Online Dating Etiquette: New Rules for Modern Relationships

In the age of smartphones, apps, and 24/7 wireless connectivity, online dating has become more popular and widely accepted than ever. But is it really OK to break up with someone by text message or announce new relationships to the world with a status update? As we found out while researching new book Netiquette Essentials: New Rules for Minding Your Manners in a Digital World, the answers are often surprising and seemingly counter-intuitive. Following are several hints, tips, and insights that can help you as you navigate the often murky world of modern relationships, and maintain a safe and positive online image.

Online Relationships 101
  • If your real-world relationship status changes, wait to change your Facebook status until after you've cleared it with your significant other.
  • Tweeting or posting status updates during a date is always bad, as it shows you're not fully present and focused on the date.
  • Quickly reading up on others on Facebook is OK, but be careful how deep you dig - sifting through their entire life history or plowing through all their pictures could fall into more obsessive territory.
  • If you meet someone in real-life circumstances, e.g. at a bar or a party, first continue the conversation over email or text before connecting on Facebook and sharing your private information.
Safety and Privacy Tips
  • Be careful not to reveal your location, name, phone number or other sensitive personal information to people you do not know yet.
  • When meeting strangers in real-life, make sure at least one friend or relative knows that you're going to do so, your whereabouts, and, if possible, accompanies you. All meetings should take place in public spaces. In the case of dates, where a third wheel may not be welcome, use your high-tech devices to notify friends at the beginning of the encounter, during the date (if you change venue), and when you get back home safely.
  • Even if you think you know someone through your interactions on instant messenger conversations or chat rooms, when meeting in real life, take the same precautions as you would on any blind date.
  • Texting risqué photos isn't just wholly inappropriate - it's less secure than emailing them... and emailing them isn't very secure to begin with. In many cases, it's also a crime.
Friending and De-Friending Others
  • Only friend people you would be comfortable sharing the ins-and-outs of your day with in real life.
  • It is OK to de-friend any and all individuals whom you don't feel comfortable sharing updates with. Many sites allow you to quietly de-friend individuals without notifying them, or ignore friend requests in perpetuity, while allowing the option for them to continue receiving status updates.
  • If you're not ready to de-friend someone completely on a social network, consider moving them into a lower-profile friend category where you can share less posts with them and receive less information about their lives.
  • In many cases, there is no notice sent when you de-friend a person, so they won't know they've been downgraded unless they happen to visit your page and don't see the respective friend icon checked.
Sexy Photos: To Send or Not To Send

Some people spice up their love life by planning a romantic dinner or scheduling a weekend getaway for two. Others are a little more daring and let romance bleed over into online life. How does netiquette play into these interludes and appropriate rules of online conduct apply as relate to sending potentially risqué photos and videos? Amelia McDonell-Parry, former Editor-in-Chief of relationship advice site TheFrisky.com, offers the following advice on how to handle the topic of hot pics.

"If your face is visible, I recommend that you be very comfortable with these images eventually getting out for everyone to see [before sharing]. (Not that chances are necessarily high that others will see them, but I do think that it's best to think worst-case scenario here.) Then cross your fingers. If you really want to send sexy photos, the smart way to do it is to make sure that your face and any identifying features (e.g. a particularly adorable birthmark) aren't visible: That way you can deny, deny, deny!"