So Romeo and Juliet meet at a party (I know, I'm mixing Shakespearean metaphors -- just go with it!). They see each other across a crowded room, they feel a spark of attraction, they exchange some witty banter, and then suddenly they're separated by their entourages' conflicting plans. Luckily, they travel in similar circles and are able to get some dirt on each other. All hope is not lost.
But here is where the similarities between your story and R&J's story end. How did Romeo go about reconnecting with his lady love? He showed up on her balcony and engaged in some intense getting-to-know-you conversation. Yet how are you most likely to reconnect with your new romantic prospect? Well, via Facebook, of course.
Don't worry! You're not the only one trying to adjust your romantic expectations and beliefs as courtship continues to transition online at an alarming pace. Even after spending some face-to-face time together on the balcony, there's a good chance that 2010 Romeo would have returned home to a pending friend request from Juliet. Facebook - along with other forms of Techno-Romance - has completely infiltrated our love lives in this post-dating world.
As the co-founder of www.WTFIsUpWithMyLoveLife.com, I have encountered the same question, time and time again, from young, single women: should I friend request him on Facebook? I met a man at my friend's birthday party - should I friend request him? I spent 30 minutes talking to this guy on my soccer team at the bar - should I friend request him? I've been Gchatting a lot with my co-worker - should I friend request him?
And then there are the follow-up concerns. What does he think when he receives my friend request? Will he read anything into it? Is it too forward? Should I wait for him to friend request me? What does it mean if he doesn't confirm me right away?
These questions may seem overanalytical, but they plague many of us nonetheless. Facebook is a relatively new reality in the dating scene, and the rules of gender politics, along with the Do's and Don'ts of online etiquette, haven't quite been decided yet.
The best way to get some male perspective on the inevitable intersection of Facebook and Romance? Ask them. So I did. And as with all innovations in the post-dating world, the rules were hazy and the opinions were scattered. But there is definitely something that we women can learn here.
The one thing that every guy agreed on? That they're going to interpret your friend request as a subtle - but clear - sign of romantic interest. Who says that men can't pick up on indirect signals?
"Guys generally think of it as a slightly flirty move when a girl Facebooks him," explains Andy, an entrepreneur in New York City. "You've let him know you're interested, without being too aggressive."
Agrees Jordan, a 26-year-old consultant, "If a girl takes the initiative to friend request you, it's clear that she's putting herself on the line. If she wants to be Facebook friends, she clearly remembers me and wants to keep interacting with me."
Even once you've spent some one-on-one time with a guy, the message only rings louder and clearer. "Getting a friend request from a girl is nice insight that she is interested," says Brad, a media producer in his late 20's. "I got a friend request from a girl soon after a first date, and it was a good way to know that she'd say yes to a second date."
The lesson here? Just be fully aware that when you click on the "Add as Friend" button, you're sending a signal of potential interest. But don't let that stop you - friend requesting a guy can be the perfect compromise of lighting the fire, while still allowing him to ultimately make the first real move and propel the courtship forward (those caveman tendencies never die, do they??).
Weighing in on the romantic traditions that define so many of our male-to-female interactions, Brad appreciates friend requesting because, "Classic gender roles have the man initiating many things. This is something that there is no classic gender role for, and a girl can feel comfortable doing." Yet once your friend request is received, "the ball is in his court," claims Andy.
And instead of scaring guys off or seeming too eager, friend requests can even motivate shyer men to make (legitimate, non-Facebook-oriented) moves. Getting a friend request is "an indication that the girl enjoyed meeting me and wants to maintain a connection," according to Scott, a 20-something lawyer. "Having even that slightest indication of interest would make me more confident to take the initiative and move things along."
But when do friend requests strike guys as strange or premature? "Could a friend request come off as weird, like after meeting just once? Sure," admits Brian, a young financial analyst. "You may run the risk of coming off as a stalker, trying to track down scraps of info and get in touch with someone you barely met." But there is a trick for knowing whether your friend request will be regarded as cool or creepy. Brian subscribes to a clear rule of thumb about new friend requests: "I'd say the more mutual friends you have, the more natural it seems."
That said, don't be shocked if your confirmation email comes a bit later than you'd expected. For guys who like to maintain a little privacy at the beginning stages of courtship, becoming fast and easy Facebook friends may cause more drama than fun. "In general, facebook mixed with dating is a horrible idea," swears Andy. "It feels like an invasion of privacy to have a girl poking around in there before you're serious." He recommends, "if you're already dating someone, steer very clear of Facebooking him until you've been together for more than a few months. Even if you've only been on one date - NO FACEBOOK."
Yet even Andy concedes that friend requesting a guy may be a smart strategy for testing the waters, if he hasn't already come a-knocking. "Facebook is a great passive way to keep in touch," he confesses. And as for following up on an initial meeting via friend request? "Look, there's a 95% chance that he isn't worth a lick if he didn't have the courage to get your phone number, but there's always that 5% chance. Only way to find out for sure? Facebook him."
At our very cores, both modern men and women are adjusting to shifting gender roles and the ever-increasing empowerment of women in the Millennial generation. So why all the games and nuances? What exactly are we all afraid of? Simply put, we're all still afraid of rejection. "The biggest fear anyone has about meeting new people is rejection," acknowledges Jordan. "What if I put myself out there and the other person doesn't want me? What if I'm not good enough? I'd argue that most guys would be excited [by a friend request], because it means that the girl is showing interest and initiative, taking the onus off us men."
Concurs Scott, "I would be incredibly impressed and flattered if the girl took initiative to friend me. Guys like to know where they stand too - especially those of us who are more timid when it comes to the opposite sex."
And if you never make it out of friend purgatory? "For the girl, I have to imagine it's the least worst form of rejection if the guy doesn't accept her friend request," offers Brad.
So...what are you waiting for? Friend request that cute guy and then let the ball sit in his court! We've only got one life to live, right? We might as well reach out and see who wants to be a part of it. "If a girl is interested in a guy she met, she should go ahead and send the friend request. Don't wait for the guy to do it, that's dumb," swears Brian. And besides, "What guy doesn't want to lower the guy-girl ratio of his Facebook friends a little?"
For more on the post-dating world, head over to www.WTFIsUpWithMyLoveLife.com.
Follow Jessica Massa on Twitter: www.twitter.com/jessmassa