In this day and age, it’s common to do a little digging into a person you are dating or planning on dating. Yes, it feels weird and awkward. It feels like you are violating someone’s privacy. But, I say, who cares. This is about your time, your safety, your life and the decisions you want to make.

Before I continue, I will stress a strong point: Take your judgment with a grain of salt.

So, how do you get started? All you know is the first name. Most often you only need two pieces of information: First name, job title or company name, what school they went to. Sometimes it just takes the type of business they are in plus city, state they practice.

Once you’re able to figure out the last name, it gets easier. You can start searching social media sites and google.

County databases are also helpful. Every county is set up differently, but it’s worth checking to see how simple it is to create an account. I use mine to find out if they own a home. I can also see divorce information, tax liens, and businesses they might own. All this information is public, it’s just of your willingness to find it.

I go back and forth where I land on someone’s abundant or lack thereof social media presence. Most often I conclude that in today’s world I should be able to find something. At the very least a professional adult who is ambitious and looking to network in their career should be on LinkedIn. And! With a picture.

Someone who hides is fishy to me. Ultimately, it’s not my only standard, but it’s a place to start.

In all fairness, age plays a part. The older generation typically aren’t posting pics of their dinner on Instagram or tweeting about their favorite Kardashian. But, it’s still worth trying. Lots of companies have employee bios on their websites or their name pops up in a church roster or some other organization they are involved in. Or, their name appeared, for whatever reason, in a newspaper article.

Sometimes one search can lead to another.

I always always always search the men I’m talking to and plan to go on a date with. And, I will never apologize for it. Safety is definitely a concern. But, it’s not just about that.

For instance, I met a man on match and we emailed and texted a bit. I managed to find him on Facebook and I scrolled through all sorts of posts indicating to me that we would likely not be a good fit for each other. This was a rare case when I went to an extreme, but why waste my time, and his, when I could clearly see we had strong fundamental differences.

I’m sure people do it to me! I’m an open book. I say, have at it. If someone discovers something about me and they decide not to date me, that’s fine. I’d rather not have my time wasted if they’ve already made up their mind.

I remember being out on a date with a guy once and he referenced something about me that I know I hadn’t told him. I giggled inside. I rolled with it. I don’t care.

That can be part of the challenge! If you’re not going to come clean about cyberstalking your date you gotta be very thoughtful about what you know and how you know it. And, if you do get caught, admit it. Try not to apologize. Explain if you feel it’s necessary, but don’t apologize. Stand your ground. If the other party gets angry and doesn’t understand, I say that’s insight into their general attitude. From there you can decide what to do.

These are a few of my favorite cyberstalking stories:

First was a guy named Mike*. I had coffee with Mike. All I knew about him after the date was his first name, his age, his career, he somehow worked with computers and that he was a hobby dirt biker. I searched dirt bike competitions in my area, scrolled through the roster finding all the dudes named Mike in his age range. The purpose of that was to get last names. Once I had full names to work with I searched on that and made the connection to the line of work he was in. Boom!

I actually never went out with that guy again. I didn’t hear from him – nothing to do with what I found online.

A little searching can also help you verify information. I went on a date with someone who said he was going to be on one of the network television talent shows. Singing was his talent. After my date, I did a little digging and I couldn’t find a thing. No website, no YouTube channel, no Facebook page, no Instagram, etc. Anyone planning to be on a nationally televised program is going to have an online resume of some sort. They are going to be promoting themselves in some way. This guy flat out lied.

Side note: He also wiped his face with his arm and not his napkin while we were eating. Gross.

Any kind of stalking freaks people out. I get it. But, there is a HUGE difference between a couple of minutes of gathering bits of information vs. actual physical stalking. Cyberstalking has a lot more to do with verification and getting some insight. Physical stalking is time-consuming and requires a level of obsessive behavior. I don’t recommend doing that.

More often than not the results of my cyber searching does not make it or break it. I grew up with G.I Joe: Knowing is half the battle. My goal is gaining comfort, peace of mind and familiarity.

Also, I usually find out most everything I learned online directly from the guy anyway. We’re not talking deep dark secrets here. And, if a guy finds out I did do a little searching, gets pissed off and call me a crazy B. Ok, then. Bye! No skin off my back. Again, I’m never going to apologize for looking out for myself. I’m either respected for it or I’m not.

In the end, I say do what’s right for you. Just know that if you do decide to search, it’s normal and there’s nothing wrong with it.

*name changed.