(photo credit: Courtesy)
When you're telling each other stories, remember which tidbits of information your date told you and which you found out online. When you're meeting his friends for the first time, remember that you only saw their pictures online and haven't actually met them before.
Between J*Date, Facebook and other online networking sites, it's easy to track the life of someone you're interested in. It's also easy to cross the line between snooping and stalking. Don't feel ashamed to confess your J*Date stalking addiction; it's unfortunately a reality and everybody's doing it, even if no one is admitting it.
Cyber stalking usually starts as a thoughtless glance to see if a J*Date crush has read your email. All it takes is a foray into your J*Date inbox, a quick click on the "sent messages" box and you can easily see if an e-mail has been opened. If your e-mail hasn't been read and you're wondering if you should take it personally, is probably the time your impulse to cyber stalk amps up. Clicking on your crush's profile to see if he or she has logged on since you sent the e-mail seems innocent enough, but if you're logging on to J*Date multiple times throughout the day while you're at work, you now harbor an unhealthy obsession.
If you can't restrain yourself, then you need to take precautions to make sure you don't get caught. J*Date has settings you should take advantage of. Change your profile to hidden when you want to check in on your crushes without them knowing you're viewing them. But, every once in a while, unhide your profile and view your crushes so they know you're interested.
If you find yourself Google-ing your crush before you've even met, you need to take your hand of the mouse and slowly step away from the computer. Once you start dating it's perfectly reasonable to want to do a background check, but when you go on a J*date knowing more information than what was supplied on the profile than your gig is up.
It's important in this day and age of identity theft to know who it is you're going out with, and that's where Google can eventually be a vital resource. Put the name in quotes and the World Wide Web can confirm your love interest really graduated from Princeton; just look for his name listed on the Alumni Association page. You can also verify your date really runs in marathons; look for the race websites and her name will be recorded next to her time. The same goes for any criminal activity; the name will pop up on local news channel websites, in which case you'll have to decide for yourself what to do next. You should also Google yourself once a month to make sure the items that pop up really belong to you.
The same goes for Facebook. Once you add a crush on Facebook, you're going to fixate on who you know in common, who that girl is in his pictures and what those inside jokes mean between him and his friends. The longer you wait to add him to your Facebook, the better. Eventually it will be a nice avenue to use for a character check. You can find out whom he or she is friends with, what groups they belong to and what events they're attending. You can also look at their photos to see if she is scantily clad or if he is in photos featuring alcohol or drugs.
If you're cyber stalking once you're dating, you have to be careful. When you're telling each other stories, remember which tidbits of information your date told you and which you found out online. When you're meeting his friends for the first time, remember that you only saw their pictures online and haven't actually met them before. It's not until you're in a serious relationship that you can possibly fess up to your online forays. Chances are the other person is guilty of the same thing!
I would tell you to try and avoid cyber stalking if possible, but the reality is it has spread like a virus, and if you're not doing it than you're already a step behind in the dating world. But if you really like someone, it may be worth a shot to try and not use the internet and instead take them at their word.