| December 13, 2012

Let's face it: Google — for better or worse — affects our relationships in a zillion ways. But there was a time not too long ago (even though it feels like ages ago) when Google (stalking) didn't even exist. Let's look back at what's changed since Google hit the dating scene.

1. Pre-Date Screening
Where he works, what he looks like, even his Klout score are available to you at the click of a button before you meet him, thanks to Google. Sure you can feel like a creep when you find yourself viewing his high school football stats or laughing at an article he wrote for his college newspaper, but doing a quick check at his search results can give you some insight into his interests and his past. Just don't get too wrapped up in the search engine — it won't tell you everything. You'll have to hear his Donald Trump impression in real life to understand how funny he really is. And, just like some guys seem good on paper, some can look better on Google too.

2. Google Stalking the New Guy
Should you still Google stalk your love interest after you've hung out with him a few times? A new study from BrandYourself found that 43 percent of U.S. adults have searched potential dates, significant others or exes. Even though so many of us are doing it, some see searching him online as a curse. I think of it as a necessity. After seeing my spring break fling's mugshot pop up on my screen, I will always vote yes, Google the guy you just met no matter how sweet he seemed. More on that one another time …

3. Less Privacy For You
The internet can make it feel like you're dating in small town: Misconceptions and glimpses into the past are easy to come by. Not only can you see his opinions and whereabouts with a quick Google search, he can also see yours. Things that used to be hidden in drawers or boxes under your bed, from pictures of you and your ex on vacation to that wedding dress you just pinned, are now out in the open.

4. Constant Contact
Gmail, Gchat, and Google+ Hangouts let us communicate with the people in our lives all the time, which can be both good and bad. You can hear your guy laugh when he's on a different continent but you can also get distracted by the stream of consciousness-esque chats he sends you when you're at work. We've become so used to constant communication that picking up the phone and calling him to complain about your day feels old-fashioned. For new love interests, though, Gchatting can be an easy, low-key means of talking to a crush the way AIM once was.

5. 24/7 Dating Advice
Google answers all of your dating questions anywhere, anytime — even the ones you're embarrassed to ask your closest friends. If you're dying to try a new date spot or plan a romantic getaway, Google can give you answers in mere seconds. Instead of relying on immediate advice from strangers across the globe, we once had to rely on word-of-mouth, old wives' tales and rumors.

Whether you prefer dating with or without Google, there's no denying that it's becoming a bigger part of our personal lives. The key is finding the right balance for it. And who knows, maybe in a few years we'll all be using something called Google Balance to sort it all out.