You swiped right on Tinder and it was a match. You finally got that hottie at the coffee shop to look up from his cappuccino and say “Hey.” You gave your number to the babe at the bar with the dimples. Congratulations! Now that you have the guy (or girl), it’s time for the first date. You’re excited but let’s be real, terrified. What do you really know about this stranger you’re going to meet (and potentially fall in love with)?
We live in an age of Catfish and low down, dirty playas and social media scumbags are a dime a dozen. What you see isn't always what you get. Protect yourself, girl. Do your homework so you don’t get played. Now, we’re not saying you should call the FBI and run a background check on your bae (although if you have those resources, send them our way) but you should check up on the person you’re meeting up with IRL. For your safety and sanity, here’s how to stalk…Okay, stalking sounds bad. Here’s how you RESEARCH your date. Happy creeping! (Seriously, don't creep for real.)
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Facebook may no longer be your favorite, popping social media network—it kind of lost something when your Mom joined—but it’s still the most thorough snapshot of your date online.
1. Scan Bio: First and foremost, what is your date’s Relationship Status? “It’s Complicated” or “In a Relationship” are immediate dealbreakers. Stop. Do not pass “Go” and cancel the date.
2. Relationship Status Red Flag: Some people keep relationship status blank because they’re hiding that they’re in a relationship and still want to play the field. Pass!
3. Keep it on the Down Low: Not everyone without a Facebook relationship status is a terrible human. Some people—like Facebook Mark Zuckerberg--keep their personal lives private, especially from nosy relatives or coworkers. I have many friends who are teachers, for instance, who aren’t even on Facebook because they don’t want their students friending them. This is totally legit -- but understand that this is the type of person who doesn’t want a relationship--possibly YOUR relationship--to be publicized. If you can’t live with that (Over-sharing, PDA-loving folks, I’m looking at you) then this may not be the one for you.
4. Photos: A photo says a thousand words. Scan your future boo’s page for any traces of another boo in photos or in the photo comments. Who is that slender arm around their shoulder that’s been cropped off?
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Speaking of popping social networks, Instagram is it. Everyone from your cousin to Drake is on Instagram and the Direct Message feature has launched many a romance.
1. Send Me a Pic: Photos are everything. Who is your date hanging with? Or tagging? That attractive person in the short shorts better be a cousin… Does your date post thirst-traps? We see you with the six-pack but who exactly are you posting these pics for? Some smart playas are scrubbing their Instagram pages and removing all photos of men and women. MAJOR red flag. How does your date know zero people? That usually means they have (at least) one boo thang that they don’t want the world and YOU to know about.
2. Comments: Okay, so the photos are pretty PG and there’s no trace of any honeys. Awesome. Before you start planning your wedding, read through photo comments because he/she might be keeping the harem on the low. Do you see the same birds commenting on photos? The more emoji = the harder the thirst.
3. Team Follow Back: Now this is some advanced stalking researching that will take a few extra clicks but it’s so worth it. Who does your date follow and like? If they’re following strippers, video vixens or “Instagram models,” run for the hills. Who wants to date someone who spends all day liking photos like a creeper?
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Although photos have largely moved to Instagram, Twitter can still be very valuable when in learning about your date.
1. Twitter Persona: Everyone has a Twitter persona—it’s the person we’d like the world to think we are online. Eye through tweets, hashtags and ReTweets. Are the topics of interest to you? You can easily spot a psycho fan of Pretty Little Liars or far out there political opinions from Twitter.
2. Team Follow Back: Like Instagram, who someone follows on Twitter says a lot. Kanye West only follows Kim Kardashian. Does your sweetie follow you? Is that important? Based on who they tweet often, you can tell a lot about who their friends are. If they’re a bunch of lames, unfollow.
3. Emo Tweet: Is your boo emo? Some people use Twitter like their personal 140-character therapist. If he’s still tweeting Drake lyrics from “Marvin’s Room” or she’s going on with sad-face emoji, they’re probably hung up on an ex. Be warned.
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Can you pay my (or your) bills? If it’s important for your love to have a good ass J-O-B, head over to LinkedIn. Since many people use LinkedIn in their actual jobs, the likelihood of outright lying is lessened (although, not completely gone). Note: LinkedIn often shares that you’ve looked at a certain profile—I noticed an ex-boyfriend LinkedIn stalking me recently--so use a friend’s login or create a separate account from your own. Otherwise, be prepared for them to possibly call you out on the first date.
1. Current Position: Does he/she have a job? Is this a real company or are they the CEO of some made up “Homeboy Basement Enterprises LLC”? This info can help you also assess salary and short-term career potential, if you’re so inclined. Use a site like CareerBuilder or Glassdoor for additional information.
2. Education: Do you need an Ivy League man or a self-made power girl? If education is important, LinkedIn can help. For the academics, cross-reference where your date went to school with the current college rankings from U.S. News & World Report Bonus: Find out fun facts about their college—especially about what sports or academic programs it’s known for--and bring it up on the date.
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If it’s good enough for Nev and Max on Catfish, it’s good enough for us. Googling is an excellent way to get information about your date that may or may not appear on social media networks.
1. Internet Famous?: Does your boo’s name come up on Google? Google the full name. If he/she has a unique name or is famous—a celebrity or influential—they’ll probably come up quickly. Read up on accolades and what people are saying about them. If they’re infamous, it’s sure to come up in search results. Like, if your bae has been in the news for say, committing murder or breaking out of prison. Needless to say, RUN (and call the cops).
2. Married or Nah? Not everyone that puts a ring on it, wears a wedding ring. If your date is married, a wedding site or marriage announcement will likely come up in Google. You can specify these search results with queries like “[Full name] marriage” or “[Full name] wedding registry.”
3. Blog Secrets: Whether you’re dating a professional writer or not, your date may have a blog on Tumblr, Wordpress or a host of other sites. These should come up in Google. Peruse the blog. You’ll get a good idea if he’s a Yankees fan or if she loves photographing food. Some blogs may be very personal and more akin to reading a diary. Based on how comfortable you feel delving into a stranger’s soul, be prepared for what may show up (e.g. fears, childhood issues, relationship confessions).
4. Leave it to the Pros: Between finding the perfect pair of sandals and getting your hair done, you may have no time or interest in researching your date. Bring in a professional. There’s a host of background check services that will run criminal checks, property records and marriage/divorce records for a fee. Give as much information you have—the more the better—and let the pros do the heavy lifting.