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Remember when I wrote about the new site Cloud Girlfriend, and how it was still in testing mode and not yet live? Well, it came to life this week, and it’s a little different from the original spin.

Even though the name of the site hasn’t changed, girls as well as guys can now sign up for the service free of charge. Not sure what made them go in another direction, but turns out the site will NOT be doing stuff like posting on users’ walls and the like (in order to, as they originally aimed,  boost one’s dateability and appeal in the eyes of prospective interests).

Here’s the twist- Cloud Girlfriend’s new mission is summed up pretty well in one of the changing taglines on its homepage: “Cloud flirting. Practice here.” Shy of actually signing up for an account and putting it to the firsthand test (sorry! haha), what I’ve gleaned from articles is that it’s basically a romantic fantasy world. You know how you create an avatar of yourself if you’re playing a video game or Wii? You do the same thing here except the avatar is idealized to your heart’s content-your ideal physique, looks, dream job, everything. The site then matches you up with someone whose idealized self is compatible with your fake self. It’s the beginning of a beautiful faux-mance!

With Cloud Girlfriend’s updates, the good news is that now you no longer have to worry that the gushy and overly attentive posts on your crush’s wall were in part fabricated by him or her. The bad news? I just don’t see how engaging in romantic fantasy is going to help a shy person get better at real relationships, as the site’s founders are touting. Even if two users form a true connection despite the walls they’ve created with false personas, they still have to let down all their hangups and insecurities. It’s hard enough to do that in real life!

And I have to admit, even though I thought the original premise was kind of weird, it was certainly original. (This just seems like a dating version of a Facebook app!) But hey- you never know.

Readers: What do you think? Does interacting with others under avatars help you beyond the game-playing role itself?

Quick test! Have you got the knack of Tweeting down to its awesome micro-blogging science? Can you put together 140-character updates in a snap and get in everything you wanna say?

Well, short and sweet has its advantages, but not when it comes to relationships, apparently. Not according to one of the hilarious charts that dating site OKCupid put together (check out chart 4!). Yep, that’s right, a whole TWO MONTHS shorter and sweeter. Maybe all that connectedness and succinctness come with a price?!

How long are your average relationships? And how many social media sites do you actively participate in? If you’re not married, have you seen the longevity of your relationships decrease as you use more and more social media sites, apps, etc?

I recently purchased an original Nintendo system from eBay, and it got me thinking. As I’ve mentioned, I can be slow to embrace technology. This has nothing to do with not actually LIKING technology. (I joined Facebook as soon as it opened up at my university back in 2005.) It’s just that I like continuity, and the fast-paced, upgradeability of technology just isn’t my thing.

But, well, the landscape is changing. Of EVERYTHING. And relationships, romantic or otherwise will never be the same thanks to technology, and some of those tried-and-true rules that our moms told us (whether about guys or finding a new job) no longer hold water. Don’t call him? OK, but what if he doesn’t know how to use that ‘dial’ button on his smartphone? (Does anyone know how to use that button anymore??) Some remnants of the old-fashioned kind of love might remain, but we’re on our way out.

Nintendo or Xbox? Phone call or text message? There’s nothing wrong with preferring it old school, or embracing the new technology-fused style. But either way, the biggest change might have to be our expectations. It’s not as easy to write someone off for not following the “correct” (and perhaps outdated) approach! (Time to reassess those dealbreakers, maybe?)

Oh brother. As if the dating scene isn’t complicated enough, get this! An online service is in the works to create “cloud girlfriends” for guys wanting to get out this message: they’re taken.

Except, NOT. The girlfriend won’t be real. But the messages and comments left for all the world to see on social networking sites WILL be. Sort of. They’ll be managed behind the scenes of the “Cloud Girlfriend” service by real people, but it’s all about impressions. Changing social perceptions, founder David Fuhriman describes it. The basic rationale behind this startup is: when you’re not on the market (yet clearly highly desirable as evidenced by how often this “girlfriend” interacts with you), you become more appealing as a potential romantic prospect.

So, if you really believe that girls fall for the you-always-want-what-you-can’t-have aspect of a guy (and admittedly, some do to an extent), this might be the perfect fit for you. You’ll even get to cherry pick the features of your cloud girlfriend. (Who does not exist, but that’s besides the point.)

The service isn’t up and running quite yet. If you click on over, there’s an entry field for interested folks to enter their email address so they can be added to the invite list. There’s also a disclaimer at the top: “Due to high demand we are only able to accommodate a limited number of users to the site.” (Um, psychological persuasion much?! Isn’t it kind of ironic that the website is possibly using the very same tactic of limited supply to get people to sign up? Just my opinion!)

What do you think? What would you do if you found out the guy you were seeing (who conveniently “got out of” a relationship to be with you) was faking it all along? Isn’t there an easier way to build some confidence and get out there?! Or, do you think there’s nothing wrong with it?

P.S. Any male readers wanna volunteer to try this out and report back??

OK, I caved. I’m back on Facebook, as of Monday. I know, I know… But still, I don’t know if  caved is the right word. It definitely was not spurred by a dying-t0-reconnect impulse; I just decided I’d been way long enough for it not to be such a distraction for me.  And I’ve definitely become more, shall we say, suspicious of the entire aspect of this social media tool, so I’m treading extra carefully.

I’d closed my account initially because Facebook  can be one (or both) of two things: a great and terrible time waster, and an end-to-all-privacy free for all. But those things are totally manageable with a few simple rules.

The Do’s and Don’ts:

DO

Master the Comment Response vs. Wall Post Response
If your reply to a post on your wall is no biggie to be viewed by your friends but NOT open info to the commenter’s friends, post a comment on the wall post. If non-mutual friends don’t need to be on the know of every single detail, write your response on the friend’s wall (or just send a message) instead. (Ugh, yes it’s complicated! But you really DO have to be this intricate!)

Keep Your Profile to the Minimum
Name, birthdate if you like getting birthday shoutouts, and favorite books, TV shows,whatever (you know, just to appear somewhat interesting). The more you add on to that, the more you enter into that sneaky and insidious no-more-privacy territory…

Get Email Notifications
You would think that opting for MORE emails would be a hassle, but really it has the opposite effect! I just started doing this, and it’s awesome. There’s far less temptation to be sucked in to the not-so-earth-shattering updates on your Newsfeed if you can just get friends’ wall posts and messages sent to your email. Yes, you could just tinker with your Newsfeed options, but Facebook has a sneaky way of optimizing what you pick and finding inane little tidbits to distract you. (Do I really need to know that not just one but TEN of my friends changed their profile pictures?) Trust me: keeping logins to a minimum is half the battle!!

DON’T

Hit the “Unfriend” Button Unless You’re REALLY Sure
Umm, yeah,  it will definitely make you feel foolish when you have to explain to someone that you  unfriended them in a moment of annoyance, and will they please re-accept your friend request? Especially if they’re a member of the opposite sex, because they probably didn’t even know they annoyed you. On the same token though, don’t…

Hesitate to Unfriend People You Will Likely Never See Again
It’s pretty easy to gauge whether or not someone would even say hello to you if they ran into you on the street. Or if you’d say hello to them. If an exchange of words in person would be awkward, why keep them on your friend list?

Be Afraid to Ignore
Facebook is nothing if not one big, gigantic social pressure cesspool. Don’t you hate when you haven’t had time to get back to someone so they resort to the just-reminding-you-that-I’m-still-waiting wall post that is innocently disguised as an “oh hi” message? We’ve all done it. Don’t give in to the pressure! And if something really irks you, let it slide. Ignoring is often the best combat!

Select the “Keep Me Logged In” Option
This isn’t an Internet security or privacy issue. I mean, it CAN be, but I’ve discovered that simply logging out and logging in every time I wanna use Facebook prevents me from checking it a gazillion times a day! Who knew? Yes, sometimes laziness CAN have benefits!

Do you feel like Facebook sucks away too much time or privacy? Do you have any special preferences or keep any specific privacy settings?

I’ve always been slow to accept new technology. I don’t really do gadgets, never have. I don’t have a smartphone, an iPod, or any Blu-Ray DVDs. And I’m pretty sure somewhere in my bedroom there lies a Walkman that just never made it to the trash pile 10 years ago.

Still, I’ve slowly been opening up to the idea of broadening my technology horizons. An iPad, perhaps. A Kindle, maybe. After all, we’re not exactly gonna go in reverse. Technology is only gonna get more intricate, more prevalent. Am I missing out in love, life, and the pursuit of all things happy by clinging to the tried and true?

It’s been a month since I closed my Facebook account, and so far all is well. Not even a chunk of sky has fallen. So in the interest of figuring out if new(er) technologies {or Facebook reactivation} are in my future, I’ve come up with a list. Is technology good or evil for my quasi love life?

The Pros

  • No more waiting. For the phone to ring, that is. Now that texting and IMing have become the norm, we gals don’t have to sit by the phone for the guy to call, because he won’t. Ever. We can just tell ourselves that he’s been driving…for an entire week nonstop…and is diligently keeping both hands away from that touchpad.
  • Online dating. You know, if that’s your thing. A menu of options whenever, wherever.
  • What distractions? Seriously, who needs to sit and wait when you can stalk your friends/enemies/exes, play Scramble, and stream music all at the same time?
  • Instant consolation and advice. Technology means we’re just one status update or Tweet away from plenty of advice from any of hundreds of contacts.
  • Fewer bad first dates. That’s what a quick Google search is for, right? Weed out the bad ones, at least on the big stuff that can be gleaned from that questionable profile photo.

The Cons

  • No filtering out creepers. Technology is CONVENIENT. A lot of great, awesome guys take advantage of that convenience. And a lot of weird, lazy loser guys who might not make any grand effort otherwise also know how to use technology to be…creepy.
  • No privacy. You need only Google, well, yourself to see how much info is out there to all, not to mention prospective love interests. (Double con if your name is not very common!)
  • 24/7 contact.
    Great for emergencies, but it also leaves the door wide open for unreasonable pressure to respond…on someone else’s timeline. It seems the greater the number of ways you can be contacted (and seen logging in and status-updating), the less likely someone is to believe that you are actually busy. You know, that reason that used to be totally LEGIT for fully employed, gym-going, 7-8-hours-of-sleep-needing adults?

OK, so maybe I’m not quite sold. I’m just very wary of letting another gadget or social media outlet into my life. I’m sure I’ve missed some of the pros though, so feel free to clue me in!

Well, now it’s legit. The “less than” symbol and number three combo, <3, has officially been added to the Oxford English Dictionary! That combo in conjunction with its symbolic counterpart, the heart symbol (♥ ), are now synonymous with love in verb form. Here’s the explanation given:

♥ to heart: The graphic symbol – which will be found alongside the word ‘heart’ and listed as a verb meaning ‘to love’ – is the first of its kind to be included in the comprehensive reference work.

Hmm…what effect, if any, might this have on relationships? After all, it’s hard enough already to get to the “I love you” stage–no one wants to be the first to say it. Now that “to heart” means “to love”, are we gonna see more copouts? Will this redefinition of a very innocent symbol just add to the miscommunication? (New dealbreaker: any guy who thinks it’s OK to tell me he “hearts” me before ‘I love you’.)

I guess we should have known this was coming. After all, “I NY” has reached iconic status as a logo for New York  since its launch in 1969, but no one ever fought for the heart’s addition into a dictionary. It’s only more recently, now that you can type two keys in Facebook chat and Gchat and create the symbol, that the heart as verb has become a true phenomenon. And the editors behind the OED took note. Well, you know what they say: once something’s on Facebook, it’s official!

What do you think about this precedent? Do you hate it? Or do you heart it?

* Check out the full list of added words, as well as OED editor John Simpson’s thoughts, here. (My fave? “Rub-a-dub”! I mean, why not??)