(ABC)

The line between creepy and cute is very thin, especially when social media is involved.

Viewers of “The Bachelorette” finale were reminded of that fact as winner Shawn Booth told the story of his first declaration of interest in Kaitlyn Bristowe: a Snapchat image of her face with the promise/threat, “Don’t worry Kaitlyn … I’m coming for you.”

Back then, about six months ago, Bristowe was just a “Bachelor” contestant getting dumped by Chris Soules on national television. Booth snapped a shot of “Sad Kaitlyn” on his television screen and sent it to his friends with that white-knight promise to save her from singledom.

“When I saw her not get a rose from Chris, I was looking at her and she was so upset, there was something inside that just felt crazy, so I took a picture,” Booth said on last night’s “After the Final Rose.” “I sent that to my buddies and they probably thought I was crazy.”

They probably did. But hey, it all worked out: Booth dealt with his jealousy over Bristowe dating other men on a show that’s all about dating 25 men at once, and now they’re thrilled to be public about their relationship.

So that early Snapchat ended up as a sweet gesture, but it could have gone either way.

[Kaitlyn spoiled ‘The Bachelorette’ finale weeks ago. Why did ABC pretend it never happened?]

Still, last night’s reveal of everything that happened before Booth and Nick Viall ever met Bristowe got me thinking about the preconceptions we have of the people we date, long before we’ve even met them. Booth saw Bristowe as a woman in need of rescuing.

Another contestant, Ian, thought so, too — and seemed sorely surprised to find a strong rather than broken woman: “I came here to meet the girl who got her heart broken and was devastated by Chris Soules,” he said shortly before leaving the show, “not the girl who wanted to get her field plowed.”

Creepier than cute, Ian.

Viall was the only one to base his pre-first impressions of Bristowe on actual interactions: “We got to know each other pretty well, probably as well as you could before meeting someone,” he told host Chris Harrison last night, saying that the two of them starting talking about a month before Bristowe was the Bachelorette. “The odds were stacked against us,” Viall said of the unlikeliness of the two of them actually being able to explore a relationship. “But at the same time there’s a part of me that kind of expected it.”

So many expectations! That Bristowe needs a man to save her; that someone she’s communicated with but never met could make his way onto the show and into her heart. Okay, those things happened. But something also tells me that Bristowe would be just fine if she “ended up alone” (Harrison’s words, not mine) after her run as the Bachelorette.

One of my many beefs with the show is the way it creates this notion that every interaction and every date has make-or-break stakes. And those conceptions you have of people start before you’ve had much interaction, as they did when contestants had to choose between Bristowe and Britt Nilsson in the first episode.

But you don’t have to be dating on TV to create impressions of someone — positive or negative — before meeting. Regular daters do this all the time with the help of social media, and it isn’t always so helpful. In fact, a 2014 study found that looking up a date on Facebook prior to meeting him or her can increase anxiety, particularly among those who are already socially anxious.

Of course, there are valid reasons for looking people up, such as to avoid catfishing and any obvious deception: “On one side, it’s safer to know what to expect and what kind of person you’re getting ready to involve yourself with,” a Hanover College student told USA Today in a story on the Facebook study, “but I think on the other side, it may reveal too much about them and skew your perception.”

As with many things in dating, there are no rules. Look someone up, or don’t. Just don’t take what you find to be the definitive picture of a person you haven’t yet met.

READ MORE:

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