now I’ve discovered his last name, his middle name, and an entire host of impressive credentials following his name (in addition, of course, to his undergraduate athletic record).
I’ve pledged to uphold my dates’ anonymity throughout this entire adventure so I’m afraid I can’t tell you which impressive letters he has after his name but suffice it to say they’re enough to make me wish I had never Googled him in the first place because now, I am completely intimidated.