How to Date in the Technology Age

Modern technology is a mixed blessing when it comes to romance. On one level, social networking sites, texting, and emailing have made it much easier to date. But these forms of communication have also made dating more complicated. There are no set rules, no established guidelines, and no code of etiquette to follow. Feelings can be bruised, and messages can be misinterpreted. It's easier for misunderstandings to occur with electronic communication, since facial expressions, tone of voice, and physical touch aren't in the picture.

"The digital age makes it easier to not speak to a person face to face," says Anna Post, etiquette book author and spokesperson for the Emily Post Institute. "But we date in order to have that personal connection, so it is important to hop off line and have real contact."

Here's a guide to what you can do--and what you shouldn't do--when romance is on your mind and cell phone is in your hand.

Text Messaging

Why it can work: It's an efficient way to make a plan for getting together or for saying a quick "thanks" for a great evening.

Red flags: If your date starts texting with someone else while out on a date with you, that's a wakeup call, says Anna Post. "What kind of message does it send about how interested he is in you?" she says. And it goes without saying that "drunk texting" never has a positive outcome.

When to not use it: Even if you think you've only sent a text to one person, there is no way to guarantee this. Never text anything that you don't want showing up all over the Internet. And that means suggestive photos, too. Think it couldn't happen to you because the other person is trustworthy? Consider the consequences if you lose your phone, or set it down for a moment and someone picks it up and texts everyone in your address book.


Why it can work: Emailing can be a quick and effortless way to stay in touch, and you can efficiently make arrangements to get together for coffee or dinner. "For a busy professional, it can be a way to actually save time," says Shari Corbitt, Psy.D, senior executive director of Promises Treatment Centers. But limit your communications to just that: times and places to meet up. Save the romantic sweet nothings for when you're together."

What not to send: Never send anything in an email that you would not want to find on the front page of Google the next morning," warns Corbitt. Also, it's way too easy to read unintended meanings into the written word. A message that seems to the point to you can sound terse and unfriendly to the person on the receiving end.

What you should never do: Break up with someone on email, Corbitt says. "This is very poor form," she says. "Don't hide behind technology."

Social Networking Sites

Why it works: Facebook is nothing short of amazing when you're trying to figure out if someone is in a relationship or not. (Not sure if someone you have your eye on already has a girlfriend? Just check their Facebook status.)

How to use them effectively: The sites offer a great way to connect with former classmates, former colleagues, and old friends. There's nothing wrong with "friending" someone from your past, and it's always great when they "friend" you back. Use Facebook as a jumping off place to arrange to meet somewhere, says Cheryl Pappas, Ph.D. "But save the good stuff for when you are together physically," she advises. "Online is just for making an initial quick connection."

When not to use them: Don't plan a cyberdate, Pappas says. Arrange to meet in person once you've made the initial connection online. "In order to get clues about who the person really is, you need to see that person," she says. "You can't communicate deep feelings online."