Being in a committed relationship isn’t that much different than being part of a social network: You have to agree to terms and conditions, you have to “like” stuff you otherwise wouldn’t and, sometimes, you and your partner may have to deal with people from your pasts trying to poke you. While the following do’s and don’ts may not prevent your high school sweetheart from creepily wall-posting you, they may help you better handle such correspondence, as well as other awkward social networking situations, with grace.

DO: Be a friend, not just a lover

This one’s easy: Make sure you add your spouse as a friend. This doesn’t mean you have to say goodnight to each other via wall posts (more on this later). Just let the world know that you think highly enough of this person you’ve chosen to spend the rest of your life with to allow him or her access to your info page. Of course, not every couple will feel the need to communicate with each other on Facebook. “There are two kinds of couples,” says Ben Agger, professor of sociology and humanities at University of Texas at Arlington. “Couples who wear his-and-hers bathrobes might be very couple-y on Facebook. Then there are more independent couples who would never friend each other, preferring to keep their relationship private.”

DON’T: Share a Facebook page—it’s just weird

Sure, there are people who share Facebook pages. But there are also people who share toothbrushes. Being of one flesh doesn’t mean you have to be of one profile. Online dating and “netiquette” expertJulie Spira, author of The Perils of Cyber-Dating, encourages couples to keep their own Facebook profiles. “We’re individuals, we’re also couples, but each person has a unique history, especially when you look at Facebook’s recent changes with the timeline,” she says. “So merging Facebook accounts, I don’t think it’s a good idea.” Exceptions to this might be if your relationship is part of your business, or if a couple shares a page because neither one really cares that much about being on Facebook. But outside these sorts of situations, sharing a Facebook page is as awkward as when a guy tags along on girls’ night out.

DO: Remember that public displays of affection are even more annoying online

It’s wonderful that you and your partner love each other, but be considerate of others when expressing it via Facebook. Chances are that a good chunk of your uncoupled friends, while not completely bitter, don’t really want to hear you profess your undying love for your spouse just because he made you macaroni and cheese for dinner. If your boyfriend is getting back from Afghanistan, then sure, that’s post-worthy. But be mindful that most Facebook posts of admiration will only cause an avalanche of eye-rolling among your friends. And what’s more, these public displays of affection may actually be a sign of strain in the relationship. “This oversharing—making the private public—is not to be taken at face value,” says Agger. “When I read such things, I immediately worry that there is trouble in paradise.”

DON’T: Poke anyone, for any reason, ever

Poking someone on Facebook is the online equivalent of strolling up to a stranger at a bar and asking, “Hey, what’s your sign?” It might be the only feature on Facebook created specifically for flirting, so it’s definitely off limits to anyone in a committed relationship. Jason and Kelli Krafksy, relationship experts who run Techlationships.com, further clarify that “poking is nothing more than a way to digitally flirt like a third grader … bug the heck out of someone until they despise you … and hide from you.”

DO: Make sure your relationship status reads, “In a relationship”

This one may seem like a no-brainer, but people who are new to Facebook might not realize that there even is a relationship status setting. Well, there is, and if you’re married but fail to signify as such, then every person who brushed against you in the hallways of high school and college will immediately evaluate you as a potential hook-up. And don’t think that using your child as a profile picture will deter Facebook trawlers. Quite often, just the opposite happens. “I think it is fair to say that men may read divorced women with kids as sexually needy,” says Agger. Of course, that isn’t necessarily true—but the advances will come nonetheless.

DON’T: Wear a bikini in your profile picture—no matter how jealous you want to make your old high school nemesis

It’s awesome that, even after giving birth to three kids, you’re in better shape now than you were in high school. That said, you don’t need to inform everyone of this accomplishment. Instead, try to exercise a little modesty when selecting a profile picture. “You shouldn’t be posting provocative photos on Facebook,” says Spira. “You’re advertising that you just might be available for flirting—or more—outside of your relationship.” And you don’t have to put up a picture of your toddler covered in his own spit-up to detract unwanted advances; just don’t use any photo that might provoke an old flame to inappropriately exercise the “like” button. The only exception is if you were recently a contestant onThe Biggest Loser, or have made some other major physical transformation for which you are really proud. But still, even if you want to show a little skin, make sure there is zero “come hither” to your profile picture.

DO: Tell your partner if you’re friends with the person who took your virginity

Many of us are friends with exes. There’s nothing wrong with that. We’re all adults, and it’s a lot of fun to touch base with people from our past and show them how much better-looking our kids are than theirs. However, it’s always a good idea to let your spouse know that among your Facebook friends are people who have seen a lot more than your face. And it may be a good idea for you to know that being friends with old flames can be akin to playing with fire. “When you connect with someone with whom you’ve had emotional or physical contact in your past, there’s a flood of chemicals,” says Jason Krafsky. “The brain recalls the first kiss, or the intimacy, and unfortunately, it does not always remember how annoying that person used to be.”

DON’T: Overreact or read too much into someone simply being friendly

Even though we should have zero tolerance for propositioners, we shouldn’t be so on guard that we interpret an ex asking, “Watcha been doing?” as an offer of something more. If somebody writes to you on Facebook through direct message, with the chat feature or even on your wall, they may just be casually connecting with you, says Spira. “Don’t read too much into it; it’s still just a two-dimensional message.” So, if someone is asking when you might be coming back to town, don’t immediately assume they want to lure you into starting a second family. They might just want you to join Farmville.

[Via GloMSN]

 

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