Dear Prudence

Dear Prudence Uncensored: The Google Search

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


Danny: transition!

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

Danny: right

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

Danny: wow

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


Nicole: Correct!

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)


Nicole: Totally

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

Nicole: YEAH

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

Nicole: Right!

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