Facebook is the most useful tool for dating since the invention of the box of chocolates. It may also be the most dangerous threat to dating since bad breath.
Social networking has created an array of new dating rules, making the old style "wait three days before calling" seem quaint by comparison. Both dating experts and our random panel of New Yorkers agree: when mixing dating and Facebook, proceed with caution.
"With social networking sites, with Facebook, if you click that you're in a relationship, it [notifies] everyone that you're in a relationship. It's public broadcasting, which isn't part of a good relationship," said Donna Barnes, a dating and relationship coach.
Nowadays, as soon as two people meet, access to social networking comes into play. While it is still important to ask for someone's phone number if you meet them at a bar, club or event, "are you on Facebook?" has quickly become the new "can I call you sometime?" said Nancy Slotnick, a dating coach and self-proclaimed Facebook matchmaker.
Everyone polled for this story responded that sharing their Facebook information was more personal than sharing their phone number, and cautioned holding off "friending" someone until between three dates and three months of dating.
"If you give them access to Facebook, you give them your life on a webpage," Jared, a New Yorker who sells advertising on a website, said.
Once the relationship moves past the point where two people become Facebook friends, daters face a whole set of rituals so new that no one is exactly sure of the correct etiquette. In particular, changing the relationship status bar has become an important event, with people getting enraged if their partner waits too long to change it, or puts "in a relationship" too soon.
"Wait two to three months before changing your Facebook status," Barnes told TechNewsDaily. "Most relationships only last three to six months, and if you're just dating, hanging out and having fun, that's not really a relationship anyways."
Both dating coaches interviewed by TechNewsDaily also worried about what people find once they have access to all your pictures, wall scribbling and personal preferences. Facebook pages filled with photos of members of the opposite sex might indicate a lack of commitment, and seemingly innocuous wall writing can escalate into relationship-ending fights.
"Now there are questions of 'When to become friends on Facebook?' 'When can you start commenting on their wall posts?' 'When do you change relationship statuses?'" said Chava, a lawyer. "We would have to be fairly settled into dating, like to the point when it is assumed you will go out again unless you end it, rather than the other way around, before I actually posted a link or something to the wall."
Despite the many pitfalls of dating in the age of social networking, the most contentious use of the technology comes after two people break up. Driven by simple inquisitiveness or lingering feelings, casual cyberstalking has become the norm.
"Defriend the person after you break up," Slotnick advises.
"A lot of people still stay friends because they're curious and want to Facebook-stalk them, or think defriending is mean. But I think the longer you have someone on your news feed, the harder it is to get over them."