The Oohs and Ahhs of Online Dating

Before you friend your new man or that guy you met last Saturday night, you might want to take the time to do some digital housekeeping.

Just a few years ago, the lines of communication during romantic courtship were simple (the biggest question was how long to wait before calling). Today, with texting, e-mail, chatting, social networking and myriad dating websites, it’s a veritable minefield: Take one wrong digital step and you’re toast.

All of this new technology requires an updated set of dating rules. After chatting with local singles, we devised the following do’s and don’ts of love in the age of Facebook pokes.

DON’T Ask for a first date via text message
“I’ve had that happen to me four times,” says Jordyn, 22, from Roosevelt Island. “I hate that. It makes them seem like they don’t have the balls to call.” Why cheapen the value of the first date by using an electronic medium for that?

DO Know Internet-dating protocol
Several years ago, 31-year-old Caroline from the West Village committed an online blunder that still gives her shivers. “I built my personals profile on a popular dating site, and I remember there were all these things you could check off that you were interested in,” she says. The choices were friendship, dating, relationship or play. “I thought, I like to play. That’s cool and maybe less threatening.” What Caroline didn’t know was “play” meant she was after no-strings-attached sexual encounters. E-mails immediately flooded her in-box. “I heard from all these creepy guys that were ‘winking’ at me.” The lesson? Dating sites are generally pretty intuitive, but when in doubt, ask a friend who’s been down that road before.

DO Send a text after a great first date
It’s the morning after an amazing date and you’re on cloud nine. If your gut says it’s too soon to call, a short “I had a great time” text is a way to show interest without coming off as overeager. 31-year-old Brysen of Astoria thinks it’s the responsibility of the person who didn’t pay to send it. “It’s the gracious thing to do, to thank them for the date. I wouldn’t consider it an open-ended invitation to a second date, but I would think it’s classy.” We say either approach does the trick until a phone call is appropriate.

DON’T Break up with someone via text
Not all breakups require a face-to-face meeting. If you’re ending it with someone you met over the Internet and only dated twice, e-mail is fine. But dumping someone—anyone—over text is just plain cold and taking the easy way out (appropriate only in cases where there’s a history of verbal or emotional abuse). Our opinion: If you’ve been on more than five dates, let your mouth -— not your fingers -— do the dumping.

DO Play it cool when e-mailing a crush
You mustered all your courage and sent a flirty e-mail. Twenty-four hours later, still no response, and you’re riddled with more anxiety than a Bachelorette waiting for the final rose. 37 year-old Marcus says a good rule of thumb is to wait a couple of days, then e-mail one (and only one) more time. “Otherwise, you run the risk of looking desperate, clingy and codependent.” Ultimately, no response is an answer, too.

DON’T Be an IM stalker
There are normal ways to stalk and borderline-weird ways (inviting someone you barely know to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram/InstaDM and obsessively initiating chat sessions when they’re online). Knowing the difference will separate you from the panty sniffers and bunny boilers.

“There was this guy in my building whom I made no indication to that I was interested,” says 35-year-old Kharissa of Hollis. “All of a sudden he started acting funny. The next morning, he said he read my Facebook status, which was a comment about how I can’t date guys who are more sensitive than me, and he assumed it had something to do with him. Please, don’t be so narcissistic that everything I do has to be about you.” He made things worse by issuing rapid-fire apologies and retractions over e-mail and text until Kharissa filed him under “clown/regular n@#%a” and told him to cease all contact.

DO Create an attention-grabbing profile (but not too attention-grabbing)
If you’re dating online, you’re competing with hundreds of other singles. What grabs attention and gets people to click (or not)? Your screen name and photo, so make them work for you. Avoid handles that are generic, creepy or pornographic. When it comes to photos, keep it to five or fewer (anything more looks conceited), be sure to include a clear head shot and full-body pic in the mix, and know that “recent” generally means less than a year old. And finally, be warned: A picture says a thousand words, indeed, but if it’s one of you shirtless, those words all read “chode.” (Girls, you’re not exempt—resist posting those of the bikini-and-bathroom milieu, too.) “Keep in mind that what may appear attractive to one person may not be attractive to someone else,”

DON’T Get caught up in Facebook “relationship status” drama
Nate says a girl he was only casually dating ambushed him by asking him to confirm her Facebook declaration that they were in a relationship. After two weeks of resisting, he finally succumbed. And when they broke up a few months later, it was front-page news for his friends. 24 year-old Stacy also says that if one partner is forcing the issue, there may be something bigger at play. “As a therapist, I want to know why it’s important to make it public. Are there feelings of insecurity or jealousy? Do you want to communicate to someone else that this person belongs to you?”

Take a tip from us: If you do have to change your status, it doesn’t have to be a bulletin broadcast. Visit “privacy settings” for your news feed and wall, which allow you to select which of your updates will publish to your friends’ news feeds.