Navigating New Relationships Via Social Media

There’s this girl I like on Twitter.

I ‘met’ her when I was live-tweeting the presidential inauguration. We bonded over a shared joke about Charles Schumer’s hair plugs.

I say ‘met’ in a purely figurative way, as I do not actually know this girl at all. However, over the past couple months, we’ve become friendly (in a purely Twitter way). What started as a hair plug joke evolved into a series of jokey responses to observations on pop culture, and then a series of flirty jokes around Valentines day.

Last week, I finally took the plunge and emailed a short message to the address she had listed on her Twitter profile. It seemed to be nothing serious, just a quick wish that she had a good morning.

I fear, with that email, I may have crossed a line though.

What exactly is the etiquette of corresponding with someone you’ve never met, but would like to get to know, strictly through social media and electronic communication?

In another article by Kristin Appenbrink called ‘The Guide to Social Media Etiquette’ for Real Simple Magazine, the author references the famous book on etiquette Emily Post’s Etiquette which in today’s later editions includes sections on digital and social media best practices.

“So what happens if someone calls you out for unfollowing (or unfriending)? Be honest, recommends Post: “You can tell them you didn’t feel like you were really connecting online. Hopefully since they’ve asked for an explanation, they are prepared for an honest answer.””

Further, she concludes the piece by saying “In the end, the best thing to remember is that these sites are public. Even if you’re extremely careful with your privacy settings, it’s best not to post anything that you wouldn’t want your grandmother or your boss to see.”

In the fact that all this stuff is public lies the problem, the jump from public persona (Tweets/Facebook) to private message (email) may have been, in my case, a little too hasty and perhaps more of a message than the message itself.

The opposite phenomenon exists when adding a person you’ve met in real life, at some funky coffee shop, to your friends on Facebook. Simply put, Facebook is where your closer circle of friends exists online, and for a new face that you’ve only talked to for ten or twenty minutes to be integrated into that next step of intimacy can be problematic and taken the wrong way.

I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve never had that much luck with women and through a series of failed attempts at relationships and rejections, the notion of being ‘creepy’ has become a nearly all-consuming fear in my interactions with the opposite sex. In my defense though, when the prospect of a relationship presents itself, I’m incredibly eager to proceed, perhaps, that’s also a personal fault.

The fact is though, and always has been, that we perform in our public persona. When we’re on stage via a status update, public tweet or an actual physical stage, we only like to present the best of ourselves. I’m still unclear as to whether this ‘best self’ that we show presents the most real or the most fake version of who we are though I imagine it could go either way.

That said, when we move to the private areas of interaction like direct messages or email for the internet, or our messy bedrooms for real life, there’s a raw feeling of intimacy and utter honesty that our partners or potential love interests may find disconcerting if it’s not the best time to display something like that.

I equate that first email to a first kiss, if it’s too much too soon then you’ve ruined it, if it comes at the right time though, and under the right circumstances, it’s magic.

Vulnerability, in itself, can build an unequivocal trust between two people but if one of those people isn’t ready for that vulnerability, things can get complicated.

It seems clear now, that the advice I’ve always gotten on the subject to ‘take it slow’ seems to be the best advice here as well.

I’d ask though, is there ever a perfect time to be vulnerable? TC mark

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