There comes a time during every budding romance when you look up your potential sweetie on Facebook. You admire his or her profile photos and maybe see if you have any friends in common. Then you hover over the “Add Friend” button? “Why not?” you ask yourself. “I’ve told him some of my innermost secrets. Becoming Facebook friends should be no big deal.”
It shouldn’t be a big deal, but it is. The move to social media – whether it’s Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or LinkedIn – is a clear step in a relationship, and it should come after you’ve clearly established you’re an item. It’s a paradox of modern dating. You’re Facebook friends with people from high school you haven’t seen in a decade in a forum in which you post vacation snapshots, pet photos, song videos, and inspirational quotes. Yet you should pause when it comes to including a romantic prospect. Here’s why:
1) You’re not fully in that person’s off-line life yet.
Before you become a couple with someone, you’re invited into a part of his or her life, but it’s just a part. He might tell you about last Sunday’s BBQ when he’s on a date with you, or she might text you a pic from a hike with her best friend. You don’t know everything else that’s going on in between because it’s supposed to be that way in early dating. We’re free to reveal what we want when we think it’s the right time.
Social media wrecks this delicate “need to know” dynamic. Her cousin was in town for the weekend? You wouldn’t think twice if she gave you the report during your Taco Tuesday date. But you’ve already seen the pics online. Now you’re wondering why she didn’t mention if before.
2) It makes dating other people even more awkward than it already is.
Even though you know that your match is probably seeing other people during those first few weeks or months of dating, it still feels like torture thinking about it. Guess what’s worse? Following your match on social media and wondering who’s with him. Did you catch the post that he went to the Stones concert on Wednesday? Now your mind is racing: Did he go with a date? Does he like her better than me? Why hasn’t he called?
You also noticed that he recently became friends with someone named Ashley.
Now you find yourself checking out her profile page and wondering who she is. Dating is hard enough without this added this layer of craziness.
3) You have no context.
After you date someone for a while, you’ll learn that she has a step-brother named Trevor and a cousin named Kyle. Before that, you won’t know that’s who she has her arms around at a New Year’s party. Never mind trying to figure out the exes. Curiosity is natural, but it’s not helpful during this stage of the game.
4) You create expectations.
If you become Facebook friends too early, you’ll wonder if you should like your prospective squeeze’s posts. If you like every post, does that seem too desperate? If you’re choosy about which posts to like, does it seem as if you’re playing hard to get? The fact that you even have to think about these questions means it’s too soon. When you’re an established couple, you can like away.
5) You don’t want Facebook to declare you’re a couple before the two of you do.
You thought it was a good idea to post a sunset picture of the two of you on your fourth date with the seemingly innocent caption, “What a gorgeous sunset!” Of course, it would seem rude if you didn’t tag him. Yet within 20 minutes of you posting it, the picture has received 15 likes. Your high school English teacher has commented, “OMG! You guys are so cute together!” and his sister has texted him, “Wow! I didn’t know you had a girlfriend!”
He didn’t either. He might have been thinking that he’d like you to be his girlfriend, but he’d probably appreciate the freedom to make that decision without help from Facebook.
Do you think you can rush into Facebook friendships?
About the Author:
Sarah Elizabeth Richards is a journalist and the author of Motherhood, Rescheduled: The New Frontier of Egg Freezing and the Women Who Tried It. Her writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Marie Claire, Elle, Cosmopolitan, Slate, and Salon.