Facebook- love it or hate it, it is here to stay, and it is changing the way we get to know people and the way we date every day. You used to have to date someone in order to get to know them, but now with the magic of Facebook, we can spy, investigate, peruse, and glean all sorts of information about someone before we even hold a real conversation with them. And now in addition to all of the other pressures, labels, and societal mores that come with dating, we have the new stress of Facebook etiquette! What does all of this mean to singles? Read on and let's discuss!
Boy Meets Girl, Boy Talks to Girl, Boy Meets Girl in Real Life
Dating used to be a little bit easier. You met, exchanged phone numbers and maybe email addresses, went on a few dates, and eventually had a “what are we talk.” Now, things are a little bit muddier. You meet online (maybe in real life), you instant message for long hours at night, eventually exchange cell numbers with the understanding that you will text and not call until you are ready to move to that next level, and at some point along the way, you do or do not become Facebook friends. And then, after you've “gotten to know each other” via social media and online interactions, you go on a date.
Let me point this out- before you have even gone on a first date or possibly have even met in person, you have had the opportunity to see high school pictures, investigate photos from past relationships, and learn all sorts of information with no real context for improved understanding.
I'm not entirely certain that this is healthy. Do new acquaintances need to know so much about you? Communicating extensively without context or emotion (ie- instant messaging and texting) leads to projected expectations, meaning, and false sympathy. (One can only imagine what Carl Jung would think of this development!)
With social media, such as Facebook, the essentials of building chemistry, sympathy, and understanding of another person all happens in the imagination and not in the actual conscious realm! And yet, social media has given us the opportunity to build relationships faster, and provided more and more ways of communicating. The potential number of ways two people can meet online grows each day. Likewise, the potential number of ways two people can continue to communicate also increases regularly. There are pros and cons to everything, and even more acutely exaggerated in social media.
Facebook Etiquette 101
In this new world of dating with all of its exposure, where you can learn all sorts of things on Facebook without the other person fully realizing how much you are learning, opens up all sorts of new questions. For instance, when do you add each other on Facebook? Before the first date? After? And when do you change your status to “In a Relationship?” And who should be the one to instigate the relationship status change? Are their gender roles for such things? Should it be the man's job to make the change? And what if one party is a bigger Facebook user than the other? Should you take it personally when the other party doesn't accept your friend request immediately??
A quick poll of a dozen or so of my friends revealed that most of them think the man should instigate the relationship status change. The same poll indicated that most of my male friends were strongly pushed by their girlfriends to do so. Also, not one guy had ever thought about changing their Facebook status. But every single girl was acutely aware of such details.
I recently found myself discussing the importance of the “Facebook official” relationships with some friends. Apparently it is believed by some that a relationship isn't official until it is “Facebook official” (ie- you have publicly declared your relationship on Facebook, and changed your status). Some of my friends felt that it is very suspicious when two people are dating, and yet don't declare it on Facebook. Or worse yet, two people are dating, and yet aren't even friends on Facebook. Is this really cause for concern? Should you really be worried when your new flame doesn't add you on Facebook?
Nothing Can Kill a Relationship like Facebook
Just ask Hosni Mubarak and Moammar Gaddafi--Facebook is a very powerful tool for communicating. It can form alliances, send messages, bring down dictators, and kill a relationship. The divorce rate in the United States has remained stable in the past few years, but lawyers are citing Facebook as a leading cause of relationship problems. Many lawyers are now using Facebook profiles, statuses, etc as a course of action in divorces. Spouses are “spying” on each other's activities, noting who talks to who more, what comments are left, etc., to determine each other's fidelity. But is Facebook really to blame? Or is it just another tool for infidelity? A cheater will cheat, how they will cheat is up to them.
What Does Your Profile Say about You?
Single, dating, married, or widowed, what does your Facebook profile say about you? What message are your pictures sending? As a young women leader, I find myself becoming more and more aware of what I post online, and of what my young women post online. Your profile, whether you realize it or not, says a lot about you. Be careful what pictures you post (and take) and share with the world. Do you really want everyone in the whole wide world to see that private night in the hot tub? Or your girls only pajama dance party?
If you are out in the singles scene, looking to meet someone new, be very careful what you post and say on your profile. Chances are it isn't just your potential significant other looking at you. Sisters, friends, and mothers are also checking you out. Are there bitter break up statuses? What about pictures of your ex? Consider regularly “editing” your profile as your life
Lack of Facebook Love
Are you one of those people who logs in to Facebook, but doesn't post much on other people's profiles? Have you ever considered that you are sending your new “person of interest” a negative note by not saying anything? You “friended” them, but then never commented? Facebook comments are a double sided sword. Many users add a new flame, and then eagerly sit and wait for the chance to post and receive witty, charming comments. Be careful not to accidentally break someone's heart by not commenting to them online!
Are You a Facebook Stalker?
The other side of the Facebook sword is the tendency to become a Facebook stalker. We've all been there. We all have one friend who comments a little bit too much, and a little too adamantly.
Are you posting too much? Does the other party reciprocate? And again, what message are you sending?
Are you using Facebook to flirt? Have you ever had someone tell you to “get a room” and stop flirting so publicly? I have two married friends who clearly speak the “words of affection” as their “love languages.