There have always been faux pas in new relationships, from the person who just won't call to the one who's planning the wedding on the first date. However, in time we often learn social boundaries to stay within if we want to have success in dating. These boundaries become part of our larger sense of social etiquette.
While good social etiquette is popularly recognized and widely practiced, good netiquette (network etiquette) is still new to many people. Social networking Web site Facebook has become a haven for bad netiquette, even from those who might have excellent social etiquette offline. It's like revisiting the social drama of high school with a completely different set of boundaries.
Many Web sites offer tips on good netiquette, including some that focus on Facebook itself. One simple way to adopt good netiquette is to imagine you're face-to-face with the people you're talking to. Even people with the best netiquette, though, may let a faux pas go unchecked.
When faux pas in relationships meet faux pas on Facebook, even more disaster can happen. Take precautions to avoid the 10 Facebook faux pas -- listed in no particular order -- described in this article.
Changing Your Relationship Status Too Soon
The first date's over. You're so excited! It went really well, and you've already got a second date scheduled for next weekend. The first thing you do when you get home is rush to your computer and get on Facebook to tell your friends.
You might post a Facebook status update saying you enjoyed the date. You might even hint about looking forward to the next date. However, hands off that Relationship Status setting in your profile! If you change it too soon, your date might think you're moving too fast.
Before the public forum of social networking Web sites, there was a certain mystique about dating. You could build and define the relationship privately over time, just between the two of you. With Facebook, though, as soon as you change your Relationship Status, it's literally front-page news. As the event shows up, inviting all your friends' comments, it's almost like announcing you're engaged!
A better choice is to wait until you've been on a few dates and you know you're ready to formalize the relationship. If everything seems to be working out, ask your partner's feelings about each other "boyfriend" or "girlfriend," especially when talking to other people. If you and your partner are already Facebook friends, consider making it a mutual decision about when to take that step of changing your Relationship Status.
Not Changing Your Relationship Status at All
After a few dates with a new partner, you're still sporting that "Single" Relationship Status on Facebook. You've thought about changing it, but you just weren't ready to call it a "relationship" yet. Your partner, though, has already changed to "In a Relationship" and linked to your Facebook profile.
If your partner has already made this move and you haven't, be cautious. Your partner might become skeptical, thinking perhaps you aren't as interested as you claim to be during your dates. Express your concerns to your partner to help avoid that skepticism. Be honest about being interested, but also about not being ready to advertise it to the world.
As mentioned earlier in this article, consider making it a mutual decision with your partner about when to change your Relationship Status. You might even agree to change your statuses together, instead, when you both feel the time is right.
Even if you're not ready to be "In a Relationship" on Facebook, you can still remove the "Single" status if your partner is concerned it's sending the wrong signals. One way to do this is to edit your profile, go to the Relationships page, and simply move the drop-down list for Relationship Status to the blank line at the top. Another option is to change your Privacy Settings to restrict who can see "Family and Relationships" in your profile.
Hovering at Your Partner's Wall
If you use Facebook regularly, especially if you check it several times a day, it can be a great way to keep in touch with people you know. When you begin dating someone, you might also connect with your new partner on Facebook. One faux pas for the enthusiastic Facebook user, though, is spending too much time posting or commenting at your new partner's wall.
If your new partner wasn't already your friend, don't confuse the romantic intimacy you feel with the familiarity of your closest friends. While your friends know you and are comfortable with the extra attention, your new partner may think you're stalking or moving too fast. Even if your partner is already a friend you're comfortable with, you'll still want to prevent things from getting uncomfortable.
Keep your enthusiasm in check, and keep the Facebook attention under control. Don't comment on every status change or write on your new partner's wall multiple times a day. On the other hand, if your new partner is also showing you a lot of Facebook attention, perhaps your enthusiasm is welcome and encouraged instead. Look for a balance that shows you're interested without being overbearing.
Posting Too Many or Too Embarrassing Photos of Your Partner
On the first date, it was a quick camera phone photo at dinner. On the second date, it was a few photos at a baseball game. We often take photos to help us remember moments that are special to us, including those early and exciting first dates with a new partner.
Facebook has made it easy to share those photos with the world. Another faux pas early in a relationship, though, is to post too many of those photos, especially the more private and potentially embarrassing ones. Like with changing your Relationship Status too soon, this might seem to your partner that you think of the new relationship as something deeper than it is. Your partner might also see these photos as a violation of an unspoken trust in you and your camera. Respect your partner's privacy, and boost your partner's trust by getting permission to post your photos.
Another thing to consider is what your partner's friends might say about each photo. When you tag your partner in a photo, those tagged photos show up on your partner's wall for friends to see. Look at the type of friends your partner has and think ahead about what comments they might make. Don't post a photo that you think might earn negative comments -- you don't want to sabotage the relationship.
Posting Too Much Information About Your Dates
"TMI" has become a well-recognized pop-culture acronym for "too much information." It's commonly used to stop someone from describing something that's unpleasant for the listener to think about. This could be something that's mostly harmless, like providing a far-too-detailed description of your flu symptoms. When it comes to new relationships, though, the TMI about your dates could put your romance in jeopardy.
Like with the photos mentioned earlier, there are activities you share with a romantic partner that are private and potentially embarrassing. Respect your partner's right to privacy and earn trust in the relationship by keeping those things to yourself.
The following are some limits you might consider as you determine what's TMI:
- List what you and your partner had for dinner, but don't talk about your partner's loud chewing or picking teeth after the meal.
- Mention that you and your partner talked a lot about your lives, but don't tell how your partner cried for 10 minutes talking about a grandmother's death.
- State that your partner drove you home, and even that you shared a kiss before saying good night, but don't describe how you spent half an hour making out on the front porch.
Latching on to Your Partner's Friends
Social networking, both online and offline, is all about meeting people and creating contacts that can enhance your personal and professional life. Each direct connection you make gives you indirect access to even more people. Facebook focuses on that personal side of social networking.
When you and your new partner connect on Facebook, you'll be able to see each other's friends, too. Facebook might even encourage you to make connections with each other's friends with its "People You May Know" feature. Facebook is a great way to meet people and grow your social network because of features like this.
In a new relationship, be cautious how you approach this network growth. Don't start making Facebook friend requests to all your partner's friends. This could come across as stalking, similar to frequently writing on someone's wall. You could also be overstepping a boundary of trust, diving in to your partner's friends list before your partner can comfortably make introductions.
If you still want to connect to someone without an introduction, carefully choose only one or two friends to befriend each week. Take time to introduce yourself in your request and say why you'd like to be connected. Remember that your partner's friends might ignore you or, worse, complain about you to your partner. To prevent these risks in a new relationship, you can also ask your partner to make the introduction so you don't seem like a stranger or stalker.
Soliciting All Your Friends to Befriend Your Partner
At the height of their popularity, the Beatles had thousands of fans flocking to each show they performed. Sometimes, a large mob would rush the performers just to get a glimpse or a touch. This was overwhelming and dangerous for the Fab Four, even though the fans meant no harm.
Online, there's a phrase for the equivalent fan mob that develops for interesting or entertaining Web sites: going viral. Viral Web sites grow as each person tells friends about the site, those friends tell their friends, and so on. If the site reaches the right people at the right times, it goes viral fast, with millions accessing it within just a few days. That kind of attention puts a heavy load on some Web sites, and some can't handle it.
In a new relationship, don't treat your partner's Facebook page as you would a viral Web site. Your partner may feel as overloaded as those sites. There are two precautions you can take to avoid this Facebook faux pas:
First, don't recommend that all your friends send friend requests to your partner. This could be overwhelming, especially if your partner is picky about choosing friends. A better approach would be to introduce each friend personally and let each of them decide if they want to connect on Facebook.
Second, don't actively encourage all your friends to watch your partner's wall and make comments on things you're following. What's worse than one stalker following you? A whole mob of them following you at one time!
Being Suspicious of Your Partner's Friends
When you start a new relationship, there are many things you don't know about your partner. You'll learn a lot in the course of dating, but there'll be a few uncertainties in the meantime. If you worry about those uncertainties, though, it might lead to negative emotions of suspicion and paranoia, and ultimately to the relationship risk known as jealousy.
Facebook can magnify worries by encouraging you to indulge your suspicions. Facebook constantly reveals your partner's friends, likes and comments. If the relationship is new, or if you haven't yet developed a good trust with your partner, you might scrutinize each message looking for evidence to confirm or deny your suspicions.
Don't let worry get the best of you on Facebook. While the relationship is new, listen to your partner and don't rush to a hasty judgment about any conversations you read. Take time to learn how your partner interacts with other friends online. You might learn that your partner is often sarcastic, cheeky or ironic when talking to friends, with statements that are only suspicious when taken out of context.
If you're still concerned, don't post that concern to Facebook. This can come across as jealousy, and it can erode any trust you've built up with your partner so far. Instead, on your next date, ask for more information about what worried you, and listen to the answer. There may be a lot more to the conversation than you could have known without asking.
Posting Your Partner's Personal Secrets
When your relationship is new, you'll spend a lot of time getting to know each other. This will probably include the stories your friends have already heard a thousand times. If you're already getting comfortable with each other, you may have also shared some deep personal secrets with each other. Those deeper levels of trust are an essential part of your intimate connection with each other.
If your partner shares a secret that you're finding hard to keep to yourself, you may be tempted to share it on Facebook. Even if you restrict who can see it, though, it's still quite an announcement when it's seen by 50 or more of your Facebook friends at one time.
Even if you share your message privately to just one trusted friend, you can't guarantee it won't get passed on to yet another trusted friend, who passes it on to another and so on. Remember that Facebook is an almost endless web of social network connections.
That same message might eventually get back to your partner, too. By the time your partner learns you violated your mutual trust, it may be too late to mend the damage. As a precaution, when it comes to your partner's secrets, just avoid typing them at all. If you still can't help yourself and just need to get it out, keep a hand-written diary or journal offline that remains safely in your possession.
Lying About the Relationship
In any relationship, one of the worst things you can do is to be dishonest with the other person. As previously stated, trust is an essential part of having an intimate connection with someone, whether it's a close friend or a romantic partner. That's as true online as it is face-to-face.
Don't judge Facebook by its cover -- or wall, or profile. On Facebook, you can say just about anything until someone finds out you're lying. Providing false personal information in your profile is a violation of the Facebook user agreement [source: Facebook]. In your status and comments, false information may be harder to detect. In any case, any Facebook user can report you as having violated that user agreement if you're dishonest, and you could lose access to your account as a result.
If you're in a new relationship, that dishonesty can lead to trouble offline, too. When your new partner finds out you've been lying about the relationship to your Facebook friends, there may be no chance to recover the loss in trust your partner feels. Lying about the relationship to can also be double jeopardy: You might lose trust from both your partner and the people you lied to.
In short, to avoid a Facebook faux pas in your new relationship, keep it honest, keep it clean and keep your enthusiasm in check. Plus, help polish your relationship netiquette with lots more information on the next page.
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- Facebook. "Statement of Rights and Responsibilities." Aug. 25, 2010. (Sept. 30, 2010)http://www.facebook.com/terms.php
- Persimmons, Elizabeth Ann. "Five ways Facebook destroys relationships." The Examiner. Clarity Digital Group, LLC. Aug. 18, 2009. (Sept. 30, 2010)http://www.examiner.com/real-relationship-in-national/five-ways-facebook-destroys-relationships
- Suddath, Claire. "25 Thing I Didn't Want to Know About You." Time. Feb. 8, 2009. (Sept. 30, 2010)http://www.time.com/time/arts/article/0,8599,1878055,00.html
- Suddath, Claire. "How Not to Be Hated on Facebook: 10 More Rules." Time. April 21, 2009. (Sept. 30, 2010)http://www.time.com/time/arts/article/0,8599,1892800,00.html
- Suddath, Claire. "Your Facebook Relationship Status: It's Complicated." Time. May 8, 2009. (Sept. 30, 2010)http://www.time.com/time/business/article/0,8599,1895694,00.html