Once upon a time, all singles needed to worry about was waiting long enough in between dates to place the next phone call. Now, daters must think about the “right” time to send a Facebook request or start Twitter following the person you’re dating — in addition to refraining from Internet stalking a new crush.
Besides the obvious — like, not friending your new boyfriend or girlfriend’s pals before meeting them — we’ve spoken to leading relationship experts for the nitty-gritty.
Below are some modern social media guidelines that will propel new, and long-term, romantic relationships.
When Done Right, Social Media Is Like Glue
Self-described Internet geek, wife and mother Alexandra Samuel, Ph.D., believes that the Internet sustains and builds relationships.
Social media is a daily point of contact for Samuel, the director of the Social + Interactive Media Centre at Emily Carr University, and her husband of 12 years Rob Cottingham. Social media allows the busy couple to connect while apart.
“We’re all really busy and it’s very hard to find time for your partner,” Samuel tells Mashable. “Rob and I stay in touch throughout the day. We can also stay in contact indirectly because we monitor each other on Twitter.”
The couple uses Twitter to keep in touch, cheer each other on and “share the love.”
Their regular tweet conversations have garnered fans. The Twitter couple won a Shorty Award for the website WeTweet.ca that pulls all their tweets to each other into a stream.
“People will also tweet at us about what a cute Twitter couple we are,” she says. “These little reflections on your marriage or on your relationship from other people are incredibly valuable.”
For the couple, social media came naturally with equal interest. With other twosomes, one person could be more active on social media, Samuel says. If social media preferences are off balance, then couples will need to have a talk to lay out guidelines.
“You have to sit down and have a conversation about what you feel is private and what you feel like is enough attention when you’re together,” Samuel says. “What things about the relationship are okay to post and what hours it’s okay to be online.”
The duo has learned from experience to follow some guidelines. One rule prevents oversharing. “Our policy is I wouldn’t tweet something he said or vice versa without asking,” Samuel says.
Samuel also suggests that couples should not get mad at each other for missing or seeing public tweets. “You need to assume that anyone you see has read nothing that you’ve posted,” she says. “But equally, consider the possibility that anyone you know could have read or seen anything you’ve posted.”
Social Media Guide for New Couples
Meeting someone new used to be more exciting. Being able to Google someone and read their Facebook, Linkedin, About.me and Twitter profiles in full, takes all the initial mystery and intrigue out of getting to know someone.
This is the new dating mistake many are making, says Julie Spira, online dating and netiquette guru and author of The Perils of Cyber-Dating.
“When your relationship is new, I say avoid connecting on social media sites at first,” Spira tells Mashable. “Sure he or she may be excited about your relationship and can easily follow you on Twitter, but if you receive a friend request before or after a first date, it’s best not to accept it.”
A Facebook request or Twitter follow may seem harmless. However, experts warn being fast friends on social media could result in hurt feelings.
“Remember that it’s a new relationship and one may still be playing the field while the other only has eyes for you,” Spira says. “Becoming friends prematurely may result in hurt feelings when you see his photo posted hugging another woman. Even though it may be his cousin, your feelings will be hurt and you might be jumping to conclusions.”
How long should love birds wait? It could take a couple weeks or a couple months. It really depends on the individuals in a relationship, experts say.
“I think once you’re dating somebody, if you’re not at the stage where you feel comfortable asking them if you can follow them on Twitter and Facebook, then you’re probably not ready to follow them on Facebook or Twitter,” Samuel says.
But, it’s important to remember, “there’s a difference between friending someone on Facebook and just seeing their stuff as it comes up and going through their entire Timeline. You don’t need to go through the archives,” Samuel says.
Guidelines for Long-Term Couples
Social networks are a place for sharing the great moments in life. But, experts warn not to overdo it.
Coupled up individuals may prefer to present themselves differently online, so it’s always best to talk about what to post and what not to post.
“One might want to post a photo with a passionate kiss, where the other may view social networking sites as a business networking tool, so don’t tag your sweetheart in a photo that his or her boss shouldn’t be viewing,” Spira says.
Even with serious partners, individuals should give each other some breathing space. It’s easy to obsess over a girlfriend or boyfriend’s every move. However, romantic duos should showcase trust by avoiding cyber stalking at all costs.
“Understand that every couple needs space, both online and offline,” Spira says. “Keep separate profiles and avoid staring at and obsessing about what they’re doing during your busy day by checking to see their whereabouts on Foursquare.”
Dr. Karen Ruskin, a licensed marriage and family therapist, believes social media is a great way to propel the relationship. But, like anything good in life, social media is only valuable with balance.
“I am thumbs up, high up there for the use of technology in connection for social, fun, pleasure, for growing a relationship and enhancing a marriage,” Ruskin says.
When it becomes too frequent or invasive for one person, the couple should take a step back, Ruskin says.
“It absolutely can be too much, if it’s too much for one partner and not the other,” Ruskin says. “If one person feels it’s smothering, that can be very uncomfortable. They can feel enmeshed rather than feeling individuated. You’re constantly together even though you’re supposed to be independent individuals.”
Even with social media, it’s important to maintain “healthy individuation,” experts suggest. Limits are up to the couple to decide.
“We often identity who we are in our relationships and connections with the other person or people we’re with,” Ruskin says. “We don’t want to lose ourselves in our connection with others through technology.”
Other Helpful Online Tips for Couples
Take down your old dating profile once you’re serious about someone.
Don’t do anything on social networks that you wouldn’t tell your partner about.
If mentioning the other person, ask before posting.
Reminder: Social networks are public. Always avoid posting details about your sex life.
Avoid airing dirty laundry or having “digital spats on Facebook and Twitter,” Spira says.
Be aware of the effects of social media on your lives. “No matter what type of romantic relationship you’re in, you want to think consciously about how you want your time spent online to support your own love life,” Samuel says.
How do you use social media in your romantic relationship? Share with us in the comments whether or not protecting your partner’s privacy and autonomy is a priority.
Image courtesy of iStockphoto, IsaacLKoval
Read more: http://mashable.com/2012/07/09/new-social-media-love-rules/