Dating 'netiquette': Different pokes for different folks
As a classic dating book gets updated for the Facebook generation, Deirdre Reynolds gives her top 10 tips on how not to fall foul of the laws of 'netiquette'
With 'Like', 'Poke' and 'Gift' buttons, it's the perfect forum for flirting. And now the 90s dating bible is set to be rewritten for the Facebook generation too.
Due for release next February, Not Your Mother's Rules: Dating Secrets for Texting, Facebook, Booty Calls and Everything Else! reveals how to snare Mr Right through social networking.
And while the controversial 1995 self-help book urged girls to "let him take the lead" and "always end phone calls first", the latest edition sees co-authors Ellen Fein and Sherrie Schneider instruct how to live App-ily ever after.
"With constant updating on social networking sites, it's hard to retain the air of mystery that keeps men interested," say Fein and Schneider.
"But Rules girls are looking for dates, not pen pals. A woman cannot email, or even wink at a guy's profile, without becoming the aggressor and possibly getting hurt down the line when the guy dumps her."
So could The One have been on your friends list all along?
"There are pros and cons to looking for love on Facebook," says Sharon Kenny of Takes2Dating.ie.
'On the one hand, it allows you to meet people and flirt harmlessly. On the other, we see a lot of people getting hurt by time-wasters.
"One of our clients was messaging a man for almost two years, only to discover he was married when he closed down his account overnight after being caught by his wife -- of whom there was no mention anywhere on his page.
"My advice is to keep your wits about you," she adds.
"Never accept friend requests from beautiful strangers who don't have any friends in common."
Here, we reveal our top 10 rules of Facebook romance.
1 If you plan to publicise your love life, limit your intimates to those you'd only confide in offline too. Make room for Mr Right on your Facebook page by first axing the deadwood.
Social networking experts recommend going through your friends list once a year to get rid of strangers, people you haven't spoken to since primary school and assorted other hangers-on.
In txtese, it's what's known as a 'CULL' -- C U Later, Loser!
2 Just because you're connected 24/7, doesn't mean you can't play hard to get. According to Fein and Schneider, the age-old dating game still applies to Generation FB.
So forget feminism ever happened and never friend him first, wait five weeks to accept his friend request and even then keep him on a limited profile view. But don't blame us if he's poking your best friend by the time the five weeks are up.
3 Maximise your chances of catching the object of your affection's attention by posting likes and comments between 8pm and 7am on Wednesdays and Sundays.
Research by Buddy Media also shows that a maximum of three posts between one and 40 characters per day pack the most punch.
And status-only posts (posts containing only words) or those with a single photo are most likely to help land you that first date.
4 Never do anything URL that could get you banged up 'IRL' (In Real Life). Having tracked down your crush on Facebook, chances are you've already checked out their Wall, perved on their photos or even noted their whereabouts thanks to geolocation.
Before Facebook, this was called stalking. Today, it's dubbed 'lurking' and we've all done it.
But be warned, as of July, if you peek at a post within a Facebook Group, a new "read receipt" feature tells everyone.
5 With more than 900 million users worldwide, the odds of finding 'The One' on Facebook are pretty good. As ever with t'internet, though, there are also lots of cheats/creeps/convicts out there.
Dating experts advise against accepting friend requests from Facebookers with no mutual friends. But don't 'friend-poach' by cruising your pals' pages for potential dates, either.
6 Unless you've broken up amicably and decided to remain actual friends (yeah, right), unfriend your ex now. On an island of 4.5 million people, it seems inevitable that you'll bump into your ex with someone new at some point.
So why torture yourself by watching their wall fill up with cutesy posts and snaps too? For God's sake, resist the urge to send his new girlfriend a friend request.
7 Likewise, posting snarky comments or pictures of a recent failed relationship is a complete social networking no-no.
Starting a Group about how your ex once wet the bed, although cathartic, smacks of sour grapes. It's also a surefire way to get sued.
8 Married, Single, In a Relationship, It's Complicated -- whichever you tick (if any at all), make sure your relationship status is rock solid in reality before making it 'Facebook official'.
A bit like the real thing, Facebook relationship status should also be a mutual decision -- as unilateral status change can lead to heartbreak.
Just ask jilted Claire Holley -- who drove her boyfriend's car into a bowling alley earlier this year after he changed his status to 'single'.
9 Breaking up on Facebook can be even trickier than getting together on the site. To avoid the social-networking equivalent of the Spanish Inquisition ('What happened, hun? Sad face'), start by hiding your relationship status so that it appears on your Info page but not your Profile page.
Then delete it altogether and unfriend your ex as per Rule 6. Or you avoid the dilemma altogether by not committing to a relationship status in the first place.
10 Finally, as an addendum to Rule 1, when blissfully happy with your Facebook fella, remember that your Wall and Inbox are not, in fact, interchangeable.
And posts containing any of the following -- 'Luv U sooo much baby', 'Can't wait to see you tonight' and 'x x x', belong firmly in the latter.
There's a time and a place to Poke and SuperPoke. Similarly, remember to keep your snaps safe for work.