Hey, old people!  By which I mean: hey, people my age! If you’ve been wondering what dating wisdom you can usefully impart to your teenage or soon-to-be teenage kids, you should read Stephanie Martin’s thoughtful post on Dating in the Social Media Age. Stephanie writes:

Before, during, and even after dating someone we will all nonchalantly take a little peek online to see what our significant others are up to and this goes for any type of social media. Some people might find themselves asking, is this even healthy? Well, truth is that it’s only natural to be curious….

Somehow I still find myself wondering what it would have been like dating when none of this unnecessary drama even existed. Ah, now wouldn’t that be nice? Just imagine a world where there wasn’t the constant feeling like somebody is watching every little thing you do or that you have to constantly keep tabs on this person to make sure they’re treating you right. I’m sure you’ve all gotten “the speech” from your parents: “Well back in my day…” Yeah yeah, we know. These days, it’s almost like you can figure out so much information about a person just by looking at what they put out online for everyone to see.

Your kids may sigh when you start a “back in my day” speech, but they need to hear it: they need to hear what it was like to discover someone for the first time, the joyful unfolding. They need to hear about the nightmare of being 30 minutes into a date (a truly blind date — remember those?) and realizing you have absolutely nothing in common.

They need to hear about it not to know what they have missed, but to know what they can achieve. Because each and every one of our kids can make conscious choices about how much to research, or creep, and how much to enjoy the process of discovery.

But they can only make those conscious choices if we guide them: if we tell them what was great about pre-Internet dating, and what was truly terrible.

And as we tell them, we remind ourselves: there is nothing about the Internet that dooms us to live our lives or our relationships in a specific way. It’s up to each and every one of us to decide how to live our lives online, and what kind of online world we want to make, together.