Written by Writer’s Corps member Emily Desanctis
You’re set to go on a first date with someone new—now what? Checking out their social media, of course.
Let’s be honest, though: you probably found them on social media long before you ever slotted them into your calendar. According to one study, 75% of women and 59% of men check out their date’s social media before going out.
But what’s the appropriate balance between looking out for your safety and soft stalking? And are there any reasons you should forgo the social media peek altogether before meeting up in person?
Here are a few dos and don’ts to guide your quest for information before a first date.
1) DON’T Add Them As A Friend Or Follow Them
You’re not actually friends (yet) and who knows if you even want to be friends or something more. Until you figure that out and take the time to meet up offline to actually get to know one another, hold off on hitting “friend” or “follow.” It will save you from having to delete them later on if things don’t work out.
2) DON’T Like Their Photos Or Posts
See #1. We tend to hit thumbs-up without a second thought but only 20% of singles believe “liking” a date’s photo before a first date is acceptable. You may want to rethink your causal overuse of liking altogether given researchers’ findings that it causes harmful effects from depression to malicious envy. “Liking” any stranger’s photo is creepy because, well, it’s clear you’re creeping on them. And when the stranger is someone you’re going to go on a date with, it’s even creepier. Save your ‘likes’ for people you actually know and like.
3) DO Check If You Have Any Common Friends
In the impersonal world of modern dating apps, finding a personal connection to a prospective partner can be a sigh of relief that you’re not being catfished and a flicker of hope that this new person might end up being “normal.” Of course, knowing people in common is still not a guarantee of either but it does provide an opportunity to follow up with connections for a quick review that can be helpful and reassuring.
4) DO Skim Through Their Posts And Comments To Learn More
Are they kind and supportive in response to a friend’s struggle? Depending on how much they and their friends share (and how much you’re able to see given their privacy settings), you could learn a little more about the person you’re going on a date with.
When reading through posts and comments, keep an eye out for behavior that you’d find intolerable in the person you’re dating, for example, re-tweeting hate speeches or posting racial slurs on photos. Finding a definitive red flag here might be cause to reconsider that date.
5) DON’T Put A Ton Of Weight Into What You Find
Picturesque landscapes on Instagram? Check. The group pic on Facebook demonstrating they’re fun and have friends? Check.
In these cases, take what you find with a grain of salt. Social media gives people an opportunity to present their “best” self and life to the world, and “best” can be far from “true.” Plenty of unhealthy partners can seem like major catches after a quick social media scan.
Remember, most unhealthy relationships start off healthy and slowly move in unhealthy territory over time. Even if this new person isn’t someone you’d want to date, those red flags will rarely be visible on social media.
So What CAN You do?
As much as we might wish otherwise, using social media to accurately gauge where a new love interest falls on the healthy/unhealthy spectrum is close to impossible. Ask most people and they’ll probably tell you about that time they were fooled, myself included.
The reality is that social media shows surface-level information that’s easy to control and distort to make someone look more attractive than they are; the real answer of whether that person is a healthy partner and good fit for you takes time. Unfortunately, there’s no shortcut for that.
What can actually help you figure out whether they’re worth getting more serious with? Knowing the signs of healthy and unhealthy relationships, understanding that unhealthy behavior can show up in very subtle ways, and trusting your gut if something feels off.
Practicing healthy relationship behaviors IRL and giving a potential partner the opportunity to do the same will almost always serve you better than trying to predict whether or not it will work out based on their comments or photos on social media.