Here's The Right Way To 'Investi-Date' Someone Before The Meet-Cute
Online stalking before a first date is an opportunity unique to our generation. Here's how to make the best use of it.
By Mark Travers, Ph.D. | November 2, 2023
It has become incredibly easy to satisfy our curiosity when it comes to finding out who our dates are. With just a name or a profile link, you can quickly find yourself deep in someone's online life. This phenomenon has become so common that it's earned its own term: "investi-dating."
Investi-dating is the act of conducting a pre-date investigation of a potential romantic interest. With platforms like Instagram, Facebook, X and LinkedIn at our fingertips, many of us can't resist the temptation to do a little reconnaissance before that first coffee or dinner outing. Think of it as a modern-day background check where, instead of criminal records, you're looking at favorite vacation spots, music tastes or how someone interacts with their friends.
There are some undeniable benefits to this. For one, you can ensure your own safety by verifying that the person is who they claim to be. A quick scroll through someone's online profile can offer a degree of assurance. Additionally, having some prior knowledge can also serve as an ice-breaker. Knowing that they recently attended a music festival or visited a particular city can be a great conversation starter.
Here are two techniques to investi-date someone without crossing into the territory of overly judgy or creepy.
1. Contextualize Their Online Interactions Before Jumping To Conclusions
One of the primary pitfalls of online investigation is taking things at face value without understanding the context. Instead of making judgments based solely on photos and posts, find ways to read between the lines.
Here's how to do it:
- Focus on public interactions. Instead of trying to decipher meaning from each photo or post, focus on how they interact with others. Are their comments respectful? Do they engage in positive discussions? This can give you insight into their personality and values.
- Look for patterns, not isolated events. Everyone might have a post or two that, out of context, can seem off-putting. Instead of focusing on one-off events, look for consistent behaviors or themes in their online presence. This helps form a holistic view of who they are.
While it's essential to find someone whose values align with yours, be cautious if their entire online persona seems too good to be true. The term "wokefishing" refers to individuals who pretend to hold progressive views to attract a partner. If every post they make seems calibrated for maximum wokeness, that may be a red flag. Genuine beliefs are nuanced, and no one agrees with popular opinion all the time. If you find that there's nothing they post that you'd want to discuss or challenge in person, it might be worth considering if they're presenting their true selves online.
2. Look For Authenticity In Stories, Not Only Posts
A 2022 study published in Social Media and Society suggests that the fleeting nature of stories, as opposed to the permanence of posts, allows for a more spontaneous and authentic form of self-presentation. Participants in the study perceived their own stories as slightly more authentic than their posts.
This is pivotal when investi-dating. While posts can be curated, edited and deliberated over for hours or even days, stories are often impromptu, capturing real-life moments as they happen. So, if you're trying to get a more genuine sense of a person, their stories might be a better place to start. Remember, however, that all online presentations are just facets of a person, and the complete picture is always more complex than what's shown on social media.
Also, as you navigate the complexities of online personas, trust your instincts when assessing authenticity. A 2020 study published in Nature Communications discovered a link between authenticity in online expressions and overall life satisfaction. Specifically, those who leaned more towards genuine self-presentation on social media platforms like Facebook showed higher life contentment levels. This research emphasizes that a person's well-being is closely tied to how genuinely they portray themselves online, which can be invaluable information for those seeking a contented and authentic partner.
Engaging in investi-dating with an understanding of online dynamics offers a practical advantage. Social media can provide a window into a person's life, tastes and values. However, while techniques like contextualizing online interactions or seeking authenticity in stories are valuable, they are just tools to aid our understanding. Remember, no matter how curated or genuine an online profile seems, it's only a piece of the whole picture. Resist the urge to either idolize or dismiss someone solely based on their online presence. After all, the real depth of connection and understanding comes from personal interactions, discussions and shared experiences.