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the rules do s and don ts of online dating

Don’t friend your date… yet

Thanks to countless social networks and dating sites, Cupid’s arrow has been replaced by a wireless signal, bringing with it lots of new head-scratching predicaments.

Are you ready to open this cyber can of worms? Netiquette expert Julie Spira, author of The Rules of Netiquette and The Perils of Cyber-Dating, recommends ignoring friend requests from potential suitors until after you’ve established exclusivity.

“You won’t want to be in his arms on Friday night, while he’s posting photos with another woman on Saturday night,” cautions Spira. “Digital jealousy in the beginning of your relationship could actually destroy the possibilities of long-term love.”

The dating experts from HowAboutWe.com’s “The Date Report” suggest treating a Facebook connection the same way you would a real-life relationship. “You’ve been on two or three dates with someone… Would now be the time to introduce this person to all of your friends? Your family? Maybe some exes? No way.”

Clean up your Facebook profile
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, says Spira. Delete anything on your Facebook wall that could be considered suggestive, offensive or otherwise hurt your love crusade, add “The Date Report” columnists.

Choose a good profile picture (obviously), untag or delete any unsavory photos and don’t whine! “Facebook complainers are a huge turn-off,” explain the dating site gurus. “Keep your rants, complaints and cryptic messages to yourself.”

Meet in the real world
“It can be tempting to get invested in email relationships because they feel safe and manageable,” explains Meghan Beresford from OkCupid.com, “but great conversations don’t necessarily mean great chemistry.” Follow the “3-back-and-forths” rule, says “The Date Report” experts. After three rounds of email replies, you should ask him out on a real, live date.

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Simply suggest drinks or invite him to be your plus-one at an upcoming event. “The worst they can say is ‘no’,” says Beresford, “and then you don’t get to meet them, which is exactly what was going to happen if you didn’t mention it!”

Avoid relationship status limbo
Don’t be too quick on the draw when it comes to changing your Facebook relationship status. You need to make sure you and your partner are on the same digital page before broadcasting to your social circles that you’re “in a relationship,” says Beresford.

As for switching back to “single,” notify your ex about your profile update (if the breakup was mutual and amicable). Take note: Removing the “in a relationship” status from your profile will automatically delete it from his. And don’t use the “end of a relationship” feature offered on the new Facebook Timeline layout, advise “The Date Report” experts.

To avoid the dilemma completely, consider setting your relationship status to private to avoid awkward comments or creepy “likes.” (Here’s how: Go to your Facebook profile page, select “Edit Profile” or “About,” then edit “Friends and Family” from the left-hand menu and change your “Relationship Status” to “Select Relation.” Save changes.)

Delete your dating profile
“If I’ve found someone I actually like then what’s the point of leaving my profile up?” asks a former (successful) online dater. “The Date Report” experts agree. Once you’re in an exclusive relationship, your profile needs to come down.

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Remaining active is disrespectful to your new mate and unfair to the digital love seekers who think you’re still available. Plus, it’s a necessary sign of commitment for some, adds Beresford. Don’t want to put all your eggs in one basket? Choose to deactivate your profile rather than terminate, so you can enter the dating game easily if things don’t work out.

Know when to unfriend
If you don’t want to completely X out your ex, Beresford recommends hiding their Facebook feed to ease the breakup blues. Do the same with their family and/or mutual friends to cut down on the number of ex-related updates.

“The Date Report” experts also point out that you may want to get in touch with your past love in the future, and re-friending him after an extended period of time could be awkward. So only unfriend an ex if the relationship ended badly, e.g. he cheated or stole from you.

Erase past relationships
Want your ex’s grinning mug gone from your digital life? Beresford suggests asking a friend to hit delete on your lovey-dovey couple pics to save you the heartache of reliving happier times. Of course, if your relationship ended on good terms, you might not need to do a total clean sweep.

If your current flame remains friends with his ex (and is still tagged in her photos), be confident in your new relationship and just ignore it, says Spira. “Letting him know that it upsets you will only make him realize that you’re checking up on his digital past.”

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Don’t be bitter over twitter
“I think it’s funny that Twitter keeps suggesting me to follow Leonardo DiCaprio,” Bar Rafaeli recently tweeted. Take a lesson from the supermodel and resist the urge to subscribe to your ex’s tweets.

“You don’t need to read the minutiae of his or her daily thoughts,” says Chiara Atik of HowAboutWe.com. (Same rule applies to Foursquare.)

And, of course, remember to keep some perspective. “Changing my twitter name isn’t a top priority right now. sorry it bothers so many of u. should I not tweet until I do? does it really matter?,” wrote @mrskutcher, aka Demi Moore, in response to queries about her post-divorce handle. Ultimately Moore did change her handle to @justdemi — when she was ready.

Don’t fight dirty
“The best thing to do when an ex starts talking smack online is to be the bigger person,” say “The Date Report” experts. They recommend turning on the “Tag Approval” feature (under Privacy Settings) to intercept any new photos or posts from your ex that may include you.

If you want to set the record straight, call, email or meet up with your mutual friends to clear the air. And “keep it classy,” adds Beresford. Don’t respond to his Facebook posts since that may provoke him. If his digs turn into threats and harassment, Beresford says to contact the proper authorities.