Note: The "Trooper" in question is not actually in the military. It's a metaphor, people.

August 9, 2007

Stalking Made Easy

The wonders of the Internet are wasted on me. Hopefully on most of us. Because if I were a psycho-stalker chick who wanted to really mess with some guy who screwed me over, I would be in hog heaven on-line.

Every woman does the whole "Google your date" thing when they first meet a guy they like. Actually, I'm pretty sure guys do it too (or Wine Guy did anyway). These days, it's generally considered acceptable, non-psycho, dating behavior. I think it is anyway (if I'm wrong and it turns out I am a psycho-stalker chick and just didn't know it, please alert me).

I'm a very efficient -- dare I say clever -- Google surfer, so I can find out a lot about a guy before we even have the first date. But for the most part, what you find on Google is pretty standard, public-eye information. I'm not discovering anything that he wouldn't reasonably expect (and be prepared) for someone he barely knows to find. But I better not be stumbling upon some deep, dark secret (bondage anyone??).

I'm a firm believer in "what I don't know won't hurt me" - well, only for the first date or two. If we make it that far, then I'm allowed to start asking the, "So, have you ever been to an S&M show?" questions. But in those first few dates, all you should be worrying about is if you can get away with ordering an appetizer and dessert without looking like a binge eater. I like to postpone the bigger kinds of worries until after I've had at least a little bit of fun.

That being said, I do come to a first or second date (basically whenever I find out his last name) armed with a touch of peripheral background information obtained from 10 minutes on a major search engine. And I expect he has the same kind of dossier on me.

But as far as more proactive background research using crazy spy websites that actually charge money -- no way. Even if that thought ever did cross my mind (which it hasn't, I promise), I wouldn't even know where to start.

Until tonight, when Wine Guy introduced me to It's basically a search engine entirely designed for searching people. Sounds simple, but it really is a fundamentally different way to search, organize and present information -- about you. The potential for mischief is mind blowing.

Before you read any further, if you haven't been there before, stop reading right now and click this link immediately. When you get there, search for your name. I guarantee you'll immediately get sucked in to what you find. It's terribly scary and also brilliant at the same time.

This is what happened to me. First I got the obligatory searches out of the way (myself, the few people I know who have ever done anything that made them slightly close to famous, my current boyfriend, the ex-boyfriend I still think about fondly on occasion, and the other one who smashed my heart to bits). Then I started thinking.

Suddenly she appeared - that scheming, Kirk Cameron-loving, 8th grade girl who looks a lot like a gawkier, frecklier version of me. This girl was a master "social engineer" who liked to mix things up - for Good (matchmaking, befriending the new girl) and Evil (break-ups, fashion critique). True, I grew out of this phase within the first socially devastating week of high school. But it was still kind of nice to see that little pre-teen with the rad asymmetrical hairstyle and the frosty pink lipstick that helped to channel my inner Molly Ringwald (circa Pretty in Pink of course).

Anyway, hopefully by now you've returned from your prolonged stop at to finish reading this blog entry. So, hi....what did you think? Do you see how dangerous this could be? Let's pretend I don't have a boyfriend right now (God, could the word 'boyfriend' sound any stupider? C'mon word nerds, let's come up with a better one, shall we?) that I know about a tool like this, would I use it to do date research? Would I abuse it? Would I even want to know what I could find? Do you?

I'm one of those people who's firmly against the "drop by visit" (wasn't that a Seinfeld episode?). Not because I'm being polite, but because I simply do not want to surprise anyone and find out anything I don't want to -- or need to -- know. If I really did "accidentally find myself in your neighborhood," I would still call you from my cell phone around the corner. I don't want any part of "...and the dog was licking the butter off of her naked body when we walked in" urban legends. I don't want to catch your boyfriend going down on you, or even interrupt you in the middle of good cry. Some things are better left private.

And I think this philosophy applies to any behind enemy lines reconnaissance missions leading up to a date. What do you think? What kind of search technology do you use before a date? What are the bare facts you are looking for? What don't you want to know...and how long would you wait until you would want to know?

I're probably thinking, "For someone who says she doesn't want to know anything, she sure is asking me a lot of personal questions!" But what's the worst that can happen? Your answers will either horrify the 34 year old me, or excite the hell out of the 13 year old sitting right here next to me. Either way, it's anonymous. So spill it.



Michele said...

When I was single, I subscribed to It cost like $25/year for an individual membership and allows you to look up all sorts of info on people, including criminal background stuff. It's not available for every state but if it does cover your state, it's well worth the money. I found out that one guy I was dating was still living with his ex based on the info on this site ... I also found out he was divorced twice when he said he'd only been divorced once. Great info for single gals.

Melissa said...

I don't know... My first hunch is that finding out about someone isn't good or bad. After all, we're trying to get to know someone, so why not? I think part of the problem is that we're afraid of the information -- of what we find. If someone's not squeaky clean, perhaps we're too quick to dismiss him. This is the problem with politic figures who we expect to be perfect, inhuman robots, instead of a diverse person with real experiences (pot, alcohol, etc.). So, maybe in opening these doors and learning that everyone has some "dirty little secrets", we'll ultimately become more accepting of one another. I don't know... like you said, I don't have to worry about it, so I have the luxury of being intellectual about it without actually having to date these weirdos... I mean people. ;)

Green Daze 44 said...

How do you Google someone? I just typed in a name on the search line, but didn't find much info I could use. Is there more to it than I am doing? I went to that link and couldn't find myself. Does someone have to add themselves? If I do, I don't want any weirdo's finding me somehow. Plus, since I've been married 2 times, my name has changed and I would probably have to list my maiden name for someone to find me, which happens to be Smith, of all things.

Well, since I'm new to all this stuff I thought I would ask.

spicy hebrew national said...

That’s funny I looked myself up and not one thing came up. I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad one.

bailey said...

While I can google and dogpile with the best of them,--I don't quite get the thing. I mean, I had no interest in "claiming" my profiles , especially the ones that weren't mine. I looked up other folks and no new info. Hmmm... there must be another secret to it. I can hardly ever find myself because my name is so generic and there are prolific henna artists and photographers with my same spelling that suck up all the search pages :)

I think if the info is out there, it's fine to get it. I don't know about the paying thing,--michelle has me a little worried with what she found out. I also think myspace (if someone has a profile) is way more stalkerish since you can figure out what's going on in someone's life by their friend's comments, etc,--even if they don't have anything posted...I mean, I think...

Elise said...

try it's pretty creepy and accurate. happy stalking!