How Facebook Can Ruin A First Date

It's usually a smart move to search a guy's name online before you meet up, but you should know when to ease up on the romantic stalking.

Try to imagine life before Facebook. How on earth did anyone do homework on a prospective date?

These days, it's virtually impossible to resist running an internet search on a guy. If you met him online or he asked you out after chatting you up at a bar, it's only smart to hop online and make sure he's not a sleazebag in real life. But, there's one circumstance when Facebooking or Googling will harm your chances of a potential relationship: when someone you know can vouch for the guy. If he's a friend of a friend, you already know he isn't a psycho killer. So, your real reason for snooping is to dig into his past. Not a good idea.

"[The internet] feeds your curiosity and gives you a sense of control over the nerve-racking early stages of dating," says Belisa Vranich, PsyD, a clinical psychologist in New York. But, if you have a personal connection to him, it does more harm than good. There are four ways it can backfire:

1. You'll have to fake it.

If you read up on a guy, "your conversation will be inauthentic since you're pretending to learn things you already know," says Diana Kirschner, PhD, author of Love In 90 Days. You'll need to keep track of what he tells you versus what you've unearthed online. Plus, you'll be forced to feign surprise ("Oh, that's where you went to school?") when he reveals something you'd found out earlier. "It's like you're reading from cue cards," Vranich says. And, his BS detector will go off.

2. You'll make wrong assumptions.

"Since you have limited info about a new guy, anything you do know takes on an exaggerated degree of importance," Vranich says. But, the opinion you form of him based on "facts" gleaned from the web will likely be skewed. Say you learn he's from a wealthy clan or see a photo of him surrounded by skanks. You'll jump to conclusions—often incorrect ones.

3. You'll feel you know him when you don't.

Finding out lots about a guy creates an artificial—and stalkerish—attachment in your mind. "It affords you a false sense of safety," Vranich adds. "For instance, you might go further sexually than you normally would." It also gives you fodder to dream up a fictitious future together: You're already imagining skinny-dipping at Boracay and spending a cozy night watching his favorite film. If things fizzle, you'll feel hurt instead of nonchalant.

4. You'll cheat yourself.

Discovering via the internet that he studied in Italy or wrote an award-winning thesis isn't as fun as learning it first-hand. "It robs you of the excitement of his telling you," Kirschner says.

So, once you've confirmed that he's not a puppy-abusing serial killer, do both of you a favor and use Facebook for something constructive—like searching for unflattering pics of your ex.

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