Spring 2013 | The Market | The Awful Truth: I Screen, You Screen
  • by Audrey Archives
  • May 30, 2013

DEPT The Market
Issue Spring 2013
Author Paul Nakayama

In an age where “check her out” means online and not from across the room, columnist Paul Nakayama wonders if internet pre-screening makes for better and more efficient dating.

A lot’s changed in the dating scene in the 10 years I’ve been with Audrey Magazine. I was recently re- minded of how much that is true when my editors asked me if guys also engaged in Internet stalking, particularly prior to going on a date. I remember this little website called Asian Avenue where all of a sudden there was this tremendous pool of girls you could potentially date. I say “potentially” because there’s also this little thing called probability and the chances are that more girls just mean more “no’s.” But back then, if you put a person’s name in a search field, you didn’t get much. Whatever a girl wanted you to know, she herself had to plant. It was a tenuous representation at best and a case of Catfish usually. I mean, if you wanted to see some photos, you usually had to sift through fuzzy misrepresentations that had a lot of shadows or a conspicuous amount of floor plants covering her face. Or maybe it was just me, and I just happened to get IM’ed by girls that admired the style of Bigfoot photos. These days, it’s a wholly different battlefield.

I’m single, but I’ve been on a dry patch for a while now so I asked some friends: Do they check out a girl on Google or Facebook before a date? The absolute majority of them said “Yes.” They all do it in some form or another. It’s like peeking at presents hidden in the closet before Christmas Day. You feel a little dirty doing it and you’re ruining the surprise, but you just can’t help it. It’s standard practice at this point, almost on par with check- ing your breath before heading out the door.

Similar to how recruiters will check your Facebook or Google foot- prints, guys will run an informal back- ground check on a girl (oh, like girls don’t do it, too!). Many will use the information to find common ground or to figure out a better strategy for a date, such as mining talking points. She has all these photos of cats on her page? Hell, let’s talk about cats during dinner! Her photos suggest that she eats a lot? Fine, let’s talk about truffles and bacon! It feels a little bit like you’re manufactur- ing the chemistry, but at the same time, I abhor small talk so I get it. I’d probably punch myself in the face if it got me out of some small talk, so a little bit of Internet stalking seems okay.

Then there are some guys who pre-screen using the Internet. In other words, it’s not even in preparation for a date, but rather to determine if there should be a date at all. I mean, back in the day, the only time you were faced with that choice was when she was either infamous, you hired an investigator, or you interviewed all of her friends. It sounds insane when you look at it like that, but in this day and age, it’s not uncommon to pre-screen. And I get that, too. You meet a cool girl at a party, get her number and wonder, “Should I call her? Well, let’s check her out and see.” And then questions are raised, like “Why are all of her photos private? What’s up with that and what’s she hiding?” or “Why is she taking 5,000 photos of herself in the bathroom?” After all that, you can — and I don’t usually use these words when it comes to dating — make a rational, informed decision.

Now, do I do it? The awful truth is yes. It used to be uncomfortable having someone know stuff about you before you actually got to know her in person. But the times and behaviors have changed such that we have people posting tons of info about themselves and people happy to consume it. Exhibitionists and voyeurs living harmoniously! So dating should be more efficient and yield better re- sults, right? And yet, that’s not the case for me nor for many I know. There’s more interaction with a keyboard or a touchscreen than the actual girl herself.

In the end, I blame myself when the girl decides not to go out with me — I really shouldn’t have 2,000 drunken photos of myself tagged on Facebook, and I should really move the plants out of the way before I take my webcam self-portraits.