Dating apps have turned us into a generation of private detectives

"Pre-qualifying" has become par for the course in the online dating arena, says Rachel Hosie

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“Would you think it was weird if I said I’d found your articles?” asked the man I’d been talking to on Tinder for one day.

“It genuinely sounds quite creepy, but I actually did,” he admitted.

The thing is, I wasn’t surprised at all. Having told my potential suitor where I work, of course he was going to look me up, learn my surname and then find out all about me.

Stalking potential partners online has become completely de rigueur - it’s simply another way of vetting someone before you meet up.

Women in particular often don’t want to meet someone in person without making absolutely sure they’re not crazy.

That, and we don’t want to go to all the effort of doing our hair, putting on extra makeup and shaving our legs for someone who isn't who they say they are.

So online stalking is the answer.

Whilst most dating apps only display a person’s first name, once you know where someone works, where they studied or which mutual friends you have on Facebook, it’s all too easy to give them a Google and learn their full name. 

And from there, the internet is your oyster.

First things first, you’ll find them on Facebook, of course. 

Whilst you’re hoping their privacy settings will be low so you can find out as much about them as possible, you’ll also judge anyone who has all their information, posts and photos visible to the public in this day and age. That's just silly and they clearly weren't paying attention in those cyber safety talks at school.

Having assessed all their profile pictures going back to 2007, you’ll almost definitely have come across a family member - whether a brother in a photo or a comment from their mum. Enter, your next targets.

And is that an ex-girlfriend I see? Excellent. Time to work out if she’s at all similar to you.

Of course, if your match has synced their Instagram account to their dating profile, you’re laughing. But even if not, any self-respecting millennial can find someone.

Pray they don’t have a private account, judge them on their choice of filters, have a minor heart-attack when you think you've accidentally liked one of their photos from 157 weeks ago, assess the photos of them and proceed to stalk all their friends.

It’s important to know what someone really does in their free time, because no one tells the truth on their dating profiles.

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You can also learn a lot from their captions - are they witty? Do you have the same sense of humour? Do they use hashtags seriously or ironically?

Then comes Twitter, which is a crucial one if you want to find out how interested someone is in politics and current affairs, or if they only care about football.

And you'd better check they don't follow anyone racist or misogynistic.

BUT WHAT’S THAT!? An old, neglected blog? Goldmine.

A crucial step in assessing a potential date is of course stalking their LinkedIn - always in an incognito window, natch. God forbid they find out.

Head boy at school and a first class degree? I’m listening. 

And if they don’t even have a LinkedIn profile? Oh dear, oh dear.

With all your amassed knowledge you’re now in a strong position to go back to Google. Ah, a JustGiving page - this person is both active and charitable, top marks.

Yes, we’re a generation of online stalkers, adept at finding out someone’s life story from just their first name and their hometown.

All this, however, does pose some problems.

If after all your stalking you decide you do still want to go out with your match, you have the challenge of pretending you don’t already know everything.

You ask: “So, do you have any siblings?”

But you’re thinking: “How’s your sister, Susan? How’s she getting on with that medical degree at Nottingham? And did you have fun at her birthday party three weeks ago? The cake looked delicious and I loved your shirt.”

And another issue is that online stalking can make you think you’ve found The One, but then when you meet up it’s somehow anticlimactic and the spark just isn’t there.

What’s more, if you’re going to stalk the hell out of someone, you have to be prepared for the same to be done to you, which most of us wouldn’t want.

Lots of people argue that it’s much better to get to know someone in person, but as long as we have the ability to find out as much we can from the comfort of our sofas behind a laptop screen, the majority of us will.

“Pre-qualifying,” as it’s known, is arguably a wise thing to do before making an investment, and is even recommended by some dating coaches.

“It’s how you will find a match who truly makes sense for you - both your relationship needs and wants,” dating expert Lauren House told Bustle.

Checking out potential partners online is a way of saving time, energy and money. Not to mention the skills we’re developing will surely be useful in later life. Somehow. 

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