Sunday 21 December 2014

Digital Dating: The new rules

Published 20/01/2013 | 06:00

Amid the quagmire of dating manuals, it's easy to get a tad confused with the bounty of mixed messages.

Where one ostensibly helpful tome insists that he's just not that into you, another infamous book by Tracy McMillan dictates that you're single because you're a bitch, a slut, a liar, or not good enough.

In fact, amid the flurry of advice, rattling in the ears like a gaggle of overly enthusiastic and helpful aunts, it's a wonder we find the opportunity to get out there and meet anyone.

The internet has, of course, heralded a solution to the whole 'getting out there' quandary; now it's possible to be 'out there' in the comfort of your own home – no make-up or Spanx required.

Alas, with this new development has come the death of courtship; forget dinner and a movie, in other words – you'll be lucky to get a text message that doesn't even invite you to a night out he's already having with his mates.

With that, a new book could not have come sooner. Enter 'The New Rules: The Dating Dos and Don'ts for The Digital Generation', which explores how texting, Facebook, Twitter, Skype and online matchmaking sites have changed the dating landscape for better or worse.

If you've been single for any length of time, you'll no doubt be already familiar with the book's Luddite predecessor, 'The Rules'.

Ellen Fein and Sherrie Schneider created a set of maxims, held dear by American singletons, that dictated women should play hard to get, and rather than actively search out men, they should instead wait for men to pursue them.

Sounds bonkers, outdated and slightly anti-feminist, but then the book didn't become a worldwide bestseller for nothing.

Predictably, Fein and Schneider have brought their provocative philosophies kicking and screaming into the digital age, but will their new teachings stack up in the digital age? Time to find out.

*Making the first move

They say: Don't talk to or text a guy first. You are essentially creating a relationship for yourself that might not have happened the 'organic' way – as in, waiting for Himself to show enough willingness to make the first move.

I say: In a way, this is not entirely dissimilar to a philosophy I find myself intoning time and time again to friends: 'If a guy likes you, you will know.'

However, if you really want to be with him, why leave anything to chance? Being in the driving seat only increases your chances of sealing the deal.

*When to reply

They say: Wait at least four hours to answer a guy's text. What's more, respond with fewer words than he has texted you. This text-back time does not apply to weekends, specifically from Friday at 6pm to Sunday at 6pm.

For Rules Girls, weekends are the 'blackout period'. You're busy and therefore unreachable.

I say: Sorry girls, men are pretty hip to the ruse by now. It is industry standard to wait a while to respond to texts. You are not being coy or mysterious, you are being conformist. Besides, we are living in a breakneck society, where four hours can often be a lifetime.

Texting him to say you've skedaddled to Morocco for the weekend, now that will send him into a tailspin.

*Asking for a date

They say: Don't ask guys out by text, social networking, instant messenger, or any other way, based on the diktat that men love a challenge and relish the chase. Fein and Schneider reckon that asking a man out, even by thoroughly modern means, screams desperation.

Our pair also reckon that a 'yes' doesn't necessarily mean you've struck gold; a man might say 'yes' to a date to be polite or – eek – out of boredom.

I say: Men love confidence, in any form. I used to take the coward's way out of this one; I would initiate 'pints' via Facebook – under the guise of being matey and, by being sufficiently laddish, bringing the 'date' into safer territory.

Needless to say, this 'bromance' approach didn't ever work out, except in the rare instances where it worked out for one night only.

Instead of being a lad about it, ring him. He's less likely to say 'no' if he doesn't have to chicken out with a written reply. You can stun him with your charm and rapier wit on the date itself.

*Evening texting

They say: Don't answer texts after midnight, unless he is a doctor/fireman on night duty. A call after midnight is known by one name and one name only: the booty call. All emails, instant messages and texts sent during the witching hour mean that your man is fishing for sexy time.

I say: Nothing wrong with a man looking for a good time in the small hours, but it's his demeanour during daylight hours that dictates how you should respond.

If he's strictly giving it the whole 'whatcha doin'?' after 1am and disappears underground for the rest of the day, chalk it down to Dutch courage. Or rather, Dutch friskiness.

*Facebook friending

They say: Friending a guy you like on Facebook is a no-no, while it is standard practice to wait 24 hours to confirm a friend request from a man you like.

Even more importantly, referring him on Facebook – via tagging, writing on his wall, and so on – is strictly forbidden.

You're showing the world you like him. Same goes for Twitter and other social networking sites.

I say: You know the sort of girl on Facebook who comments on every picture their paramour puts up, sends lovey-dovey messages publicly on his wall, and pretty much overshares everything in the hope of catching her man's eye? Don't be that girl. For the love of your budding relationship, and for the love of all humankind.

*Skype dating

They say: Our authors insist that a Skype date is not a date proper. Fine if you are in a relationship and hoping to keep the embers burning, but not so much if it's your primary method of communication.

I say: I'm in agreement on this one. A Skype date is the lazy guy's way of keeping you on the call sheet. If he is not taking you out to dinner, or moving mountains to see you face to face, a couple of hours in front of the computer screen mean precious little.

You're a pen pal, albeit a 21st- century one.

*Online dating

They say: The biggest rule to keep in mind when online dating is that he contacts you first. Women don't chat men up on online dating sites, and certainly don't respond to winking – or some other cowardly, non-committal device.

If you don't want to be in any doubt of how interested he is, wait for him to make the first move.

I say: What they've failed to mention here is that most men take a 'numbers game' approach to online dating. They hunt for fresh meat and reckon that the more women they hit up – often indiscriminately – the better their chances of striking gold.

Don't look on a mail from a potential online paramour as something other than him panning for dates. Sure, the unspoken rules state that he makes the first move, but he'll be grateful and intrigued that you broke protocol.

*Breaking contact

They say: In case of breakdown, Fein and Schneider are fans of the 'ejector seat' approach. Remove the guy from your life after a break-up by means of defriending on Facebook, deleting his number/Skype contacts, and unfollowing him on Twitter.

I say: Sure, you may be sending out a less-than-ideal message: 'I am still vulnerable and open to being hurt.' Yet in the grand scheme of things, it's a damn sight better than suffering his new post-you life, his cyberflirting and, worse, the new girlfriend.

Get out with dignity, shake off the cyberstalking tendencies and meet yourself a keeper.

'The New Rules – the dating dos and don'ts for the digital generation' by Ellen Fein and Sherrie Schneider is published by Paitkus, €14.50

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