(Caitlin Dutt/AQ)

Online dating and dating apps are one of the most popular ways to meet new people nowadays.

Whether you want a long-term relationship or no-strings-attached, there’s an app for that.

But is it okay to check out a date’s social media profile before actually meeting them?

Along with dating profiles, social media sites are full of personal information. Instagram, Facebook and Twitter offer more ways for people to share information about themselves. Some dating sites even allow users to link their social media profiles for people to view.

Let’s say you start talking to someone new on Tinder. You set up a date for next weekend – sounds great. But Tinder only offers you a few photos and a short bio and you feel it’s too early to get personal. Maybe you want to know about their lifestyle, their political views, their interests. Is it okay to do some research on Instagram to learn more?

St. Thomas University student Lauren Mackenzie thinks so.

“If they don’t have a social media account, then how do you know they’re a real person?” she said.

Lauren Mackenzie thinks it’s okay to check out a potential date’s social media profiles before going on a date. (Lauren Hoyt/AQ)

Many people consider a social media presence proof that someone is real and not a predator. And if someone has an authentic social media presence, they’re less likely to be catfishing them.

According to a study published in 2017 by the Australian dating site Elite Singles, 75 per cent of women and 59 per cent of men will “creep” their date’s social media accounts before going on a date face to face.

There are, of course, arguments defending both sides.

By checking out a potential partner via their social media profiles, you get a better idea of what they’re really like, preventing you from being disappointed. Or ending up on a date with a serial killer.

Others say the mystery is part of the excitement of online dating and it keeps things interesting.

Amy Van Doran, a matchmaker in New York City, told the Huffington Post in 2013 that already having background knowledge about a potential partner can make things boring when you go on your first actual date.

“It makes it hard to fall in love. For that, you have to be in the moment,” she said.

Social media allows people to learn a lot of personal information about someone before even meeting them. (Lauren Hoyt/AQ)

For me, my boyfriend and I met on Instagram after being mentioned through a mutual friend. He followed me and messaged me a few days later because he didn’t have Facebook. We chatted for a few days and made plans to meet a week later. I didn’t get to know him very well via texting, but I knew plenty about him just by looking through his profile. I wanted to make sure he was right for me. He admitted to doing the same and we’ve been dating for almost three years now.

We weren’t using a dating app so it wasn’t obvious we were looking for a relationship, but we still used social media to make sure we were compatible for each other. I tried to find him on other sites too because I was curious. Nothing wrong with that, right?

But Nicholas Decarie, a fourth-year student at STU, thinks profiles beyond dating sites should remain off limits.

“Going beyond what information you actually see in their bio, I think it’s a little bit weird to look them up on Facebook or go through their Instagram,” he said.

Dating apps allow people to make connections, but they only offer bits and pieces of information. (Lauren Hoyt/AQ)

Billions of people use social media every day, posting about their life for the world to see. Millions of people put themselves out there on dating sites. The world has shifted to online interaction, for just about everything. This leads to the “creeping” phenomenon across all sites.

If you’re not comfortable with social media, online dating or being “creeped” yourself, you can always make your profiles private. For those who practice all of the above, happy creeping.