Private Man recently emailed me and asked for feedback on a reader question. Here’s the scenario:
A man met a woman online and arranged a date. In the hours before the arranged meet up, the woman asked the man for his last name. She explicitly told him that she was asking so she could Google him. The guy said he felt freaked out, but gave her his last name anyway.
He wanted to know what the real reason was for the woman’s admission and request and how to circumvent this issue in the future.
In my mind, there’s the “real” reason and the real reason why she would want his last name.
The “real” reason, of course, is to Google the guy and do a little re-con work. The “real” reason, in my opinion, was to force familiarity with the guy and attempt to take a power position in the relationship. It’s another test. If he gives her his last name, then he “really” likes and trusts her. Whatever info she can gather is just a bonus. Most people Google their dates. (I don’t. I find it futile.) Fewer people actually tell someone that they are going to do so.
Someone who tells you that they will Google you is no different than the person who tells you they won’t sleep with you on a first date. They’re looking for specific reaction. If a woman tells a man she’s not going to sleep with him, she wants to see how he’s going to respond. In her mind, if he stops showing interest in her then he was just looking to get laid. Same goes for a woman who announces to a guy that she’s going to Google him. It’s an ineffective test women use to gauge just how sincere someone is. (Yes, I know. “Safety shamer!”) As with most tests, all it does is provide someone with a false sense of security. And what happens when you function under a false sense of security? You get bamboozled. Ironic, right?
The more something becomes less common or obsolete, like calling someone to ask them out, the more important certain people want it. Fewer people are handing out their last names to their online dates. So, of course, more people are now insisting upon that information before setting up a date. It’s another way for them to prove to themselves that this person is sincere and genuinely interested. Don’t take it personally that someone doesn’t welcome you into their online home before they have a date or two under their belt. Most people offer the information if asked. Just understand that by asking for specific information, people will assume you are using it for one thing. Most people won’t care. That is, unless you tell them outright what you’re doing. That’s when people get unsettled. Not because they fear you’ll uncover some deep dark secret but because nobody likes knowing that someone is Google/Facebook Creeping them. My friend has an appropriate analogy for this situation.
It is like worrying that ghosts are watching you while you sleep. It’s a problem of your own imagination.
Accept that people do it and that we are now in a sate of a “new” normal in this regard. As I’ve said before, I think the whole concept of doing research on a date or someone you’re dating to be unnecessary. Creeping on someone like a new date or an Ex, as long as it stays within the lines, is only destructive to the person doing the creeping. Accept that it’s not atypical and just be mindful of it and let it go. We’re all mini-celebrities now. People like to watch and judge and analyze. That’s just how it is now.
You do a background check on someone you’re going to marry or somehow tie yourself to legally or financially. You don’t do background checks on people you’re just dating. If you sense someone is lying or not who they say they are, walk away. That’s it. You ask them questions, you pay attention to inconsistencies and you don’t ignore your gut. It’s very simple. These horror stories we hear about scam artists and predators almost always involve glaring red flags that people overlooked or ignored. Yes, there are the cases here and there where someone ended up being a sociopath and doing serious mental and physical harm. But those cases are the exceptions to the rule and not the rule. A sociopath can and will sneak under the radar, undetectable by even a background check. Google will not protect you from those people.
To answer the query about how to navigate this type of request before meeting someone, I’m not really sure you can. If you tell someone you don’t want to give out specific info, you’ll look like you’re hiding something. If someone isn’t satisfied with the fact that you’ve given them your phone number before meeting, my guess is that person might have some trust issues and therefore end up being a handful. It’s best to disengage right then. If you really like them, then give them the additional details they request. The fact that someone is asking you for more info should tell you one thing: they don’t trust you. Maybe they’ve been burnt in the past or maybe they’re just really needy or maybe there is something about your behavior that is tripping off an internal wire somewhere. Who knows? Only you can decide if that person is worth getting to know. If you are someone who is hyper-private or Google-averse, I have to say that online dating probably isn’t a great way to meet people. So either accept that this is now the new normal or stop dating.
Giving a phone number or email address alone is usually enough to give the person all the info they need to hit up Google. This is why I think the woman’s request was a red herring. She had his number. All she had to do was do reverse look up of that to get his last name. She wasn’t afraid he was going to abduct her or con her out of cash. She just wanted to see what he’d say so she could tell herself she stood out from his other options.