April 10, 2007
I have previously written about what is romance, why dating is like combat and what we really want, but now I bring you the fourth installment of "As we search for our one and only".

In today's episode, we find Jane has been contacted by a prospective suitor from the online dating service she uses. The two have written each other for a few weeks and have fleshed out the basic likes and dislikes each other has. The time has come to reveal each others names and set up their first face-to-face meeting. After learning of his name does Jane, a) sound it out a few times to see how it rolls off her tonuge, b) see how many combinations of last names she can make out of their names, or c) go to Google and try to find out what a freak he really is?

If you answered c, you get the gold star. If you answered a, get a life. If you answered b, you have already failed the freak test.

Why answer c? Because, like so many other things, Googling (yes, turning a noun into a verb by adding -ing is a perfectly cromulent use of the English language) is becoming the derigeur method of finding out what your prospective date is really like. Instead of simply asking what a person is like, those of the younger crowd now turn to Google (or other search engines) to find out what a person isn't saying about themselves.

Is this a bad idea? No and yes. No, it's not a bad idea to try and find out a bit more about the person you are going to meet while at the same time, yes, it is (or can be) a bad idea. It's one thing to email back and forth asking all the usual questions. It's quite another to do some research on a person and find out that when they say they like to work out, in reality they mean they have a world-class gym in their basement and have posted pictures of it on the web and refer to the equipment as "Baby".

A quick Google will net you numerous articles and how-tos regarding online searches of your next date, including the most recent write-up by CNN. All the ins-and-outs of what to look for, how to read signs of narcissism and anything else the author wants to throw your way.

For all this, the one thing that is missing is the most basic: how not to come off as some overbearing, control freak. It's one thing to want to find out a person's like and dislikes. It's quite another to get a dossier of everything a person has done since fourth grade and go over it in minute detail to try and find out any excuse to dump the person before you even meet them.

What's even more interesting is how easy it is to find out things about the other person that they, probably, wouldn't want to come out in casual conversation. As the CNN article relates, one person found out a potential date had a fascination with vampires. There's nothing wrong with that, everyone, whether they admit it or not, has a fascination with something. For some people, it's unicorns, with others it's ceramic figurines of angels.

However, with all the blogs, personal web pages (like this one), Facebook and all the other ways that one can post the minutae of their lives for all to see, are we not setting ourselves up for failure in our search for "the one"? Have we, as a society, become so enamored and dependent upon technology that we have to, at all costs, find out what everyone else is doing/saying/thinking at any moment in time? Are we losing the ability to communicate, as adult humans, and get to know, really, deep down know, the other person?

As I said in an earlier piece, there seems to be an evergrowing need for instant gratification when it comes to matters of the heart. Trying to find out what a person is really like by using the vast resources of the internet is just the latest manifestation of how sterile the process is becoming. If you already know that the person likes to go horseback riding at dusk on the beach, how can that little tidbit be fun to hear about when it comes up in conversation? You already know the person does this so you haven't learned anything new.

I think part of the reason for this investigation, other than simply being cautious, is because we have put ourselves into this position by our own actions. We continue to push ourselves harder and harder, making sure that every step along the way is recorded, documented and that everyone around us knows what we are doing via cell phones, pagers, Blackberries, etc. In so doing, we have to compress our every act to make sure we have to time to do X, where X is the next thing in our perpetually overwhelmed lives we constantly complain about. Since we have so little time, we can't take the time to sit down with someone and enjoy (or maybe not) hearing about their lives and what they want.

No, we already know what they're about and now just want to get the face-to-face over with. We're willing to lie to their face when they tell us something we already know about them and exclaim, "Really? I didn't know that!" Is this what dating has come to? Apparently so.

I know what you're thinking. Get over it grandpa (a nomenclature which, fortunately, isn't true). This is the new century! If you're not Googling a potential mate while talking on your phone to your friend who is doing the same, you're old school. You're not with it. Go back to 1984 and lead a dull boring life. We have things to do today. We don't have time to actually, you know, talk to people. Get with the times!

It must be said that my daily life revolves around talking to people. Usually the very people I just described. The ones who think they know what they're doing but in reality will make a neverending stream of calls asking me to fix a problem they created despite them "knowing what they were doing" or, more usually, responding with, "I don't know that happened. I didn't do it.". However, it is these very people that have caused me to seem somewhat quiet, reserved and businesslike when first meeting people. I can't afford to let it slip that I work with computers lest the inevitable question of "Can you help me with a problem I'm having?" be uttered.

In reality, I'm a curious person. I like to explore even if it is only online or on television. I like learning new things. Yet, for all that, my bullshit meter has never let me down. Just by looking at someone or hearing a few words I can tell you more about a person than would seem possible. I am my own Google.

It now seems that the dating world is inhabited by those who haven't a clue as to what they want but will make a big deal of complaining they can't find anyone. People who think that technology is the be-all-and-end-all of everything because in an instant they can talk with someone and tell them they're walking down the aisle at the local Kwik E Mart and just wanted to say hi.

Dating has now come down to this: what can I find out about the other person so I don't have to meet them?