Googling your Friday-night date may or may not be snooping, but it
won't let you peek inside any souls.
By Alison Lobron
On my first date with Stan, he startled me by asking about a
Spanish-immersion course I took in Mexico three summers ago. I paused,
mentally reviewing our initial encounter across the veggie dip at a
friend's birthday party. I remembered debating the herbal properties
of the dip with Stan. I remembered giving him my phone number. But I
didn't ever recall the word "Spanish" crossing my lips. "Did I tell
you about Mexico at the party?" I asked finally.
"No." He grinned. "You once posted an email to a website asking for
advice about language schools. It popped up when I Googled you. So,
are you fluent now?"
At this point, I was seized by the urge to place an Olympic-sized bowl
of veggie dip -- a veritable veggie moat -- between my person and
Stan's. Then I reminded myself that getting upset over Stan's Internet
sleuthing would be rather hypocritical. I had checked him out via
Google, too. So the problem wasn't that he'd Googled me; it was that
he'd dropped his findings into conversation so confidently. Had he
been more coy, I'd have been more comfortable. But is using a public
resource something to be sheepish about?
When I told pals about Stan, reaction split along generational lines.
One friend in his 50s urged me to change my phone number -- or,
ideally, enter a witness-protection program -- but no one younger than
40 seemed surprised by Stan's behavior. "It's like asking a mutual
friend about you and then talking about what he'd learned without
explaining how he'd learned it," says Josh, 28. "It's tacky, but it's
not stalker material."
The word "tacky" implies a violation of formal etiquette, and at the
moment, there aren't any agreed-upon rules for Google, which could
explain why many Internet sleuths are, like me, a little shy about our
habit. To my mind, Josh's approach -- applying the same etiquette
standards to Google that we apply to human gossip -- makes good sense.
Asking a mutual friend where a new crush went to college doesn't seem
intrusive, so uncovering the information online shouldn't be either.
But just as many of us might hesitate before asking an acquaintance
about, say, a date's financial history, we should also hesitate before
inquiring online about the unsuccessful bid of $212,379 that
Mr. Friday Night made on a piece of Worcester real estate in March of