By Allison Morrow
Agence France-Presse/Getty Images
A Chinese office worker surfs the Internet looking for love.
Looking for love in Asia, as in the West, is an increasingly digital exercise, and one that should come with a warning: Google not, lest ye be Googled.
A report released this week by a Singapore-based dating site showed more than 70% singles surveyed—mostly young professionals in Singapore, Hong Kong and Malaysia—say they track the digital footprints of their potential dates. This “pre-dating” isn’t new, but it’s certainly becoming easier as our online profiles multiply and the practice of scouring online eclipses more traditional maneuvers like going to a bar or club.
“It’s not unexpected, but I was surprised that so many people do it,” said Violet Lim, co-founder of the dating company that conducted the survey, of the responses to questions about what she called “e-stalking.”
Although online dating hasn’t taken off as much in Asia as in the U.S. or U.K., Ms. Lim said, she has seen a steady rise in the number of survey respondents saying they are open to dating online. One of the online services provided by her company, which operates in Singapore, Hong Kong and Malaysia, grew more than 400% between 2010 and 2012, she said.
To be sure, the Asia survey falls short of scientific. Ms. Lim’s company, Lunch Actually—its shtick is arranging lunchtime meetups for busy professionals—surveyed 1,900 people about their dating behavior, many of whom were already using services like Lunch Actually or its online sister site Eteract (tagline: “Where Serious Daters Meet”).
A more comprehensive study of American dating culture by Match.com earlier this year showed that nearly 50% of single women (versus 38% of men) research dates on before meeting up.
There’s certainly a case to be made for refraining from so much online sleuthing—digital records of one’s foibles look harsher out of context, and there’s no accounting on Facebook for face-to-face chemistry.
But Ms. Lim says pre-dating behavior is inevitable. The most important thing to remember, she says, is that if you’re Googling someone, you should expect them to be equally as curious about you.
“Google yourself,” Ms. Lim says. “When we advise clients we say to put your best foot forward. Now that’s not just in person, but also online.”