Girl Talk: There’s More To Me Than My Google Search Results

After a bit of a hiatus, I reactivated my online dating account in July. I got lots of messages in those first few weeks, but only one person stood out to me as someone I might like to meet in person. Ryan* and I messaged back and forth a few times and then he suggested we meet for a drink. To make the arrangements, we switched to email and that’s how I learned his full name. Armed with that information, I did what I almost always do in advance of a first date — Google the person to make sure he’s not wanted by the FBI, a convicted rapist, or a Christian rock musician. Ryan* was none of these things, thank goodness, but I did stumble upon some other unsavory information during my research: his political views — which he expressed on an occasionally used Twitter account and in conversations with a couple friends on his Google Buzz page — were vastly different from mine. Things I believe strongly in, he believed strongly against and so forth. Clearly, I needed to cancel this date immediately.

I’m frustrated to the point of tears by how my career, in some way — either because of what I do or how successful I am at it — has led men to make shallow assumptions about me.

I almost did. Then I decided to go ahead with the date anyway, even though I knew more about this guy than he had chosen to share with me — stuff that turned me off without his knowledge. I decided to go out with him anyway because, for one, first dates, especially between people who met via an online dating site, are a little weird and I always consider each to be a worthwhile practice in making conversation with a complete stranger. For a few hours I would be challenged with answering someone’s questions about who I am, what I do, where I’m from, and asking the same things about them. It’s kind of like interviewing for a job — even if you’re not psyched about the position and are unsure if you would accept an offer, it’s still good practice to go through the whole process.

I also decided to go out with him because I thought about how I would feel if a potential date Googled me and ruled me out before having met me in person. Sure, I have a significant online presence in that I write about my life, among other things, for a living, but there’s ever so much more that I don’t share here on The Frisky, or anywhere online for that matter. And even what I do share doesn’t encompass the full breadth of my feelings.

So I went out with Ryan and sure enough, he was super conservative. But he was also smart and funny and came from an interesting background that gave me a much fuller view of why he held those beliefs. I still didn’t agree with him, but I now saw the whole, three-dimensional person. Ryan and I clicked in a certain way and we ended up dating for a month and a half. We stopped because it became clear we didn’t want the same things and, yeah, we had different values, but I’m glad I went out on that first date with him — and the ones after — instead of writing him off based on what Google told me about his character.

Tonight I was supposed to go on a first date with another online dating match. Late last night I got an email from him — let’s call him Dan — canceling, The reason? Dan had Googled me and read a lot of my writing. He said he thought it was awesome and that he was struck by how fun, smart, and courageous I seem. But then it made him nervous because he’s way too much of a snoop (his words, not mine) to date someone whose life is so public.

Sigh. I appreciate the honesty, I really do, but I could smell that there was more to this story than he was revealing and that the real issue wasn’t about his privacy. I decided to respond honestly, not because I particularly cared about not going out with him, but because

I’m frustrated to the point of tears by how my career, in some way — either because of what I do or how successful I am at it — has led men to make shallow assumptions about me.

It’s unfortunate that the fact that I’m fun, smart, and courageous is outweighed by the fact that there’s a certain percentage of my life that I make public. How much I make public is always changing depending on the comfort level of the people associated with me, with my first priority always being respectful of them … But really, it’s also about what I’ve made public already, right? And that you won’t be able to resist researching me instead of getting to know me — had you gone out with me and found me to be as fun, smart, and courageous as you suspected — over time. And that what you would find — have already found — in your research makes you uncomfortable. Fair enough — but I don’t write reading material for the guys I might end up going out with. I write for a specific audience, with a specific tone and point of view that does reflect part of who I am, but only a small part. The people who take the time to get to know me are, I think, lucky enough to get so much more.

Dan wrote back an hour or so later and confirmed that, yes, the real issue was that what he found made him uncomfortable, but not because he’s intimidated by, say, my implied sexual experience or the fact that I was once engaged.

{Coincidentally, a commenter remarked yesterday that any guy I date won’t like reading about the men I’ve slept with before him. Part of my response to that: “Any guy who pours through the thousands of articles I’ve written for The Frisky and obsesses over what amounts to — over the course of the last three years — the handful of sexual experiences that came before them (that I’ve written about!), to the point where they are turned off … is an insecure douchebag who should find some other woman who’s better suited to change his man diapers.”)

Back to Dan. Dan is uncomfortable because he’s read what I like and dislike about the opposite sex and other “personal stuff,” and that knowledge has given him “for lack of a better term, the upper hand.” That, he says, is unfair because it would influence how he acts around me. So, in other words, he can’t resist snooping, even though he knows whatever he finds will seemingly put the natural balance out of whack, making him too “uncomfortable” to even go on one date. (Hundred bucks says Dan is reading this piece right now.) Someone needs to step away from the laptop.

One thing I know for sure — the right person for me may Google me too, but he won’t assume that what he finds gives him the upper hand in dating me. As I discovered with Ryan, a person’s online persona is one-dimensional. A man worth going out with will know that what he reads about me is just a fraction of who I am and he’ll want to learn more — by asking me questions and getting to know me, one-on-one, not digging deeper into my search results. Google doesn’t know my heart.

*Names changed out of respect for their privacy.

Photo: iStockphoto