Whenever we meet somebody new, it’s almost expected there’ll be a Facebook friend request waiting for us by the time we get home.
Why? Because there’s a desire in others to find out if our social media profiles line up with who we present ourselves as in real life.
It’s not good enough to be friendly, cute, funny, and intelligent in person; you’ll be judged a second time around when somebody sifts through your Facebook posts, your Instagram photos, and your Twitter rants.
Do add a new friend
Met somebody new who you like? Go ahead and add/follow them on one – but only one – social network. More than one platform (e.g. adding someone as a Facebook friend, followed them on Snapchat, and connecting with them to LinkedIn all at once) is too eager, and the add notifications that person will receive will set off alarm bells.
Don’t add people you’ve never met
However tempting, don’t try to add people you’ve never met to Facebook. It’s OK to follow them on open networks like Instagram and Twitter, but digital communication on a closed network should always follow real-life communication, not precede it.
Do send them a private message
After somebody accepts your request, send them a “nice to meet you”-type private message, and start a conversation with them. This also goes for old friends and acquaintances such as school mates. When you add or follow somebody and don’t connect with them with a personal message, it says you’re only interested in social media stalking them, not befriending (or re-friending) them.
Don’t post on their wall straight away
With that said, don’t post a that “nice to meet you” message (or the cringe-worthy “thanks for the add!”) on their public wall. No one else needs to know who you’ve connected with.
Do check out their history
Your natural instinct when connecting with somebody online is to scroll through the last several years of their life. This is expected, and everything put up on social media has been put there voluntarily for all to see. Go ahead and sift away, but resist the urge to get judgemental about clothing choices, hairstyles, and opinions from 2009.
Don’t ‘like’ historical photos
While the social media sift of historical posts is expected, you don’t want anybody to know you’re doing it. The biggest giveaway here is when you start ‘liking’ old photos. Sure, somebody may have looked really fit on the beach in Bali four years ago. But they don’t need to know you’ve sifted through years of images to see that.
Do check up on their profile every now and again
Once you’ve connected with someone, check their profile every so often. See what they post, engage with some new posts (but keep this limited), and build a friendship slowly and naturally.
Don’t stalk through the profiles of their friends
This is particularly relevant if you’re romantically interested in somebody. Don’t click on the profiles of anybody you think is an ex, or those who frequently post, like, and comment on somebody’s pages. It’ll only lead you to jealousy.
Do wait for real life communication for some things
As tempting as it is to do The Full Google on somebody, resist the urge to find out everything about them. The internet provides only a skewed view of somebody, and there is a lot of information better received first-hand.
Don’t tell somebody you meet for the first time that you know all about them
Perhaps the creepiest thing to learn when meeting somebody new is that they’ve already social-media-stalked you. Even if you have come across somebody online (say you clicked on other invitees’ profiles before a party), don’t admit this to them when you meet. It just makes everybody uncomfortable.
Do sift through profiles of upcoming dates with your friends
Every time you land a first date and tell your friends about it, it’s almost guaranteed they’ll want the dish via social media profiles, using starting with how they present themselves on Tinder. This can be a fun bonding activity, and – again because everything on social media is up there voluntarily – isn’t something to be ashamed of.
Don’t change your expectations
You might think you see yourself marrying somebody before a first date, based purely on the image they concoct online. Conversely, you might write somebody off too early because they spout differing opinions from you online. The downside of looking over social media profiles (especially when you do it with your friends) is the fact it’ll likely change your expectations of people. Remember, it’s the real world – not the digital world – that actually counts.