As University of Colorado students spend the day preparing for their Valentine’s Day dates there’s more to the routine than picking the right outfit and making sure their hair is perfect.
Students are spending the hours before their big night out prescreening their date’s online profile.
Lee Scriggins, of Wardenburg’s Community Health Department, said Facebook and other social networking sites provide both intimate and superficial details that can make positive and negative impressions on the viewer.
“It’s clear people are using Facebook to get a fuller picture of someone,” Scriggins said. “It’s kind of like a fact of life now, everyone’s doing it.”
CU sophomore Stacy Luszczek said she always checks out other people’s Facebook profiles whether they’re a potential date or just a friend.
“I definitely do it,” Luszczek said. “I do it, my friends do it, everyone does it.”
Luszczek said she looks for common interests, photos and friends lists to see if they are compatible.
“I looked up a guy earlier this semester online and we just didn’t have anything in common,” she said. “Our interests were different and we didn’t have any mutual friends. It was just going to be awkward so I called it off.”
Other students said they also spend time looking for common interests on Facebook to see if they were compatible with someone they didn’t know very well.
A recent study by Dr. Megan Moreno, assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of Wisconsin — Madison, revealed that interests aren’t the only things that can lead to judgments about someone based on their profile.
“We found that if men see sexualized references on a women’s profile they believe those women would be more forthcoming with sexual behavior,” Moreno said. “The guys said, ‘the references tell me I’m more likely to get into bed with a girl who has them on her profile then one who doesn’t show those messages.'”
Moreno has been studying social networking behavior for years and said a recent study showed that 25 percent of all college students have some kind of sexually explicit message or photo on their profile. Of those references, 65 percent were made by women and only 35 percent by men.
“College women are more likely to put explicit messages or photos online than men,” Moreno said. “We don’t know why yet but maybe because that’s what they think men want to see.”
CU junior Taylor Hotz said he connects online sexual material to personal expectations when he goes out with that girl.
“I definitely read into it if she has something sexual posted,” Hotz said. “I think because it’s a public forum and she’s basically announcing it to everyone so that makes me think she’s actually that way.”
Moreno said preconceived notions made by males about a female’s willingness to be sexual, can be dangerous.
“(The women) may not know it but these guys think that means they’re going to get sex,” Moreno said. “That can lead to problems between the couple immediately.”
CU senior Kate O’Connor said most students know that they’re being screened on Facebook and are responsible for their own actions.
“Whether it’s a joke or not, we know people are going to see it,” O’Connor said. “I think students can put whatever they want on Facebook but they need to be prepared for the consequences.”
Scriggins said there are benefits to using online profiles to get to know people before meeting them in person.
“You really do get a fuller sense of someone,” Scriggins said. “You can’t completely hide who you are in your Facebook stream. It might be more accurate then some really great pick up line you got in a social setting.”
Scriggins said the benefits of having an online presence can be great but students should “think critically” about how they portray themselves to the public.