In .2 seconds I can do a Google search on anyone. For some people, long lists of hits appear. For others, it’ll just be genealogies of random unrelated folks who share the same name and posted a family website. But it always turns up something.
Googling potential dates or new love interests has become commonplace. It’s fun, informative and a great way to procrastinate. But it underscores the fact that we want to know everything we can about someone in the most efficient way possible. While this is good in the business world, it can cause problems in your personal life. I offer this cautionary tale:
Two years ago I was set up on a blind date by a friend-of-a-friend. Blind Date guy and I exchanged two emails: To start things off, he introduced himself (including academic, professional and religious background information), sent a photo (he was cute), and requested that I do the same (I did). He then asked me out for dinner, and I accepted.
The beginning of dinner went smoothly enough. We talked generally about our lives and kept the banter light. But as the main course arrived, I was beginning to sense that something was weird about this guy. I had only just met him, yet he seemed to know exactly the right questions to ask, and when I answered them, he seemed unsurprised-even uninterested-by my answers.
At one point in the dinner he made a reference to the fact that both our families liked to spend summers on the Jersey Shore. That pulled me up short: I hadn’t mentioned that. In fact, I hadn’t told him about a lot of the things he knew about me.
Had he Googled me? Doing an internet search before meeting a blind date – or, in fact, anyone – is now standard. It’s nice to have a little background before you meet someone, and plus, it’s just too tempting not to: You can learn all sorts of useful things and then ask all the right questions to seem interested in the other person and make them like you. Calculated? Probably. But it’s Standard Dating Procedure.
The More Interesting Parts
This guy, however, took it to a new level: He had a friend who works at a major consulting company run a complete background search – including public records documents – of me and my parents. He knew everything about me, and wasn’t ashamed to have done these searches. “C’mon, you want all the information you can about someone, as soon as possible, so you can get past this boring getting-to-know-you stuff and ” here, he paused and put on an I’m-trying-to-be-sexy voice, “get to the more interesting parts of a relationship.”
I was shocked, and a little bit creeped out. It was both an invasion of privacy and a perversion of what interpersonal relationships are about in the first place. Clearly, there was no second date, but this experience has stuck with me:
In his mind, “getting to know me” meant accruing enough facts about my history that he knew if I ticked the boxes on his check list. Then, after I passed that test, it meant asking tailored questions so he looked thoughtful and interested. And then, presumably, I’d sleep with him, which was going to be more interesting.
You can do all the Google searches and professional background searches you want, but relationships take time. In person, face-to-face time-before you add in physical intimacy.
In your current relationship (or the last time you were in love with someone), when did you know you were in love?
e) I’ve never been in love
In your current relationship (or the last time you were in love with someone), how often did/do you say it?
a) once a week
b) every day
Does your family say “I love you” often? (yes/no)
How many times have you been in love? (Short answer)
When you say “I love you” to a boyfriend/girlfriend or spouse – what do those words mean to you? (Short answer)
How do you show someone you love them? (Short answer)
Last weekend I saw The 40-Year-Old Virgin, the silly summer movie where, at the encouragement of his sex-obsessed friends, an electronics store employee tries to lose his virginity to the first available woman. Instead, he meets a forty-something divorced mother, and, after a botched attempt on their first date, the two agree to wait 20 dates before having sex. They take walks in the park, they start a business together, he gets to know her family, they wrap Christmas presents together, she teaches him to drive and the months fly by. Sure, all this happens in the space of a few minutes, in classic Hollywood form, but it reminded me of all the things we do when we’re first getting to know someone, and how important it is not to rush through all those special early moments.
Many of us are guilty of a frenzied rush early on in relationships: We meet someone, we gather as much information as we can about them – through friends, through college websites, through Google – and then we want to move things along. First date went well? Great, when can we have sex? Or how can we get things to the “happily ever after” stage as soon as possible?
Sure, it’s not as creepy as doing a public-records background search on a date to try to make a girl feel like you know her enough to have sex, but no matter how you rush a relationship, it’s a similar negative end result: You’re playing out a fantasy in your own head, and not letting things grow-and not letting God show you the right path.
Getting Beyond Google
I’ll say it again: Relationships take time. There are a lot of pressures on us to find out all the information about someone, to sleep with someone quickly, to eliminate the transaction costs of dating and find someone and settle down, but investing time in a relationship, really getting to know someone’s good and bad quirks – not just the school they went to or the car they drive – is crucial.
Whether it takes 20 dates or 200, relationships are about more than just the facts on Google (no full background searches, please!) or how quickly you can get her in bed. Log in some deeper searches, too.
My next column will ask: “When is the right time to say ‘I love you’ – and what do those words mean?” Some people say they’ve been in love many times, while others fall in love slowly and infrequently. Can you be in love after just a few weeks? Or does it take a year or more? And when is the right time to say the L-word?