When does investigating your potential date become stalking?

Given that it is not yet law for all dating sites to check the history of its membership, how do you check out the past of a potential partner? If, indeed, you do at all. If not, at least according to one report, you are very much in the minority.

Okay, online dating is now a socially acceptable way of meeting your partner. The uninhibited growth of social media and ‘respectable’ branding and advertising campaigns have seen to that. But that doesn’t stop the glorious picture of Heidi, the 22-year old lab assistant from London, turning out to be randy Roger from Reading, does it? As such, almost sixty percent of singles who have been approached to go real life dating via their online platform use other Internet sites to vet their potential partner before agreeing to meet up with them.

Social media platforms used to vet potential partners

Stalking your ex on the facebook is nothing new. Many of us have done it and lived to regret it. You see them on a smiley photo with their new beau, you get too closely acquainted with the ever-faithful Miss S. Artois or favourite Pinot Grigio and end up having a one-night stand with a total minger whose name you instantly forget and all just to ‘show them’ you’re not hurting. Yeah, right, well done! Then you’ve got to rid yourself of said minger – disaster!

However, in the absence of a legal prerequisite, singles on dating sites are doing their own investigating using Google, LinkedIn and facebook to corroborate dating site information before acquiescing a date.

On Jdate, a recent survey of 500 members revealed that, of the six in ten who trawl the ‘Net for added safety, more than a quarter used facebook only and one eighth only Googled their potential beau, but a further 20 percent used a combination of sources, such as the professional network, LinkedIn, thrown in just to be sure.

One word of caution. As much as we condone this type of activity, that first date is your first real chance to get to know the person you’ve met online, once you’ve satisfied yourself that Heidi definitely isn’t randy Roger, perhaps because her moustache is a different colour, I don’t know. But leave some of the mystery to unfold on your date(s). Do not, under any circumstances, over-investigate your subject.

If you sound like you’ve been checking up on them before you’ve met, it will sound like you’ve been checking up on them before you’ve met and you may just come across as slightly unhinged or stalker-ish. All that time and effort in research and you’ve scared them off a second date. So, yes, be sure; but also, leave the door ajar for a little mystery to seep through, a bit at a time, not fling open Pandora’s box like, well, like Pandora did. You may not be able to take it all in at once and still retain all of your noodles.

Measuring online dating habits the facebook way

If you missed the last item, telling us that facebook were seeing what days its members were getting it on and unceremoniously back off again, go back to Will facebook be the next big thing in online dating?, get  a grasp of what this part two of two is all about, then come back and pick up where you left off here…

First and foremost the information was gathered from US facebook users from last year and the year before, then was split into three defining age groups, <25, 25-44, 45=<.  And, as much as we may be seen to protest too much about the relevance, there were some very distinct patterns about what days of the week people in different age groups changed their relationship status.

All three age-groups started the week on a positive note, more of each changing their online status to in a relationship, the middle group by as much as 14%.  The boffins decided that this had very much to do with the fact that the weekend spent socialising and indulging in ‘never-on-a-school-night’ frivolities instigated many new relationships.

As the week tailed off, however, and this is a measured decline throughout a given seven day period, those statuses gradually went back to single, dipping quite dramatically.  The over 45’s saw the biggest swing, from a plus 10% rise at the start of the week to a nosediving -7.5% by Friday, with the mid-group not far behind that 17.5% flux, dropping from their high of plus 14% on Sunday to -2.5% by Friday.  Again, the mad scientists put this down to the weekend, by suggesting those with experience dumped their dumpy dumpster in time to find a fitter Ferrari model on Friday.

The youngsters hadn’t quite got the hang of that bit as they showed the only bucking of identical trends by their Friday figure; it started to pick-up after Thursday, giving their overall swing the least movement by far.  That tells me two things.  Firstly, whilst you’re young, you can just go on dating whoever – just because you’re ‘in a relationship’ constantly, doesn’t mean to say it’s the same one; the ground never has time to settle beneath their feet, let alone allowing them time to change facebook status.

The second major factor, and I hark back to my Picasso Night Club days in Wolverhampton, is that when you’re that age, your weekend does start on a Thursday – at least it used to for us.  Friday at work was simply an inconvenience between the first two nights on the pull of many a hectic weekend.  They’d never have kept up with our statuses, back then.  But that’s possibly because the Internet hadn’t been invented yet…

Will facebook become the next big thing in online dating?

Match.com, for me, do enough research on the online dating industry to satisfy the need of anyone who is vaguely interested in the cogs behind what makes the $2bn per year industry tick.  Okay, one may find it amusing that Android users are more likely to put out on a first date than iPhone or Blackberry users but, really, that type of research is nothing more than a page filler.  A little something to occupy their time whilst the dating scientists are waiting for the IT guys to come back from Starbucks to turn their machines on and off again after a grave malfunction during coffee break.

So quite why facebook have decided to assess how relationships change with the seasons is perhaps beyond reason.  Not content with grouping the blocks of information into four simple sections like the seasons, they have even drilled down into what days are more convivial to striking up relationships than others.

What facebook does have over your common-or-garden dating site,, though, to back up its findings is volume.  Whereas perhaps Match.com or even OKCupid may split-test over a few thousand as a sample batch for whatever query they perceive as being useful to their marketing, the facebook has 850,000,000 guinea pigs to test their algorithms ons, far bigger than any of your standard dating sites could ever hope to use as a pool for gauging information and split testing.

Given that there were so many singles taking part in the dating survey status, it does make sense that they were not all going to fit into the existing brackets facebook had originally created for its membership to choose from in the little drop-down box that tells the world so much about your dating habits.

If you are in either a ‘domestic partnership’ or a ‘civil union’ you can choose either of those options.  I’m not sure that there’s a whole lot of difference between the two.  I’d have put money on looking either one up in Thesaurus and finding each term was a pseudonym for the other, but that just goes to show what I know.  All sounds like dating to me.

I know you’re dying to know, now that we’ve started down this route, so I may as well spill.  Join me tomorrow (I felt just like Philip Schofield then, only it was ‘tomorrow’ and not ‘after the break’…ho hum) when we’ll see if there were any trends picked out or whether it was just another excuse for a café latte with a sprinkling of cinnamon and chocolate whilst the IT got to grips with the power socket with Measuring online habits the facebook way.




Moving too fast with your facebook status

As we’ve often alluded to here on dating.org.uk in the past, dating sites have always had a certain style (as in: they all follow a similar format, not that dating sites are necessarily always chic and sleek), whereas social media design has pretty much remained individual to its own platform and been the brainchild of the guys and girls behind the original concept.

As we’ve seen recently, however, with online dating becoming ever-more user conscious, many of the newer dating site platforms are factoring in social media features and functionality.  So much so that it can sometimes be difficult to remember whether you’re in the public eye or have taken your online dating relationship into a private chat-room where you can reveal stuff you’d never dream of spattering on your wall.  Or anywhere else in the public eye, for that matter.

Julie Spira, renowned dating blogger, panellist, author – in fact, anywhere there’s a camera or tape recorder spouting ‘online dating’, anywhere within that fifty feet of the device, Julie’s usually somewhere in close proximity – was recently invited to chat with the girls about dating etiquette on facebook.  It seems that, in the search for love online, some people still need a helping hand what’s common sense when it comes to what you want your (potential) partner to see in your public profile.

Whether that be changing your status after the first date, using communication methods reserved for only the most intimate of friends before meeting in the flesh or even how to comment in the event that you may actually be in a position to take your date off screen into the real world, flick the ‘in a relationship’ status and point everyone who may be browsing your dating site profile to said herald, announcing your oneness with another to other would-be suitors, therefore not likely to respond to any advances in the interim.

Believe me, this can be complicated stuff.  Should you put ‘more than friends’ once you’ve slept with someone?  Duh!  If the partner with whom you’ve been intimate with moans that you class them as something other than casual acquaintances, I think it’s time to get your online dating status back paid up to date, primed and ready for action again, eh?

There are some specifics and I’ll have another look through before tomorrow’s article; if there are any particularly noteworthy snippets worth repeating, we’ll showcase the best of them.  ‘Til then, tootle pip. x

Drive wipe facility not available on dating site hard drive

Following on from the report of how Grindr was embarrassingly easily hacked last month and the effect that the release of such information, if the hacker chose to download and distribute it, would have on the dating site’s members, our next two articles look at how you may want to delete your information. This sounds like a great idea, but there are two problems with actuating that decision.

The first indirect problem is in itself twofold. If, having been the victim of a bitch campaign or been warned about your dating site activity if you hold a position of responsibility within the community or at work, yet you want to carry on using your site, you can choose to delete your ‘you’ profile and create an alter-ego to continue using the service.

The first issue with this scenario is proving your ‘other self’ as an entity if someone who is attracted to your dating site profile requests you to do so. By creating an imaginary online persona you are inadvertently mirroring the steps taken by scammers worldwide. You may also be in breach of the dating site’s guidelines by doing this, but that’s not the real problem. You are rendering the security facilities being adopted by the world of online dating globally, which allow users to align their dating profiles with an online verification of their identity. The first biggie we reported on was Trusted Faces but there are more coming along as the growth of scammers mirrors the increase in volume of new dating site sign-ups.

Even if you do eventually choose to create a new profile using an adopted name, which, to be successful in any real sense, has to incorporate an image that is at least a little like you, you can still be Geo-tagged. More about that in the following article.

But the second real issue is the deletion of your original account. According to one recent study, facebook retains your photographs for two and a half years on its servers after you have deleted your account. And they’re not alone in doing this. Dating sites the world over are guilty of the exact same practise. Their excuse for doing so has its core in the fact that, should the member’s relationship not work out, they may well want to reactivate the account they cancelled due to their change in circumstances.

As was the case in September last year when a judge ordered the release of Twitter and facebook passwords so that evidence could be presented of infidelity in a divorce court, the dating site’s privacy policies will not protect you by not sharing your information if the law comes knocking. Putting the two together, the longevity dating sites hold your data and their inability to stave off legal access to that information, you are warned here and now that anything you do or say, drunk or sober, on your dating or social networking site may be used against you (or someone else) in a court of law long after you have deleted your account.

The moral is, be careful what you say in the public domain – one day it may just come back and bite you on the ass when you’re least expecting it. Next up – steps to take to avoid this dilemma.

facebook in bad books as marriages go to the wall

There is no denying the popularity of facebook; in the UK alone, 30,000,000 users log on at least once a month – that’s almost half of the entire population who are old enough to turn on a lap-top.

The problem, so divorce lawyers are finding, is that the social media facility is not only a way of meeting up with like-minded people but a way for ex-es to come sneaking out of the cupboard and make contact with married individuals who had (perhaps) been less than truthful about their dating past.

Of the 5,000 divorces that have been applied for citing ‘unreasonable behaviour’ as the prime cause, one third of embittered spouses have gone on to blame facebook for the instigation of that behaviour.

This represents an increase of 50%, according to Divorce-Online managing director Mark Keenan, over the previous two years.

One thing leads to another

Keenan goes on to comment on how easily facebook lends itself to the type of communication that can, genuinely, start out as a striking up of a relationship between ex-lovers.

However, as this innocent online flirtation turns to memories tinted with a rosie halcyon shade, the temptation is to have a stroll down memory lane ‘for old times’ sake’. It is the conversations leading up to this point that divorce lawyers are digging up and using in evidence in divorce applications.

Ex-es cross swords online

As well as facebook being used as a type of online dating facility for ex-es to communicate with each other to refresh old acquaintances, it seems that those parted couples who retain a bitterness from their separation from a past loved one are using the site to air their dirty washing in public.

Like everything else in the world of online dating, our cousins across the pond have started to label the different aspects of facebook, already. As well as there being a dating site purely dedicated to ‘facebook cheating’, the citizens over there are using facebook ‘bombs’ to spatter news of someone’s straying from the matrimonial path to all and sundry who care to delve into the detritus.

In a rather dramatic statement, one dating coach has stood up and said on record that facebook will be ‘the source of all future infidelity’.

Read into that statement what you will, especially with dating sites dedicated to married individuals looking for extra-curricular activity reporting record sign-ups already, so soon after Christmas.

If you do want to date an ex, do not do it on a site where your family, wife and children can all be caught in the crossfire when an unexpected bomb explodes, sending your marriage to the wall.

Dystopian dating sites being watched – one

It may seem like a chapter from a dystopian fantasy to some, but George Orwell must be up in heaven, shaking a stick at us, saying ‘I told you so!’. Not only is Big Brother watching us, but he is evaluating all of the information on our dating sites to try and figure out one of the grandest emotions of them all: lurve.

The problem with academia’s assessment of the subject of love in the past, and its precursor, dating, is that the only sources of reference have been collated from information ‘volunteered’ from exercises such as censuses and early investigations into basic mate selection. Well, there were some pretty heavy explorations in the Free Love era of the late sixties but what Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix contributed could never be studied in a dope-free classroom.

No, what matchmaking and dating sites provide the researchers with is an open window into what singles, many of whom have never been in a long-term relationship before, really want from a partner and not what has either been interpreted by a Victorian professor in times when showing an ankle was tantamount to scandal or what was written on an official government form because you thought that was what was expected of you, either from your partner or society as a whole.

Recent research is more credible than ever, with worldwide dating site hits being estimated at 600,000,000 in one month (source: Experian Hitwise). And that’s conservative. When you’re looking to head up an enquiry into the essence of love revolving around the impact of online dating you need someone knowledgeable in dealing with motorways of human traffic – the good sort on the web, that is.

dating sites key to emotive catalysts

Andrew T Fiore is a Facebook scientist, so his insight into volume was invaluable. Assessing the criteria, he was also positive in acknowledging the role dating sites play, since the online world integrates more into the offline one more every day, stating that they provide “true-to-life context for examining the risks, uncertainties and rewards of initiating real relationships.”

Not only is Big Brother assessing what makes us want to approach someone, but also about what we are prepared to reveal ourselves. Andrew’s peer, Margaret Meads, has targeted some of the biggest online dating platforms to gauge other essential motivators, such as attraction, trust, deceit, our cultural background and political preference – all have bearings on whom we weigh up as possible dating material.

What did Big Brother make of it all? Find out more about our brave new world in the next chapter…