What's the first thing you do after you meet a guy or gal these days? Stalk them on social media to find out all you can about him or her, of course. But while you're poking around his Facebook profile or scanning her Twitter feed, try to resist the urge to friend or follow your new love interest. Why? A recent survey says it could stunt your budding relationship before it has the chance to grow.
Dating site What's Your Price surveyed just shy of 15,000 men and women to find out when in their relationships they had friended or followed a significant other. Respondents were then categorized based on their answers into three groups: Those who had made social media connections before the first date, immediately after the first date, or a month or more after that first date. The survey found that 26 percent copped to connecting online before the first date, while 42 percent did it immediately after and 32 percent waited until at least one month after that date.
Then, those groups were asked how long their relationships lasted. And perhaps unsurprisingly, the groups who jumped the gun in connecting on social media had the shortest relationships. In fact, more than half of the respondents who friended or followed a love interest before the date enjoyed a relationship that lasted less than six months, and only 18 percent made it to the year-long mark.
For those who hooked up on social media immediately after their dates, 42 percent had relationships that lasted less than a month. (Only 12 percent made it a year.)
And for those who waited until well after the first date was over to connect on social media? Well, 48 percent reported their relationships lasted longer than a year.
"Social media certainly isn't all bad for new relationships, but it does present some challenges," says Kristen Carney, Ph.D., associate director of clinical training at the Illinois School of Professional Psychology at Argosy University. And when you pick apart those challenges, it's easy to see why connecting on social media could hurt a new relationship.
"We can easily see wall posts, pictures, and friend connections going back for years," she points out, "and if you don't yet know your romantic partner that well, it could be easy to misinterpret things you see on social media," like that picture you see of your new love interest with his arm around another woman.
Speaking of that, "social media is also a perfect platform for feelings of jealousy to arise," says Carney. "If you are in a new relationship and notice that your partner just friended an attractive person, it might be pretty tempting to feel jealous since you don't quite have the security or trust of an established, long-term relationship."
Of course, you don't have to resist the urge to connect on social media with someone you like. But if you do, it's wise to know the harm it can cause, and then to follow a few ground rules to keep yourself in check, says Carney.
"Communicate," she encourages. "If you see something on your partner's wall or in his or her posts that bothers you, bring it up in a gentle and non-defensive way. Not only will this help to clear the air and keep you from building up resentment, it's a great way to make open communication a normal part of your budding relationship."
Beyond that, you should also try to keep yourself in check, too, she recommends. "If you notice that you are monitoring your partner's profile constantly, take a step back and ask yourself why," Carney says. "Is your concern based on things your partner is doing or saying? Or are you monitoring their online activity because you feel insecure? A little bit of insecurity in a new relationship is totally normal, but feeling very insecure when there is no obvious reason for it might suggest that you have a little bit of your own soul-searching to do."