Online dating rules: tips for success in the digital age

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The rules of dating have changed. Unlike the pre-digital age when the biggest worry was whether a date would call or not, we now have to worry about what dirty laundry our prospective partners will uncover when they inevitably do some digital sleuthing into our online lives. And even once we land the partner and are in a relationship, there are a plethora of digital do’s and don’ts that we should all be aware of.

Today, I share three social media tips for when you’re in the early stages of dating someone, and three tips for when you’re in a relationship.

Before you send that new partner a friend request…

1. Don’t give out personal information too soon. With social media so deeply ingrained in our lives, it can be easy to forget that others can use our digital personas to uncover much deeper details of our lives – even down to our physical addresses. When you give someone access to your Facebook profile, you’re essentially giving them access to every aspect of your life – your likes/dislikes, upbringing, friends, family, good and bad days, terrible photos… that’s a whole lot of information to unleash on someone so soon! When you’re communicating with a new match, try and avoid the temptation to share social media profiles before you’ve gone on at least one or two dates with them. That way, when you do grant them the keys to the digital kingdom, you can be sure that they like you for who you actually are, rather than the sum of all your Facebook actions.

2. Don’t Google or Facebook stalk your potential partner. This is one that most of us have done at least once, and as fun as it is, it does lead you down a path towards some more obsessive thoughts! Half the fun of dating someone is slowly finding out more and more about them as you get to know each other – don’t ruin that fun for them or yourself by knowing everything about them before you even go on the first date. Plus, what happens if you mention something about them that they haven’t even told you yet? Instantly creepy.

3. Be mindful of what your partner could be seeing. Before you give your new partner your social media handles, take this time as an opportunity to clean up your profile to ensure it represents the person you are today. So many of us have activity on our Facebook profiles from years ago that we’ve forgotten about, such as pages we’ve liked, ranting status updates and cringe-worthy photos. Take some time to go through your activity and get rid of anything that doesn’t accurately represent you – because even though it might be in the past, it can (and will) be found if your partner ignores Rule #2!

And once you decide to extend the relationship to social media…

1. Be sure to define your relationship in the offline world before you change your relationship status. There’s nothing more awkward than when a person changes their Facebook relationship status to the complete surprise of the other person. Even if the other person is on board with defining your relationship exclusively, this conversation really needs to happen in person first. No one wants to find out they’re in an exclusive relationship by getting notified that 27 other people have already ‘liked’ the status update.

2. Keep some things private. If you’ve just had a fantastic date with your partner – great! But before you post that #humblebrag status update, consider how your partner feels. Are they comfortable with you sharing details of every date online? And while we’re on the subject of oversharing, no one – and I repeat, no one wants to see your #aftersex selfies. Sex is a private act, and should be kept private. By the same token, if you’ve just had an argument with your partner, the worst way to handle it is to post a ranting or “vague-booking” status update eluding to what a jerk they are. You’ll only be adding fuel to the fire, on top of showing a lack of respect for your partner.

3. If you’re in an exclusive relationship, delete your online dating profile! This one should go without saying, but if you’re exclusively dating someone and maintain your online dating profile (even if you’re not actively using it) you’re giving your partner a reason to feel insecure and jealous about his or her status with you. If you’re not comfortable deleting your dating profile, perhaps you’re not entirely comfortable being exclusive – and again, this is something that you need to discuss with your partner away from the prying eyes of other users waiting to ‘like’ your discussion.

And above all, remember that social media should only help your relationships, not replace real world, face-to-face interactions.

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