About three months ago, a man I really like ended our six-month relationship. Aside from all the normal bad stuff that comes with a breakup, I also had to deal with the stupid detail of us being friends on Facebook. This may not sound like a big deal, but for a while, whenever I logged on and saw that he’d gotten a new friend who was female, or had exchanged wall correspondence with any woman I didn’t know, it drove me nuts. Like many people, I’m on Facebook all the time, and I just didn’t want to know all those things about him—it made my head spin wondering who those women were and it hurt too much. Now that I’m casually dating again, I’ve been getting Facebook invitations from some of the guys I’ve been on one and two dates with—guys I barely know. I do like a couple of them and want to go out with them again, but I’m just feeling cautious about accepting friend invitations too soon. Any advice for how to handle this graciously?—RK, Atlanta, Georgia
The gay woman’s perspective: Jody Fischer
RK, you present a couple of different Facebook issues here. First of all, de-friend this guy from your Facebook page today. You’re making yourself nuts. No good can come of you being a voyeur of his life. I know that it will be a challenge to do, but if you’re really ready to put your feet into the dating pool, you need to get out of his face.
I find it interesting that you asked us for advice on how to handle things “graciously.” Seems like what you need here isn’t so much grace as it is self-compassion. Are you really ready to date? Have your truly dealt with all the hurt feelings you have inside you from this last break-up? Sounds like there’s some more stuff to feel and then release here.
I understand your desire to be cautious about dating again—no one wants to get hurt. But if your first thoughts are that it’s too soon and that you may get hurt, you’re officially not ready.
Don’t go on Facebook so often. Fill your life with things you’re passionate about. Cry some more if you need to. Get mad. Exercise, hang out with friends, read, dream, or draw.
When you begin to wonder what fun things you can do with a new guy in your life, don’t just look on Facebook for guys. There are actual real guys all around you. When you’re ready, try smiling at one.
The straight woman’s perspective: Rebecca Brown
Remember how we used to check up on our crushes and exes in the good old days? When we wanted to see what someone was up to, we just did a good old-fashioned drive-by past his house. (Oh, please! Don’t act like you’ve never done it!) With cell phones, email, Skype, Facebook, and other social media sites, now we can do a virtual drive-by pretty much anytime we want, which, as you mentioned, kind of sucks because you just never know what you’ll find when you do a drive-by on someone’s Facebook profile.
I think you’re smart to hold off on being any of these guys’ friend immediately. I have a rule for my Facebook friends: is the potential friend in question someone that I’d feel comfortable inviting out to a real-life dinner or party with a group of my friends? I think you should use this screening process for anyone who tries to befriend you, not just potential boyfriends. For example, would it be awkward to have that random person you never talked to who sat two rows behind you in Algebra I and Algebra II twenty years ago hanging out with the people you genuinely call friends? Likewise, would you normally introduce a man to all your friends after only one or two dates, either in the real world or on Facebook? Probably not.
So I advise you to use this cool little feature that Facebook has on its friend confirmation application. It’s called the “Ignore” button. Click it. If any of these guys ask why you haven’t accepted their friend invitation yet, I think a gracious way to handle it would be to make a flirty little joke about it. (Cue hair flip and coy laugh.) “Oh, I don’t Facebook with someone until at least the sixth date!” If he doesn’t get the hint and presses the issue, I think it shows that he’s concerned about all the wrong things when it comes to pursuing a relationship with you. He should be focusing on real-world you, not Facebook-you. If that’s not the case, he deserves a good, hard, real-world poke.
The gay man’s perspective: Darren Maddox
Don’t you just love it when you run into the little things like this that bug the crap out of you? But let’s not forget this is your Facebook account! You don’t have to justify anything you do and you can take people off or leave them on as much as your little heart desires. You can also give someone limited access to your profile, allowing him to see only a portion of your account. Or if you want to remove someone completely, simply find him in your friends list, scroll all the way down, and hit the “Remove from Friends” link. Door closed. Now you don’t have to see what cheap, two-bit floozy has joined his merry little band of bimbos anymore.
You do bring up a good point with your question, though. Social media is a rapidly growing presence in our lives, and it’s hard to know what to do or not do when someone asks you to be a friend on Facebook and you’re just not that into it. It’s a case-by-case decision, of course, but just know that you are not going to be stuck with some casual Joe if you don’t want to be. You can always accept someone today on a limited basis and remove him later.
The straight man’s perspective: Chris Kennedy
If you haven’t already done so, delete the guy you dated from your friends list. He’s not your friend, in Facebook or in reality. You should’ve done this within a week of the breakup, but that’s okay. Do it now.
Do not accept these suitors as friends. It’s simple, because they are NOT your friends. They’re most likely trying to read up on you, look through your photo albums, and casually spy on you. I don’t see the upside for them to access all this info on you just as you’re getting to know them. Just say, “Thanks but I don’t add people as friends unless I’ve known them for a while.” This will keep any stalking potential at bay, too, in the likely case some of these guys don’t pan out.
If the guys are really hurt that you wouldn’t add them as a friend on a social networking site, so be it. Give them a cyber shove-off and hope they’ll find a real life … because the one they have now won’t be including dating you.
This brings up a point about social networking sites. I belong to a couple and they can be a nice way to stay in touch with friends and a good excuse for wasting time. However, it’s a bit juvenile to add people as friends when you barely know them.
The argument for not adding those potential suitors doesn’t hold up very well if you have 500 Facebook friends. No one has 500 friends. So if you have a very large number, go through your list and pare it down. Here’s another tip: if you’ve never met someone in person and never talk to him, you should probably delete him from your list. Simplify. Focus more on your true friends.
And one last thing, don’t be on Facebook all the time. Limit yourself. Set a timer. Do it. Come on, do we really need another reason to sit on the computer all day? (They got rid of Scrabulous anyway.)
Cut your Facebook time and book real face time with your real friends in real places. You’ll probably have real fun.
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