Remember back in the day when had a crush on that cute guy and you couldn't wait to see him in class each day, or every time you went to the bar where he worked?
Thanks to social media, you now never have to wait to see anyone, ever again.
It can make dating extra complicated. He hasn't called, but you saw on Instagram wasn't too busy to skip that party Saturday night. And who is that Facebook friend of his who's always commenting on his updates with a winking emoji? And he "likes" the winking emoji every time! What's up with that?
You can easily drive yourself insane monitoring the every update of your love interest on social media. Here are some ground rules to simplify your love life and help you keep your sanity.
1. No Friending, No Following.
Right now you might be thinking "She can't be serious!" Oh, but I am. When you have just met someone or you are in early stages of dating, becoming connected on social media is a minefield of potential disasters.
Ask yourself: how much time, mental and emotional energy have you spent perusing a person's social media timeline, way back to when they first joined Facebook back in 2008? And how much anxiety has that habit caused you? How many times have you agonized over what a "like" meant, or whether he was sleeping with that woman who he is regularly communicating with via Facebook comment?
The current habit of instantly connecting on social media when you meet someone you're romantically interested in is one that needs to end. Same goes for connecting your Instagram feed to your online dating profile. As my yoga teacher Anthony always says: "Just because you can, doesn't mean you should."
Find out what the person you're dating is into because, you know - they actually told you. There should be some mystery, and getting to know each other via face-to-face interaction and conversation should be your primary goal.
It might sound tough to avoid, but admit it - you'd probably feel relieved that you don't have to consult a social psychologist just to understand whether an Instagram tag means you're in a relationship. Dating is challenging enough without the struggle to interpret how every status update might affect your future relationship.
2. No Cyberstalking
Maybe you're already following the above no-friending rule. The object of your desire might not even be someone you're dating. Regardless of your "friend", "follower" or relationship status, you've most likely spent some time "researching" your love interest on social media.
Have you ever found yourself going down the social media rabbit hole that leads you to knowing where all members of your new girlfriend's family live and what they've named their children? In your heart, you probably know this is too much information too soon.
No good can come from it. If things work out between you, you will eventually find out all you need or want to know about his nieces and his prom date. And you might be actually sabotaging your future by making all sorts of assumptions about him from his curated Instagram feed that have little connection to the reality of dating him. Not to mention that you are destroying an opportunity for the two of you to organically share important information about each other as your relationship progresses.
I have a perfect illustration of the pitfalls of this from my own dating life - I had just started dating someone and went all in on cyberstalking him online. I found out about a family member's suicide and the foundation his family had started to assist people battling with depression. It felt like I was invading his privacy and I instantly regretted my "research". When he eventually shared this information with me face-to-face, I made a snap decision to pretend I didn't already know - I had found out in the "rabbit hole" and we weren't Facebook friends. I didn't want to look like a stalker, so instead I became I liar. These are not good options to choose from! And I was never able to get past the guilt I felt about it.
3. Don't Play The Comparison Game
There is actual research about the negative emotional impact of comparing yourself to the happy, shiny lives portrayed by others on social media. The University of Houston conducted a study to discover the link between time spent on Facebook and depression. It turns out that the more people compared their own lives to the lives of their Facebook friends, the more likely they were to experience depression.
This isn't a surprise - we've all had that moment of thinking "Man, he's on vacation again?? Why can't I be as happy as they are? And she just had a baby - how does she look that good in a bikini? What's my excuse?"
In reality, of course there are people who have amazing, happy, fulfilling romantic relationships who share that freely on social media. But there are also a lot of people who are deliberately crafting a social media persona of happy and in love, with a "perfect" family who are, in reality - struggling. You probably know people in real life who are in this position. On social media, it's all heart emojis and #blessed and in reality their relationship is on the verge of collapse.
My point is not to imagine that everyone is as dissatisfied with their love lives as you might be at times. My point is that comparing yourself and your journey to others is a counterproductive behavior. It doesn't help to bring more love into your life, but usually has the opposite effect - of bringing more anxiety and unhappiness. And you do not need that!
4. Don't Overshare
There is more than one way to overshare on social media. Are you guilty of any of the below?
You know that person who announces every new relationship, every date, every OKCupid message and every awkward text exchange on social media? How about those clearly bitter people who are pessimistic about love and freely share their bitterness?
It's an easy trap to fall into - sharing your every dating up and down with the world with a few keystrokes, after all - you've sat and observed the chronicles of everyone else's love life.
If you really, really want to go public with your new relationship, of course I can't stop you. But I do want to point out the pressure those declarations put on you and your partner to "keep up appearances" and continue to appear happily in love.
If you share a play-by-play of your love life, you're put in the uncomfortable position of having people ask you about your love life even when it takes a turn you'd rather keep to yourself. It might be worth it to you if the relationship lasts for a significant amount of time, but what if it doesn't?
Be prepared to read: You two looked so lovey-dovey only a week ago! What happened? You might think: It's none of their business what happened! Well, that may well be true, but if you're seeking "likes" on your cute in-love photos, don't be surprised when you get questions about your cryptic posts implying you're single again.
If you're single, posting bitter or negative statements about love, dating or the gender you're romantically attracted to can cause others to view you as bitter and angry. Which is not sexy! Ask yourself: would I post this thing about love, sex or relationships on an online dating site? If the answer is no, tread very carefully!
Lastly, all those photos and declarations of love you have about your ex? No one new in your love life wants to see that. If those relationships are truly over, why keep those old posts up?
The bottom line is, social media is a great tool for staying connected to others, promoting your business or sharing yourself and your ideas with the world. But when it comes to your love life, be mindful of the added pressure your social media habits can cause. Remember - authentic connection is the goal of your loving relationships - #nofilter.
Francesca is a dating coach, matchmaker and expert guest on NBC's The Today Show. You can get more free dating advice and even schedule a free session at www.francescahogi.com.