Social Media Dating Etiquette

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“So, I got this INSANE email from some girl claiming to be his girlfriend on Facebook today…”

Raise your hand if you or a friend have started off a story like that since entering the world of social media. (OK, you can put your hand down now… your co-workers might be wondering…)  A guy friend of mine recently told me about some girl who is mad at him for breaking up with her and is contacting every new person he “friends,” telling them that he’s a womanizer with herpes.

And lest you think it’s all crazy chickswomen are all too well aware of some men’s desire to mark their territory with excessive public posts, posting pictures on her wall, claiming a relationship status that may or may not be appropriate or even asking her out via public message on a Facebook or Myspace wall.

Unfortunately, in the world of social media, it goes both ways. Men AND women can get a little nuts when exposed to an opportunity to publicly mark territory. And thanks to things like the “relationship status,” you are now required to have a DTR (Define The Relationship conversation) at every stage of the dating game just to make sure you’re on the same page.

First date last night and Facebook friends? DTR. You kissed? DTR. Your friend went out with her at some point? DTR. You’re not ready to be exclusive? DTR. Ready to be exclusive? DTR. Ready to change your relationship status on Facebook? DTR. Want to post pictures from last weekend? DTR. Etc. etc. and so forth. In order to stay clear with each other about what’s acceptable a to post in public and what’s not… that dreaded DTR pops up right and left with a stealth that surprises even the most veteran of daters.

I get a lot of etiquette questions from daters about social media, so here are my answers to some of the biggies. I’d love to hear if you have a different rule of thumb that works better for you…

Q: When do I change my “relationship status?”

A: When you BOTH agree that you are OK with going public as an exclusive couple (and that people will be talking/asking about it.) If you break up — at any point that it feels right to you to publicly sever that tie. If you know you are the type to do the break up/get back together cycle… please spare us the drama of changing your relationship status with every up and down.

Q: When can I post a picture of the two of us as my main profile picture?

A: When you both agree that it’s a good picture and your significant other doesn’t mind being pictured as your other half. (And you are skilled at ignoring gagging noises from your friends)

Q: When can I contact someone my date “friended” and let them know that he/she is taken?

A: NEVER. If you do this, you look like a crazy person — no matter what. If your date isn’t making it clear that they are off the market, you need to talk to your date and not the people they “friend.” (A side note on this, don’t get mad at the girl your “boyfriend” asks out. The girl isn’t the person cheating on you. The person cheating on you is the one who agreed to be in a relationship with you and stepped out with someone else. If you’re going to get mad, direct it at the right person.)

Q: When can I “friend” my date’s friends?

A: This one is a bit tricky. The safest rule of thumb… let his/her friends approach you with a friend request. Keep in mind that these are also people who will have access to your profile should you and their friend have a nasty break up. Are you going to de-friend them if that happens?

Q: Do I friend someone I met on an online dating site before meeting them in person?

A: Only if you really have nothing to hide and/or want to give them access to more pictures/posts/etc. Also make sure that your private info like address and phone number aren’t public knowledge. (They really shouldn’t be anyway) Also, be careful about friending potentials before you know them because it can backfire if one or more of your potentials decide to go public with their interest.

Q: What do I do if someone is using my friend pool to increase their dating pool?

A: Personally, I don’t like cherry pickers. This one is up to you, but when they start crossing lines with my friends, I’ll typically issue a polite warning and if they don’t pay attention… the dreaded de-friend will occur.

Q: Do I believe someone who contacts me with information about the person I’m dating?

A: Personally, I tend to only believe with verification. Example… I’ve noticed actions that correlate to what this person is saying about my date. I’d never break it off with someone because someone contacted me with bad info, but it could precipitate a difficult conversation with my date.

All in all, social media requires a greater understanding of not only respect and communication but common sense in how to react to your life becoming public property. If you value your privacy, let the person you’re dating know how much of your life you are comfortable having in the public domain. Some people just have different standards of what’s appropriate and may not understand that posting that cutesy kissing picture of the two of you is not something that you appreciate.