There’s no doubt that social media like Facebook, Flickr and Twitter make it easy to keep in touch with friends and family, promote your business, and follow your favorite topics. But like any other tool, social media work best when used wisely – especially when it comes to dating. Making connections and getting timely information can be useful on the dating scene. On the other hand, it’s easy to slip into TMI territory with someone you hardly know. So how can you use your social networks to boost your social life?

Control Yourself – your online self. Use search engines to see what information is available online about you. You may find that your home address, relatives’ names and other personal information are out there. Do you want every potential date to have access to that data? If not, now’s the time to tighten up your privacy on Facebook and Twitter, decide which Flickr photos you want to be private or friends-only, and think about whether Foursquare really needs to know that you’re down at the corner bar right this minute. Make your searchable self show only what you’re comfortable sharing with strangers.

Search Around – If you haven’t been looking up your potential dates online, start now. Online searches and public postings can help you verify that your love interest is who she says she is or does what she says she does. They can also reveal red flags or lapses in judgment that you might not otherwise learn about until much later – if ever – in a relationship. If nothing else, you’ll find out whether your potential date has a good handle on her online image.

Think Before You Friend – A good date is a good start, but you don’t need to link in with everyone you have dinner or drinks with. Carefully considering whom you add to your networks can save time and awkwardness, if those early dates don’t pan out. When you do add a new person to your networks, read his posts, see who his friends are, and look into how he acts online. And since he’ll be doing the same with you, once you add him, consider what you post. Do you want this guy reading about your extensive list of food allergies or your cat’s stomach rash while you’re trying to kindle a romance?

Pace Yourself – You wouldn’t drop by your date’s office five times a day to say hi, so show some discretion in making virtual contact. Too much social media interplay can be annoying and make you appear needy. If you’re on the receiving end of constant virtual attention, it could be a flag for anything from over-eagerness to a personality disorder. Decide how much contact you’re comfortable with and maintain that boundary.

Keep it Real – In the early stages of dating, it’s tempting to text, tweet or message your new love interest a lot, because it’s so easy to do. But don’t mistake virtual contact for really getting to know someone. There’s much you can learn about a person in person, or even over the phone, that you can’t online. Tone of voice, facial expressions, and the eagerness or reluctance with which someone discusses a subject are all types of information that you can only gather by being there.

And that’s the whole goal of dating after all: to enjoy someone’s company in person. So use your social media wisely to help you present yourself, protect yourself, and find the right person for you. Then spend some quality time together – ofoffline

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