Social Media Rules For Singles

The rise of social media has changed the rules of modern dating. Here, find out if you’re “socially compatible” — and how to navigate the tech-heavy world of staying connected 24/7.

By Anne Roderique-Jones

ver virtually investigated your potential date? (Don’t worry; you’re not the only one.) In this day and age, social media is a key part of dating and it’s important to be “socially compatible.” How social you and your date both are online and off-line can often make or break a potential relationship. Whether you’re a low-key user of social media or you tweet all the details of your first date, read this first to avoid any faux pas:

Scenario #1: Singles hoping to make a connection with zero social media presence
Pat Mills*, 32, a teacher in New York, NY, finds dating hard these days — especially since she has zero social media presence. “I was on Friendster for
I remember thinking that I don’t know how to date without Facebook.
a minute in 2003, but it got creepy pretty fast and I never joined another social network.” She says that trying to navigate being single in her 20s in New York was difficult, “then Facebook blew up and changed the game. I remember thinking that I don’t know how to date without Facebook, even though I was never on it,” recalls Mills. “So, yeah — I was single for about a decade.”

Atlanta District Attorney Michael Donaldson*, 35, deals with being single in a workplace strongly discourages its employees from posting any social media profiles online. He says that while this mandatory Internet absence hasn’t drastically affected his dating life, there are new technology developments in the way people are communicating with each other that he’s had to learn to do without. “If you have a Facebook page or Instagram account and meet someone through a friend or relative, there’s a reasonable possibility that you can find that person through social media in a creep-free fashion,” says Donaldson. “That initial befriending of someone online can be an indicator that there’s an interest in seeing each other again, and without these outlets, you lose that momentum.” Donaldson has found that social media networks are just another type of forum where single people interact, and he’s had to navigate dating without those options: “If you comment on someone’s photo from a recent trip or someone responds to your post about where to get decent pho in Chicago, it could be the beginning of a conversation.”

Ian Kerner, Ph.D., a sex and relationships counselor and the author of DSI: Date Scene Investigation and Sex Recharge: A Rejuvenation Plan for Couples and Singles, feels that everyone has the right to use social media as they see fit and in a way that’s meaningful to them when they’re actively dating. He mentions that using these technology-based ways to connect with others often helps widen your social circle and has become an important dating tool for 21st century singles. Dr. Kerner points out that if you’re dating within a demographic that uses social media frequently — Millenials, for example — then it’s possible to feel shut out from your peers. “It gives prospective dates a chance to get more acquainted with you,” explains Dr. Kerner.

Scenario #2: Daters who casually use social media with restricted privacy settings
Jess Perez*, 41, an account manager in New York, NY is cautious when it comes to combining her dating and social media activities. She often uses Pinterest for collecting bridal, home or baby ideas that inspire her (it’s perfectly normal to plan for the future, right?), but makes these posts private from potential love interests. “I like to keep any curious dates from thinking I’m ready to rush down the aisle or get knocked up,” Perez explains. Her Facebook timeline’s privacy settings mean that tagged photos of her will only show up there after she’s approved them — and even then, she’ll only
It gives prospective dates a chance to get more acquainted with you.
approve flattering photos for posting. “I think most of my stuff can be seen by friends of friends, so I keep it looking good just in case a potential date and I know someone in common,” adds Perez.

Dr. Kerner says that because a major facet of dating is making a good impression on someone, you always want to be able to control how you’re being presented in public and online. As in, you may not want to show off old yearbook photos, vacations with your ex or tweets about your cat to just anyone. “Privacy settings make a lot of sense, and they allow you to edit and control how you’re being presented to the world,” Dr. Kerner says. When it comes to dating, he believes that less is more: “It’s about getting to know someone, and you don’t want that person to look at your social network and know everything about you — that’s not a real process of discovery.”

Scenario #3: Single social media addicts who are also looking for love
Tina Phischer*, 29, a personal trainer in Austin, TX, had a dating experience go downhill fast when an otherwise great guy involved her in his social media obsession. “I made the mistake of accepting his Facebook request too early and he began checking in and tagging me on our date — not just on Facebook, but Foursquare, too,” recalls Phischer. “When his ‘Dinner with Tina at Tony’s Steakhouse!’ post showed up on my newsfeed, I immediately felt exposed,” she says. “This detailed play-by-play of our date did not get past my friends, family or ex, considering that it was online for the world to see. Lesson learned!”

Dr. Kerner says that checking in via Foursquare, tweeting and pinning every detail of our lives weren’t even possible five years ago; now, it’s done almost unconsciously by more and more people every day. “If it’s an otherwise a great date but that person is too socially active online for your taste, now’s the perfect time to let him or her know that you’re a private individual and aren’t comfortable with your name being put out there online. It’s a completely fair conversation,” advises Dr. Kerner. Another suggestion he makes is that while you’re dating around, it’s important to think about this new dimension of mutual compatibility. If you’re with someone who eagerly documents every moment of his or her life by using social media and you’re not inclined to do the same, then it could potentially create an issue down the line once you’re in a relationship together. Remember this aspect of your “social compatibility” and weigh the risks and rewards of exposing your romantic life online when you’re sizing up your next date.

*Names have been changed to protect contributors’ privacy.

Anne Roderique-Jones is a New York City-based freelanced writer whose work has appeared in such publications as Redbook, Woman’s Day, The Knot Magazine and other national publications.
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