April 14, 2007— -- Your first date looms. The suitors may change, but the routine stays the same. Whether it's an online match, a blind date or that cute guy from the pizza parlor, the next step in our digital world has become as routine as brushing your teeth. Before you even hang up the phone, or finish the online chat -- and long before the big night -- you Google your date-to-be.
"Google" the noun is of course, the popular search engine, but it's "Google" the verb that's changing the way we date -- or don't. Point, click and you may already learn two-dates-worth of background information.
By simply entering a person's first and last name in the search engine, history is no longer a closed book. Spot something on the Web about your date that makes you cringe? Seek an explanation or cancel. Bachelor No. 2, please.
"Today, only the most naïve fail to research someone they are dating, or are considering dating," said Steven Mintz, national co-chair of the Council on Contemporary Families.
So now we can get round one out of the way. Forget criminal records: Dating services have been able to pull up that information for years. Now, all you need is the correct spelling of her last name and all the juicy details are at your fingertips.
"Why wait until date number four to learn that they still live with their mother, or that they spend their weekends at Star Trek conventions, when you can find out before date number one even happens," said Kate Herbert, a marketing coordinator in Richmond, Va., who agrees Googling becomes second nature in the dating scene.
So, is there such a thing as a "blind date" anymore?
Before that first clammy handshake, you could know their hobbies, and interests. There is no longer a need to describe what you look like before meeting. You can simply search for an image. Type the name, and there they are (with the rest of their college crew team).
"Googling is something we take for granted," Mintz said. "Googling creates the illusion of knowledge. We get scraps of information but not the whole picture."
Experts warn that the Internet can only provide a list of attributes, accomplishments and accolades, but nothing can replace meeting in person.
"We might find a resume," Minz said. "But we learn nothing about the person's personality -- or hopes, fears, or fantasies."
Matt Wallace, a 23-year-old environmental consultant in Washington, D.C., tells ABC News he Googles people often, but is aware of its pitfalls.
"Googling a person is pretty unfair, because it doesn't give your target a fair shot," Wallace said. "It's like speed dating on speed -- armed with only a name, you can create an entire opinion of a person without even speaking to her or seeing her."
Networking sites like MySpace and Facebook allow daters to put their best foot-forward, but Google can turn up things we would rather forget. Either way, these are all only pieces to the puzzle.
"Dating Web sites are just catalogues of people. They are simply a list of ingredients about a person; they can't convey essence," said Dan Ariely, professor of behavioral economics at MIT.
So, now that you've Googled your would-be sweetheart, here comes the hard part: Pretend you didn't.
Do not, under any circumstances, mention that your grandparents also live in Tucson, or that you also play a mean game of shuffleboard.
Valerie-Ann Lebo, a 21-year-old college student in New York City, made that mistake.
"I Googled a guy before a date and found out he had a thing for hot sauces, so when I was at his apartment and I saw the collection I shouted, 'Oh, the hot sauces!'" Lebo said. "It wasn't easy playing that one off."
Christopher Folts, a graduate student at the University of Rochester, Googles for his peace of mind: "I need to know that the person with whom I am interacting isn't some wanted sex offender or a crazy Jesus pusher or the owner of a fan-site dedicated to Tom Brokaw."
Remember: Online resumes are one thing, but chemistry is the name of the game. And you never know until you try.
But Google first; chemistry with a felon can be tricky.