Every week, Danny Ortberg and Nicole Cliffe discuss a Prudie letter. This week: Googling dates.
Danny: so first of all, I think it’s important to talk about “gaslighting” concept creep, by which I mean the word “gaslighting” being used to describe not merely gaslighting but now, like, “lying,” or “disagreeing”
Nicole: I too would have walked out! Three dates in? lack of internet presence?
Maybe this person was shady, in which case, bullet dodged
But you sound paranoid and you were not gaslit
Danny: yeah, your date just didn’t like what you did!
Nicole: and said so openly and left
Danny: again, if someone else thinks you are being unreasonable, and you are very much convinced you are being reasonable, you are not being gaslit
you are being argued with, possibly even manipulated, but not gaslit
Nicole: Also there are many reasons people keep their name off the internet
simply being private or not liking social media!
I agree that it’s definitely unusual, but not totally unheard-of
Nicole: If you found a column that was like, “and that’s why I love Trump” with their name and headshot, bring that up
but you found … an absence
Danny: right and while I definitely understand wanting to Google someone by the third date
Nicole: Your date chose to move on with their life
Danny: I think it’s one of those things where, if you do it, it’s politest to pretend not to?
Nicole: It sounds to me like this was delivered in an accusatory fashion
and you don’t have enough information to be accusatory, just curious, and if this person is a private person to begin with … well, no wonder they walked out!
Nicole: There’s very placid ways to talk about your mutual internet presence!
There was once an amazing piece on Salon
In the earlier times
Danny: go on
Nicole: Where this adult man used to be SUPER INTO BIGFOOT
Danny: oh my god
Nicole: like a big ol Bigfoot believer
And his internet presence was … so many message boards
So, he had a date and said “you’ve likely googled me,” and she was so offended he thought she would have googled him that she walked out
I think about this … once a week
I’m not 100% sure what the lesson is in that story
but if only he’d waited another ten or so years, now that everyone online is super into cryptids
he could write his own ticket
Danny: I think it is understandable to want to briefly Google someone a few dates in, but I think if you’re going to do it you ought to be prepared to hide it, like furtively plucking a chin hair while you’re stopped in traffic because the light in your car is better than in your bathroom mirror
Danny: and that there are a number of reasons someone might not be Googleable and while another date might have been like “oh, yeah, here’s my [normal explanation]” I can understand why they were offended
and if I had to guess, I’d say odds are like, 85% that you just offended a private person
Nicole: Who might not be compatible with you!
Danny: and there’s a 15% chance this person was a scam artist taking refuge in umbrage
in the future if you’re a few dates in and you want to contextualize this person more (because if you met on an app you might not have friends in common and I certainly understand wanting to know more about the rest of their lives outside of a date)
Danny: then you say something like “Are you on [name any of the major social media sites]? I’m [your own username here], I’d love to friend you (or whatever)”
and if they say “no, I’m not on any social media” you can say “Oh, tell me more about that!”
and ask curious but non-invasive questions about what that’s like for them/what they get out of it
Danny: I think, sadly, you probably just found out you were incompatible with someone you otherwise liked because you clumsily handled a legitimate question
and not, I don’t know, the next Soapy Smith
Nicole: Quite possibly. Here’s hoping they wouldn’t have gotten along past a month anyway.
Danny: presumably you did not Google Steve when you two started going out
because you were coworkers
Danny: I did not Google Grace before we met, but based on the politeness and fastidious attention to punctuation in her emails, assumed she was upwards of 70
you learn something new every day