Before you agree to meet up with a perfect stranger you’ve only seen three pictures of (two in which they’re standing with a group of friends and you really can’t tell which one they are… but it’s probably the shortest!!!), it makes perfect sense to do a little online digging. You might be trying to find them on Facebook. You might just want to know their last name.
This does not make you creepy; it does not make you a stalker. For me, I feel a bit safer if I can verify that the person I’m about to get drinks with is a real human being who mostly resembles who they say they are. And I fully expect this to go both ways (if you’re about to go on a date with me and found this article through some research of your own, hi! I’ll probably be like five minutes late).
But not everybody is a natural-born online sleuth, so I’m offering up some tips that have helped me find just about every Tinderoni or JSwiper that’s come my way, based on the amount of information you have.
Let’s do this:
1. First name + university or company name:
This is the most common situation. It may feel daunting cause like how many Davids went to NYU (a lot!) but trust me, with just a little patience this method usually comes through:
1. Type first name into Facebook
2. Click “people” tab
3. Use the filters for Education or Work. You can type in any school or company there.
4. Start scrolling! Most people use their Facebook profile photo in their dating app photos, so you can peruse pretty quickly just looking for a photo you recognize.
Alternatively, if you have their place of work, go to their company website and find their “About us” page. Often they’ll have staff listed there. This is how I found out that the guy who told me he was a graphic designer at a hip real estate app was actually just a real estate agent at a hip real estate app. That’s not the same at all!
Lastly, if you have their place of work, LinkedIn is a great place to search. One time I found someone who works at LinkedIn on LinkedIn. So meta!!
2. Phone number
If you guys decided to “move this to text because it’s so much easier lol,” then you’ve also just been given a major clue in the sleuthing game. Hooray! Give these a try:
Plop it in Facebook. A lot of people don’t realize that their phone number is connected to Facebook. Even if their phone number isn’t publically listed in their profile, they will pop up when you search it. (This is also a great time to remove your phone number from Facebook.)
Google it. One time a guy very creepily sent me messages — to which I never answered, NOT ONCE — over a period of several months, and these messages got creepier and creepier (and nonsensical; one time he asked if I needed a new vacuum cleaner?). Eventually he signed one of these messages with a phone number, so I googled it and guess what, he owned a bookstore and he had given me the store’s number and now I knew exactly who he was and which bookstore to never shop at again!
Make note of area code. This isn’t so much a solution but could help you further down the line when you need to narrow down people by location/hometown i.e. in Facebook searches.
3. Mutual Friends
I don’t have to tell you how to do this, right? Okay fine: If you have mutual friends listed, go to said friend’s Facebook page and search the first name in their friend’s list.
If you don’t know about Google reverse image search, you clearly haven’t been in this online stalking game for long. Either right click on the picture and press “Search Google for image” or download the picture and upload it here. Even if this doesn’t provide you with any matches, it’s always fun to see what Google’s “best guess” is for the picture.
For example, HERE’S MINE:
Word to the wise:
Don’t go too far! Once you’ve found them, feel free to take in some recent posts or check out their last few profile pictures, but I highly suggest you don’t do too much more than that. For one, the more you dig, the more likely you’ll find one little thing from like five years ago that you’re not a fan of, which can immediately turn you off to someone who you otherwise might quite like. Also sometimes you go too deep into the photo archives and discover their ex-girlfriend and then you just casually hop over to her Instagram page and before you know it you accidentally LIKED a photo of her slice of pizza from TWO YEARS AGO and you feel real bad and want to die. Don’t do that.
Header Image via Stephanie Hofmann on giphy.