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Should You Google Your Dates? By Lisa Daily (Lavalife columnist)

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It's a truly modern love story:

Boy meets girl online.
Boy ogles girl. Girl Googles boy.
Girl passes visual check, boy passes criminal check.
They meet, date, and fall madly in love.

Then, after a satisfactory waiting period, his-and-her credit checks, and an ironclad pre-nup agreement, boy and girl live happily every after.

Ask any online dater if they "Google" their online matches, and the answer is frequently yes -- or, "Why, what have you heard?" Thanks to the magic of Google.com, you can learn that your date-to-be was winner of the National Peanut Brittle Eating Competition, was recently married in lovely ceremony at the Kiwanis Club, or is currently serving five-to-10 for impersonating a real estate agent.

John Seely, author of Get Unstuck! The Simple Guide to Restart Your Life, says, "Google your prospective dates. It's good to know what you can before you even meet them. It may offer some topics of conversation, like 'I understand that you have a Pulitzer Prize, or I read that you've been in prison.' Either way it will make interesting conversation, and open up some real dialog. It really is important to know who you're dating, not just for safety's sake, but for knowing who this potential partner is."

To some daters, Googling your date feels like a natural extension to online dating. After all, the technology is there, so why not use it? To others, Googling seems like an invasion of the privacy of a stranger. It's like being left alone in a guy's apartment for the first time: Do you sit on the couch, innocently flipping through the pages of GQ and awaiting his return? Or do you use the 13.6 minutes he'll be gone for a pizza run to rummage through the shoebox on the high shelf in his closet, check his nightstand drawers for evidence, and listen to the saved messages on his answering machine?

As one online dater put it, "No! Don't Google dates! -- I was dating a divorced guy I met online and when I Googled him, I found an interview with his ex-wife. I had her pictures staring at me, found out their wedding dates, details of their honeymoon etc. I felt like I had just committed a major invasion of privacy. How was I supposed to react when it got to the point that this man was going to confide in me those details?"

But other daters feel it's a matter of safety. A single mother of two met a man online who turned out to be a con artist. He forged documents, cleaned out her bank account, and eventually forced her home into foreclosure. She warns, "Is it OK to check out dates? I say it is critical!"


Seely agrees. "In today's age, it pays to be safe than sorry." He says, "Checking your date out with other 'background' checks is an individual choice. There are sites that offer complete background checks, like credit, prison, etc." Among the tools of curious and safety-conscious daters is the reverse phone number lookup offered by Google as well as a plethora of online detectives who can search out everything from marriages to diplomas to bankruptcies to DUIs for a small fee.

While online dating can put a world of fabulous dates on your doorstep, the law of averages (and, let's be honest, love) is bound to throw in a few duds as well. Which explains the growing popularity of some sites like www.datingpsychos.com and www.dontdatehimgirl.com, which offer databases of bad dates, married dates, and all-around crazy dates. Www.truedater.com catalogs both good and bad dates. And, one of the most popular of this new breed of dating sites is www.womansavers.com (also known as www.manhaters.com,) which claims the world's largest database of cheating men. According to their website, their "worldwide Rate-A-Guy database ranks men's infidelity, hygiene, education, manners, finances, sexual performance, abusive behavior, marriage and commitment potential."

The truth is there is a lot of information available. And, there's a fine line between keeping yourself safe (good), satisfying your curiosity (not so bad) and invading someone's privacy (cue "stalker" soundtrack).

And, while I'm not in favor of snooping through someone's underwear drawer while they run down to the convenience store, I do think Googling is a pretty good idea. After all, any information you find on Google is probably a matter of public record anyway. It's not as though you're breaking into the FBI mainframe to view secret files.

Where Googling can help is to bring up any red flags: Maybe your new guy has been blogging a turkey baster manifesto. Maybe that hottie has a 38-page rap sheet. Or a promising woman who says she's a partner at a big downtown law firm, but her name doesn't come up on the firm website -- maybe it's because she's new, maybe it's because she works in the mailroom.

Either way, it's smarter to look for love with your heart and your eyes wide open.

Dating Expert Lisa Daily is the author of Stop Getting Dumped!

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