Should you ‘creep’ a potential date’s social media? Experts say it may be enlightening, but take it with a grain of salt
We’re all but a Google-search away from finding out almost anything and everything about a potential date, from the timeline of their last relationship, to whether or not they’re single, have kids, what they do for a living, whether they’ve had any transgressions with the law, the list goes on.
Playfully referred to as “creeping someone’s socials,” it’s a deep-dive into their various social media accounts, then monkey-barring through the accounts of those who have commented on their posts, have tagged them or are tagged. This background check/creep has become somewhat of a standard, but should it be? Or does it cause us to have preconceived notions and superficial expectations?
Blake Carter, 36, who co-hosts the morning show on Toronto’s FLOW 93.5, has been single since the beginning of summer. After seeing her ex post social media updates about dates following their split, she decided it was time to move forward and start dating again. “There’s only so long you can stay at home and cry over the breakup,” Carter said. “When you go through a breakup you never know if you’re going to work it out so you don’t want to jump the gun, but once I found out he did, it was game on.”
Thanks to her career, her DM’s (direct messages) are like a dating app in and of itself. “I don’t know if it’s the best decision I’ve made to entertain the DM’s I get,” Carter said. But since she’s not on any dating apps, it opens the door for her to meet a like-minded mate, especially since it’s typically fellow hip-hop lovers who listen to her on-air, music artists or people in the same industry, who tend to reach out.
After she gets a DM, she says she’ll obviously go and creep their account and their social media. “I don’t want to go on a date with someone and then find out they’re super racist in their tweets,” Carter said. Being in the public eye, it’s important for her to know who she may be seen in public with. She’s diligent with her preliminary research and admits as long as she has a love-interest’s name, she can find out anything.
If they pass her check, she’ll DM with them to see if there’s a rapport and if so, will arrange to go on a date. “I’ve been through enough; I’d rather know the red flags before I go on a date with you,” Carter said.
When she meets guys in real life, she vets them the same way.
“I give out my Instagram before I give out my phone number; usually that’s the first thing people do now,” Carter said. Doing so has paid off. “Guys will flirt with you and ask you out, but have a full ass marriage,” Carter said, referring to a recent time when she met a bunch of guys on a stag and one was very flirty with her. She took his name, did a quick online search and saw via Facebook that he was married. “Some guys are good at hiding stuff, but many aren’t,” Carter said.
Though it can be insightful and offer a sense of safety to investigate someone before going on a first date with them or getting to know them more, it can also cloud your opinion about them leading to inaccurate judgments.
“There is no research that shows unequivocally that researching the social media posts of a future date will provide a better outcome,” says social psychologist Serge Desmarais, who’s a professor at the University of Guelph.
He notes that before Facebook, successful relationships began and flourished without having access to that information. Now that information is available so he says there’s a general belief that one is an idiot if they don’t “creep” a person before a date. “It’s as if we assume that everyone out there is a mass murderer,” Desmarais said.
He understands the curiosity and need to have some basic knowledge of the person whom you’re going on a date with, but wants people to note that the material you see online isn’t accurate. “Research on self-presentation suggests that people present themselves in the most positive way possible,” Desmarais said.
Think of how people take 100 selfies before posting one that is just perfect. He says we do the same thing when it comes to the information we present online: Our social posts indicate that we’re amazing people who do amazing things. Few people post that their life is boring, monotonous and that they are uninteresting people, so he says we should evaluate the information we see online in the context in which it is presented: as a most positive representation of who we are (or who we want other people to think we are). “We do the same thing when we meet people face-to-face, but we do it far more when using social media,” Desmarais said.
And just because you have access to a person’s social media, Desmarais says that doesn’t mean it will provide a degree of security or certainty. He reminds us that relationships develop over time and knowing a person takes time. It’s a give and take process, he says. You reveal a bit of yourself, and they do the same. Over time, you get a better sense of the other person. “Using social media will not provide this degree of knowledge. Relationships require a leap of faith,” Desmarais said. “People who want absolute certainty at the outset of a new relationships should consider remaining single.”
Relationship expert Wendy Walsh, who has nearly one million followers on TikTok where she offers dating advice, says that despite posts being curated online, people should always research a potential date before going out with them nevertheless.
“We all know that social media is about people presenting the person they wish they were, but all dating begins with an Academy Award winning performance,” Walsh said. “Then slowly, you get to peel back the layers and see the authentic human.” If you see something clearly bad on their social, she suggests not going forward with the date and saving yourself time.
If the way they present themselves online doesn’t match the type of person you tend to like, or if what they mention goes against your values and beliefs, consider that you might not have a lot in common, Desmarais said. “Of course, people can change over time, but having very strong differences of opinions about values won’t lead to a positive relationship,” Desmarais said. “Move on and find someone whose values and interests match yours.”