Facebook's Starring Role in a Budding Romance

Go ahead and confess. Almost all of us have checked out someone on Facebook. In the past, checking out someone wouldn't be something people would admit so easily. But for some reason it's generally accepted these days.

The popular Web site among college students, Urban Dictionary, says "Facebook stalking" is "A covert method of investigation using facebook.com. Good for discovering a wealth of information about people you don't actually know."

See Their Favorites

You can see what are people's favorite bands, foods, movies, etc... You can look at pictures to see what they wore the past Halloween or how embarrassing their best friend's 21st birthday bash was. It's no secret that technology has allowed people to express themselves in unique and interesting ways.

But I started to ask myself something when one of my roommates anguished over whether or not to "'poke" (it's an online way of just saying hello...) a girl on Facebook. How has this Web site changed the game of dating?

Some of my friends from other colleges already use Facebook as a dating tool.

Tabitha Allen, a junior at Lee University, says she sometimes uses Facebook as a preview.

"It's just a form of preparing for the date," Allen says.

Allen compares it to seeking information about people through mutual friends, which everyone did long before the Internet existed.

"It's just on a different level now," she says. "And it can seem a little creepy."

The amount of creepiness can depend on how much information you put out there for others to see. But what about asking people out on dates through a Facebook message instead of in person or by phone?

Use a Good Opener

Amanda Bratton, a senior at UNC-Chapel Hill, says she's been asked out on Facebook.

"They asked me if I wanted to do dinner or a movie or something along that line," she said. "I said no because I didn't think it was very personal."

Allen feels the same way. She says it wouldn't necessarily mean the answer would be no.

"It would be awkward," she said, "but it would definitely affect my decision."

Facebookdater.com is an online forum where people discuss exactly how to ask someone out through Facebook. The website's "10 Ways to Use Facebook for Dating" post says the key is a good opener.

"Exactly like in a bar where you initiate conversation with that all important first sentence or two," the website says. "Try opening with something that really stands out and begs for a reply."

One of the keys self-claiming successful daters have posted is to use people's listed interests to your advantage.

"I noticed that you want to travel," one post says to use as an opener. "What kind of places do you want to see?"

These are just some of the ways that Facebook is changing the way college students date. In a way, it's making potential daters savvier.

Check Out What Others Say

"With Facebook you can almost stalk the person if you want to see what girls are writing on his wall," Bratton said.

You can see pictures of people that might have been in a person's past, ex-girlfriends and boyfriends and what people are writing on their walls. Bratton also says it can help identify a "player" if you meet a guy and he acts single.

"If you then look at Facebook and it says he's in a relationship with someone, it's usually a red flag," she said.

And I'll admit that I've done it before. I've scoured people's profiles to see if my friends think I should send a girl I just met a message, or write on her wall or draw some graffiti.

But does it get to the point where it all seems a little juvenile? Wouldn't it be simpler to just talk in person? What would a woman prefer?

Although Facebook has developed into a great research tool and seems to make things easier, the resounding answer might leave "Facebookers" disappointed.

"I would still rather have someone ask me in person or on the phone," Bratton says. "It seems like there is more effort behind it."

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