Research Before Romance: Should We Fact Check First?

We have seen it all when it comes to dating – the good, bad, ugly and sketchy. We have ended up dating people that have later turned out to have significant others at home, have lied about their profession (and subsequent “million-dollar condo”) and even encountered the white collar criminal, of whom we still don’t know his real name to this day. Thankfully, due to our emerging intuition, all of these “relationships” ended before we fell too hard, if we even fell at all. 

When a friend was recently met with similar luck, it raised the question: how could this have been prevented? Employers do background checks in the form of reference letters, criminal records and past university enrolment. In this day and age of social media, Google searches and our ever-so-tiny young professional circles, it seems increasingly easy to do your research on someone immediately after making an initial connection and scoring that number or email address and following through with the inevitable Facebook “add.”

Just one Facebook creep (especially now with Timeline) can reveal who his or her friends are, when their last relationship began and ended and whether there are others still in the picture. A quick Google search will likely bring up his or her LinkedIn profile, so you can confirm he or she was truthful about their job – and he is, in fact, an insurance broker. We know, we sound skeptical and paranoid, but hey, we speak from experience. The reality is, in our YP circle of single friends, if someone does not have an online presence (meaning they are completely unsearchable, even when their name and company is Googled), it is immediately seen as a red flag. It seems we all want the facts first. Of 10 Toronto-based YPs questioned, 9 admitted to Googling potential love interests by the time the first date had ended. 

Of course, as self-proclaimed hopeless romantics, we are suckers for the idea of the good old-fashioned mystery and intrigue in meeting someone you know nothing about and getting to know them slowly, without the increasingly hard-to-resist Facebook creep, LinkedIn check or inquiring about his or her history through mutual friends. But in this day and age, it is common for young professionals to do his or her research when selecting potential mates, much like we do when purchasing a new car, deciding restaurant and any other decision in our savvy lives. 

Like anything else, there are two sides to the fact check argument. Although 99 per cent of our YP friends have jumped on the Facebook bandwagon, we do know a few who haven’t and are some of the soundest people we know. Their mentality is, “why would I want my life on display on Facebook? Anyone I want to keep in contact with, I do. I don’t need hundreds of “friends” having inside access to my life.” Admittedly, it is invasive.  Increasingly, our lives (and how we wish for people to perceive our lives) are transparent. Not everyone feels the need to be connected, especially if his or her profession does not call for it. Teachers, for example, may find social media involvement a potential professional recipe for disaster.

Then there is LinkedIn – shouldn’t any savvy business professional maintain a profile on LinkedIn? Apparently not so much. “I feel zero need to be on LinkedIn – it is for recent graduates or the unemployed looking for jobs,” said one “unsearchable” Toronto YP in finance (we think). “Most new jobs come through who you know personally or through referral, so there really is zero point for me.” Again, some professions call for LinkedIn involvement more than others. Just because he or she is not on the professional networking site doesn’t mean they are working at a coffee shop when they claim to be making waves in the worlds of scientific research, finance or medicine.

Then there is fact checking via the grapevine, something that must be approached with caution and taken with a grain of salt. There are two sides to every story, every breakup and every one-night stand gone horribly wrong. Every guy has a “psycho ex” who went crazy either during the relationship or the breakup; every girl has a d-bag ex who treated her so unimaginably horribly. In reality, her “craziness” could have been her inability to control her emotions when reacting to being lied to, cheated on and otherwise mistreated by her ex and that guy could have been a “d-bag” simply because his ex refused to accept being broken up with.

In terms of research, like anything, we say take it for face value and don’t be quick to jump to conclusions. Things are not always as they seem on social media sites. That guy in dozens of pictures with that girl could be her brother and that beautiful, successful girl smiling happily in her Facebook pictures, surrounded by friends, could in fact be horribly insecure and a nightmare to deal with. Just like restaurant reviews, we say the best way is to find out for yourself. Just don’t make the same mistakes we did; ask the proper questions, and if something sounds “off,” follow those questions by delving a little further. Finally, trust your instincts. If something does seem off from the beginning, it likely could be and we are firm believers in the power of women’s (and men’s) intuition. For further insight, check out our first date warning signs. Good luck!