We All Social Media Stalk Before Dates — But Some Of Us Are Better Than Others. And It’s A Problem.
Baby boomers and Gen X love nothing more than to tell millennials how the paradigm of dating has shifted dramatically during the digital age. Usually, when these comments arise, we keep silent. Either because we’re too busy looking down at our phones, or because we know that they’re onto something. Texting has brought an onslaught of ghosting. Dating apps have made it easier to find hookups and more difficult to camouflage the abundance of f*ckbois waiting in your DM’s. But if there’s one critical element that social media brought to the table (besides finding a way to coalesce fake news and memes under one platform), it’s completely upending blind dates as we know it.
The demolishment of this old-age social norm has proven to be both a blessing and a curse. On one hand, being able to stalk your dates by way of their most personal representation of themselves is, quite literally, what keeps me up at night. It’s invigorating to see the fashion choices, political choices, and educational choices that a potential suitor makes before even meeting them tête-à-tête. But it’s toxic. And every time I go down that rabbit hole I remember all the times people have made inferences about me, thought they actually knew me, all based on my social media presence.
For a long time, first impressions were the only predecessor for making assumptions. But now, in the age of digital screenings, social media has supplanted the way in which we judge one another. We’re all guilty of this natural human tendency, judging someone by only catching a glimpse of their face (hello dating apps), but would it kill ya to at least do a little more research before making blanket statements? Even when those statements are accurate, it is in your best interest to be discreet at all costs. (For example: Before going on a date, you stalk her social media and see she went to India. Don’t ask how India was, why would you know she went to India in the first place? See where I’m going here? Better move: Ask if she likes to travel.)
“I Thought You’d Bring a Picket Sign to Our Date”
This is a real comment from a real man who I really dated. Briefly. At the time, I let out a real laugh, like a big belly laugh from deep inside my body (because my body, my choice, you know?), and then I continued to squawk: “Stop mansplaining the extremes to which I practice feminism!” Jokes aside, I do believe in the equality between men, women, sexes, races, and what have you. I do make that known on my social media. But rarely do I run around with a literal picket sign. After all, I can’t burn my bra and hold a sign at the same time, now can I?
“So, like, you live in Williamsburg?”
I bumped into a guy I haven’t seen in years at a party two summers ago. He asked if I lived in Williamsburg because he’d seen me on social media involved with a very ‘hippie crowd.’ One who, he assumed, would live in Brooklyn. I responded with a chuckle (I mean, what else are you really supposed to do when a guy shows you his full hand of creepy cards) and a lackluster ‘no.’ Save for an ’80s Karaoke night, I’ve never been involved in a hippie crowd and am not sure what he meant to this day.
“I Thought You Were Seeing So and So”
Every time I’ve posted a picture with a male friend, ever. I guess that’s better than a friend-of-a-friend who gets the same comment frequently… about photos with her younger brother.
“…Because You Told Me”
And this is how they respond whenever you call them out on it. It couldn’t possibly be that they were creeping on your profile or you got a LinkedIn notification that you got a view hours before your date. A guy once took me to a Broadway show, which by all accounts should’ve been one of the sweetest and most romantic dates of my life. But when the curtain falls and the applause fades, he hands me our ticket stubs and says: “Take this. You told me you like saving things from your dates.” As accurate as that statement may be, and as much as I genuinely did want that ticket stub, I was taken aback. In the few weeks that I’d known him and the handful of dates we’d gone on, I was 100% certain I never told him about my collections. Then, it dawned on me: A year ago — yes, a full year — I’d written about saving ex-boyfriend memorabilia on my blog. It’s like telling someone ‘you told me you like french fries’ because you always see them eating the greasy All American delicacy on their Instagram – or have been watching their frequent In N’ Out trips using a camera you secretly installed in their car. No, I never actually told you this.
Stay safe out there, kids. We may all be social media stalkers (some of us better than others), but when the next person you have a Tinder date with is choosing a spot to meet, they’re doing it based on the biography they can find about you online. So post carefully — and make sure you’ve deleted that photo from four years ago on your Facebook (anybody else still on there?!) of you scarfing down on some chicken nuggets if you’ve since become a vegetarian.