Is Facebook stalking before a date a bad idea?

A man and his computer

A man and his computer (August 1, 2013)

I'm set to meet someone this week I met via OKCupid (one of the few times I've felt inclined to actually reach out). We've exchanged some pleasantries and seem to have a very similar background. She's offered up her Facebook profile already. My concern is this: I'm very reluctant to add anyone on FB unless I've actually met them in person or have a very, very, very good connection to them. How would be a good way to say, "Let's just wait till we meet in person before we Facebook stalk each other?" I've been very tempted to check out her FB page, but I've held back so as not to create unrealistic expectations for myself. Thanks in advance for your advice.

I was going to say that Facebook-friending a date before meeting them was a bold move, but as I was typing that, I got a notification on FB from a former booty call’s now ex-girlfriend, whom I’ve never met in person. So, there goes that. This is our reality now. We have far more interactions face-to-Facebook than we do in person. That said, it’s still your party and you can deny if you want to.

I understand the impulse to not want to know everything about a person before you’ve met them. Where’s the mystery? Where’s the excitement? From a girl’s perspective, though, I also understand the impulse to want to screen a potential date beforehand, to make sure they aren’t serial killers, or worse, supporters of Rick Santorum. According to a Match.com survey of more than 5,000 singles, 48 percent of women research a guy on Facebook before the first date (38 percent of men do too). While a degree of stalking is pretty unavoidable, now is a good time to examine your social media self to see if something off-putting has slipped under the radar. Are there Instagram pics of fetuses? Videos of you lighting pigeons on fire? Pics of you making out with someone who looks suspiciously like a girlfriend? If not, I’d bet your profile is harmless.

Unless, it’s not! Also in the Match study (It’s an infographic, so, “study,” grain of salt, blah blah.) was the part that you’re probably afraid of: 38 percent of singles canceled a date because of something they found while researching online. Better hide them Olivia Newton-John albums, son. Or she might fall in love with you.

I think your sample dialogue above is a perfectly reasonable request if you’re concerned that her curiosity will kill the LOLcat. You could also accept her request only after you’ve filtered your profile to an acceptable level of pre-date info. But that seems like a pain, doesn’t it? Besides, what if your date goes well? Will you then give in? There’s a wide chasm between “met them once” and “very, very, very connected” and sooner or later your date will want to have access to your coffee foam art and opinions on “Sharknado,” the sequel. It’s up to you when that should happen, of course, but try not to panic too much if she’s more familiar with your Facebook rather than your actual face.

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