Nearing Valentine's Day, we asked our favourite love doctor, Debby Herbenick, for advice on romance in the age of broadband wireless 24/7 interconnectedness. Our first question: With a potential love interest, when do you friend or follow?
Most young-ish Facebookers (especially those who remember the .edu days) have so many Facebook friends that one more - especially someone they've maybe made out with - is no big deal. If we can be Facebook friends with our exes (and research suggests that about 80 per cent are), then we can certainly reach out to a potential future ex date.
Chances are, if you're dating, you're already Facebook friends. If you're not, then sending a friend request within one to three dates is perfectly acceptable. We all know you're Googling each other anyway, so why pretend that you're anything but curious? Plus, if they don't want you to access certain parts of their page they can always put you on limited profile (which is totally my MO).
If sending a friend request cold feels desperate or stalker-ish, use your next date or IM as an opportunity to bring it up. For example, tell her or him a story about something awesome you did, and that you posted the pics on Facebook. "Wait, we're not Facebook friends?" you say (feigning shock and confusion). "Oh," you continue, "let me add you so you can see the pictures." How wonderful of you! And sneaky, too.
Twitter is a little easier, since most people have public Twitter pages. You can "stalk" your new date publicly until you feel ready to formally follow. If theirs is a private Twitter feed, wait until they've introduced you to a few friends or co-workers before you ask to follow, lest you force an early (and awkward) Accept/Reject fork in the road to romance.
That said, just because it's socially acceptable to become Facebook friends early on doesn't mean that you should. If you're prone to jealousy, please step away from the "Add As a Friend" button until you feel more secure in the relationship. Why? Because research shows that Facebook can be bad for your heart.
It's perfectly situated for all sorts of ambiguities: Who's that shirtless-profile-pictured guy who keeps writing on her wall? Who sent her the "private" lingerie Facebook gift? How come he's still Farmville neighbours with his ex? And it goes on and on. Facebook has the potential to expand our scope of romantic and sexual possibilities, but it can also mess with our heads and our hearts. Then again, you often have to go out on a limb - even just a little - in the pursuit of love.
Debby Herbenick, PhD is a Research Scientist and Associate Director of The centre for Sexual Health Promotion at Indiana University, a sexual health educator at The Kinsey Institute and author of Because It Feels Good: A Woman's Guide to Sexual Pleasure and Satisfaction. She blogs at MySexProfessor.com.
Facebook friends image by Dan Taylor/Flickr under CC license
Bad Valentine is our own special take on the beauty - and awkwardness - of geek love.