You see the words every day: “What’s on your mind?” Or “Compose new tweet…” But if you’re not careful, what you drop into those text boxes could compromise your attempts to secure a very important follower: her!
Women aren’t turning to social media to find out where guys went on vacation and certainly not to see what’s in their boxers. Instead, they’re increasingly using it to find out how men interact with others. By now we all have years of our social histories out there for the viewing, and women don’t always give the thumbs-up to what they find. “There are certain turnoffs – bragging or rudeness, for instance – that will send a lot of women running in the other direction,” says Kathleen Bogle, a sociologist at LaSalle University and the author of Hooking Up.
Worse, you might be programmed to commit some of those mistakes yourself – like when you blab about your seats at the cricket or the size of your new TV – simply because men and women use social media differently. “Men are more likely to use social media to broadcast,” says Vinita Mehta, a psychotherapist in Washington, DC. “But women interact with friends and build relationships.”
So how do you sync up your own social media MO with her preferences? Simple: speak up but adjust your approach. “Connecting with people, and not simply posting photos of yourself leaping from a plane, will help pique her interest,” Mehta says. Follow these rules to emerge clean from her first Google search – and maybe even develop a follower for life.
RULE 1 Manage the Details
Both men and women are hardwired to sniff around online. While you may just be looking for sexy pics, women prowl because they’re generally more cautious, says psychologist Julie Gurner, who speaks about social networks and relationships. They’re scanning for subtle red flags, like an “It’s Complicated” relationship status, says Tina Tessina, the author of Love Styles. “She’s curious about your history and how you engage people.”
Leave some mystery
Don’t leak too much intel too soon. Set your Facebook profile to “friends only” and weed out shots of exes, updates on past relationships and anything too personal. You’ll temper her jealous streak and leave some mystery, Mehta says. Then wait three dates before friending her, says Randi Zuckerberg, a former Facebook marketing executive and the author of Dot Complicated. “If you’re not ready to introduce her to your friends and family in real life, don’t introduce them virtually.” If this bothers her, go retro: give her a call and say you’d rather talk than type.
RULE 2 Show Your Sliver
We tend to forget that only tiny slivers of people’s lives are aired on social media. So make sure your sliver is strong: “If a guy Instagrams an impressive dish he cooked or scenes from a hike he went on, he’ll win a woman’s heart in a second,” Zuckerberg says. Play up the posts that show your best qualities, Tessina says, but don’t take it too far. “You don’t have to be perfect,” she says. “She’ll overlook indiscretions as long as the behaviour seems to be safely in the past.” That beer bong is safely in your past, right?
Put that camera to work. “Women want men who can take care of themselves,” Tessina says. “If you build something, share it.” But take one kind of photo out of circulation – anything with a woman who isn’t a friend or a family member. “It won’t make you look attractive,” says Alicia Clark, a clinical psychologist. “It’ll just look suspicious. She’s not just thinking, ‘Who is this girl?’ She’s also thinking, ‘What is he trying to say about himself by uploading that photo?’ ”
RULE 3 Beware Your Buds
You might need to tell your pals to put a sock in it. “Research shows that information posted by your friends can be more meaningful in forming impressions than info you generate on your own,” says Catalina Toma, an assistant professor of communications at the University of Wisconsin who studies social networks and online dating. “So it matters what your social network contributes. What people post about you can be viewed as more credible and less likely to be manipulated.”
Control the conversation
Most networks make it easy to monitor what’s being said about you. Set up push notifications on your accounts to display on your phone when someone responds to an update. If it’s problematic, consider wiping it out. Where and when your buddies tag you are just as revealing as the comments themselves. If you’d rather not show the world that you’re back at the sports bar for a second night in a row, simply adjust your privacy settings so that your approval is required whenever someone tries to ID you.
RULE 4 Build Relationships
Because women prefer to engage, not broadcast, they dominate networks like Facebook (58% of users) and Pinterest (70%), Mehta says. They value empathetic effort – trying to understand what someone is about, according to a recent Harvard Medical School study. Men prefer networks that allow them to broadcast and climb ladders, such as Google+ (64% men) and LinkedIn (54%). “This may reflect evolutionary states,” Mehta says. “It’s thought that men seek status and women seek relationships.”
Talk with, not to
Time to start being more chatty. “Women want men who are accessible,” says Clark. “She’s judging if you’re a good friend and, ultimately, if you’ll be a good boyfriend.” The same rule applies when you interact with her directly: if she tweets about her marathon training, offer advice or encouragement. Focus on her interests and not, say, how good she looks in running shorts. “If you wouldn’t address her looks that way offline,” Gurner says, “don’t do it online.”
RULE 5 Stop the Selfies
Thanks to the rise of Instagram, millions of guys now let their megapixels do most of the talking. And there’s a good chance she’s listening. The Social Habit 2012 study by Edison Research, which tracks trends in social media, found that 61% of Instagram users checked their feed at least once in the previous 24 hours. That means photos – and yes, those clunky 15-second clips – are quickly becoming the primary language of social media, so hit “record” with caution.
Think before you shoot
The more you point your lens away from yourself, the better, says Toma. “Users who post a great deal of self-promoting content can be perceived as more narcissistic,” Toma says. “Taking too many selfies or posing alone may also be a red flag. It’s a social network and that’s antisocial behaviour.” Meaningful updates will resonate more deeply with her than what you ate at lunch. Toma advises favouring cool, surprising scenes from your life rather than that hot dog you’re about to wolf down.
* By Sarah Jacobsson Purewal