Managing a New Relationship in the Land of Facebook
So you began dating someone new, and you’re just a few weeks in and it’s going really well, but then he/she sends you a request. A “Facebook request.” Before you go ahead and click accept, keep in mind the amount of access you are giving this new person. In an instant you would being giving this new person full access to explore and assess your social networking world. He/she can see the amount of friends you have, where you’ve recently “checked-in,” how you looked in a bathing suit during your trip to Mexico, as well as the typical posts you write and receive. It’s all there. The term “friend” seems to be used very loosely these days. Just 10 years ago we would have never whipped out family photos over dinner, or shared details of how we went to Amsterdam during college to someone we just began dating, and are still trying to impress.
If you have found yourself in this predicament, you have two options. One option is to simply say no. There is no reason you have to give this potential partner access to your Facebook life. You can tell him/her that you simply don’t use your Facebook often, and that you choose not to use it as a constant form of communicating with others. If you find saying you don’t use Facebook often is a lie that could work against you in the future, you could simply tell the person you don’t know him/her well enough yet. Whether you give the person a reason is up to you; if you don’t want fabricate a reason, then don’t. Your second option is to accept this person’s friend request. If you go with this option, here are some suggestions on how to navigate your way through a budding relationship in the world of Facebook.
Step One: Take Inventory
Go into your Facebook and explore your profile for yourself, take inventory of what you have in your picture albums, wall posts, basic information, etc. Assess for yourself if you have a few “red flags” up on your Facebook page. To help you with this process, imagine the tables were turned. If you went on to a potential partner’s Facebook page and he/she had daily posts and links about political views, or a whole photo album dedicated to a night of drinking, or racy pictures from a bachelor party, would you have an issue? Another way to help you take inventory is imagine you were Facebook friends with your mother, grandfather, or your boss. Anything connected to your Facebook profile you wouldn’t want them to see? If you answer yes, that means it’s a good thing you took inventory! Keep in mind however, be prepared at some juncture in your relationship to go back and explain the information you hid and the reason you set this boundary. Just because it’s information you’re not ready to share in the first month doesn’t mean it’s not essential for the person to know as the relationship progresses. In some ways, it may be easier to reveal your dirty secrets with the help of Facebook. This way the information is out there, and the potential partner can decide if these are things he can handle or not, with less chance of either of you getting hurt. Either way the option is yours, and it’s about which one you’re more comfortable with.
Step Two: Spring Cleaning and Moving Forward
Once you’ve successfully taken inventory, it’s time to remove what you’ve identified to be inappropriate for your page. Clean out any photos, notes, etc., that link you to a previous romantic relationship. Whether it’s pictures of your engagement ring from your ex, or various posts about your last relationship, remove it. There needs to be an expiration date for Facebook ties to your romantic past. It could be easily misinterpreted that you’re preoccupied with a relationship that ended over a year ago, and in turn not ready to move forward and let someone new in. Think of it this way, if your new partner was coming over to your place for the first time, you would take inventory of any lingering evidence of your past relationships and would hide it. That is not the first thing you want a person of interest seeing the minute they enter your personal space. In the beginning stages of a relationship everything is still new, nothing is completely established, and there is a lot that can become misread and assumed. As beneficial as technology can be, there is still personal information that needs to be discussed directly between the messenger and the intended receiver. Direct disclosure decreases assumption, and increases the opportunity to explain sensitive issues (exes, a rebellious past, etc.). As a general rule of thumb, if you wouldn’t talk about it on your 5th date, then don’t post it!
Step Three: Double Check Your Status
Make sure you have changed your relationship status since your last relationship. If you still have a relationship status up from your last one, you are definitely not ready to date. Your relationship status is the biggest indicator of whether or not you’re still stuck in the past and have feelings for your ex. As silly as a Facebook relationship status is, it symbolizes where you are emotionally, and where exactly your heart is. The added benefit of your relationship status and “friending” your new partner is that it forces a higher level of integrity. Most likely if you’re dating two people at once it would be pretty difficult to manage two relationships while friends with both of them on Facebook. This gives you an advantage of being more open and honest, in order to keep your stories straight.
When it comes to relationship status and the new person, if you are unsure of what to consider this new person and you don’t want to scare them off, play it safe and don’t post a relationship status at all. This way you’re not jumping to conclusions by claiming you’re in a relationship before having the talk about “what this is.”
Step Four: Watch What You Post!
Are you the type of person that constantly updates your status, posting everything you do, who you’re with, and where you go? This excessive posting can come off as self-involved, and could also be interpreted by others as needy. It’s one thing to show that you are an active person and have a fulfilling life, it’s another to talk about how you just walked your dog and need to get a cup of coffee.
It is essential to have Facebook etiquette when interacting with any Facebook friends, especially with a potential boyfriend or girlfriend. How you conduct yourself in communicating with other Facebook friends is just as telling as what your list as your favorite music. Avoid “Facebook stalking” this person. This includes, excessive reading of his/her profile to find out where they’ve been, who they’re talking to etc. Again, try and keep the mystery alive in the early days of the relationship. If there are things he/she wants to tell you, let them do that in their own way and in their time. Maintain healthy boundaries with this new person by commenting on their page or pictures, or “liking” their posts maybe once a week at the most. Also, use this person’s Facebook behavior as your gauge. If he/she is not much of a Facebook user and only goes on once in a while, he/she may be overwhelmed with a new interest communicating with them on Facebook on a daily basis. If you wouldn’t call this person on the daily basis as this stage in the relationship, then you shouldn’t Facebook message them everyday either.
While there is a lot you shouldn’t post, there is something to be said for the good posts. Every once in a while use your facebook posts as an opportunity to let the potential partner know you’re thinking about him/her. You can talk about how much fun you’re having with this person in a subtle manner. For example, “I had so much fun apply picking yesterday.” This way, you don’t have to use this person’s name or put your feelings out there on full display, but you’re referencing something only the two of you would understand. Stick to the facts and the things that you are doing together, let them know it’s a positive experience for you.
Step Five- Look for The Silver Lining
The benefits to Facebook are many. It’s a great way to discover what your commonalities are with your potential mate. Maybe their Facebook profile reveals that you share the same interests in hobbies, books, music. Or perhaps this person’s photo albums reveal they enjoy spending time with family, and that is something you are looking for in your next partner? Facebook is a new way for people to show as little or as much of their personality that they want to show, and for two people who are beginning a relationship together, Facebook is a way to introduce parts of us to someone new. We can share information about upcoming parties, concerts, share clips of movies, share new music, all through Facebook. For two people learning about each other and discovering how they enjoy spending time together, the ability to share such information can increase intimacy and understanding of one another.
Keep in mind, during the initial stages of dating someone new, it’s healthy to keep a bit of privacy and be selective of what you share. It’s part of the dating process to have a little mystery early on, and it can be fun to gradually figure out who someone is on your own and at your own pace. It’s part of the excitement, and it’s easier to accept someone’s quirks when you already have some emotional investment in the relationship. Today, when trying to make a good first impression early in a relationship, it now goes beyond how we present physically, or how we behave around new friends. How someone else sees us now involves how we use technology like Facebook. Just because Facebook is not as direct as interacting with someone in person and face to face, it doesn’t make you invisible.