Don't trust me, google me!

Observations on relationships

I met a man at a party recently who asked for my number. The next time we spoke, he knew much more about me than I remembered telling him. I had been "googled". That is to say, he had gone away and looked me up on an internet search engine. He thus found out much more about me than I would necessarily want a first date to know. I did the same recently to a man I thought about dating - at least until I read about his wife and children on Friends Reunited, the website that puts old school friends back in touch.

Whereas we once believed most of what people told us, the internet has given us the ability to ask for, and find, instant answers to nearly any questions we may have about anyone. And like any addiction, the more information we have, the more we need. It is no longer necessarily the sign of a stalker to find out everything about people as early as possible. Indeed, while bemoaning the loss of privacy, we put information about ourselves on the web for others to find with minimal digging.

The man who admitted to googling me could have found out vast amounts of information. Had he wanted to know where I live, he could have looked me up on www.192.com, where you can find the address of anyone who is registered to vote. Once you've got their postcode, you can type it into www.upmystreet.com. In my case, you'll find out that most people in my street have a microwave but no car, no stocks or shares, no mortgage and no kids. You'll also find out that I'm likely to eat fish, take exotic holidays, read the Guardian and sometimes drink a glass of table wine. No wonder my date turned up with the Guardian under his arm, took me to a seafood restaurant and talked about foreign travel.

If he had known my name, but nothing else, he could have tried www.googlism.com, a website that collates information found on Google into real sentences. Type "Ellie Levenson" and Googlism comes out with ". . . is editor of Fabian Review". Type "Fabian Review" in Google and my work address and contact details are easy to find.

Aristotle thought that trust was one of the virtues that made us better people. For a friendship, or a working relationship, to flourish, each side had to trust the other. So even given the opportunity, he probably wouldn't have looked up Plato on his laptop. And perhaps he would have been correct. For if anyone googles me pre-date again, there's a good chance that they will find the wrong Ellie Levenson - perhaps the one who makes decorative Easter eggs, or the party caterer, in which case they are going to end up extremely disappointed.

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