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Image: Love online
Anthony Lee  /  Getty Images/OJO Images
Technology + Love = Grayscale. You've been warned.
msnbc.com contributor
updated 1/31/2011 2:00:28 PM ET 2011-01-31T19:00:28

Valentine's Day, or more properly St. Valentine's Day if you please, was invented a bazillion years ago by Catholics, not Hallmark.

It wasn't fully conceived in its modern formwith all the heart-shaped letters, and an economy of chocolates and diamonds for nooky and/or forgiveness. No, we can thank the French for coming up with poetry-filled cards and Chaucer (perhaps) for making it smutty with associations to romantic love.

Point is, Valentine's Day changes with the times, and even now you're probably already screwing it up with technology by texting and tweeting. Here are some dos and don'ts when combining technology with love.

Dating Etiquette
Don't text on dates. That should be really simple, but some of you whack jobs need more explicit detail.

Most people think of dates like interviews. You try to be on your best behavior in the hopes of tricking someone into "hiring" you. It's ironic that often both people want to impress, rather than vet, their opposite. But it's also sort of nice, in the modern world, to see people try to be endearing and sweet.

Against this backdrop, it should be obvious that you Turn Off Your Cellphone on a date. You want the person you’re out with to know that he or she is the most important item on your to-do list, so to speak. If you have to leave the phone on (because you're Jack Bauer or whatever) it's OK to check incoming calls. But unless the caller is your sick mom or the president, leave it for voicemail.

There's simply no excuse for texting … unless he or she is in the bathroom.

Fake beers don’t get you drunk; fake flowers don’t get you …
Breakups follow Valentine’s Day like depression spikes on Christmas: Expectations are never met.

Unfortunately, the only surefire way to remedy this is by lowering expectations. Expect restaurants to be packed, not cozy; expect your jerk of a boyfriend to be a jerk and forget your favorite flower/gemstone/color. He is a jerk after all. What do you expect? Still, setting expectations low isn't much fun, now is it?

No. The second best way to stave off disappointment is to not be such a colossal jerk. Put some effort into getting/making a real card with ribbons and quotes from your private shared vocabulary (or whatever). Don’t Facebook digital chocolates, or send a Hallmark e-card. That’s for grade-A jerks that deserve to get dumped.

Cards from Someecards.com, of course, are exempt from this advice because they're hilarious. If your sweetie pie agrees, he or she doesn’t care if you blow Valentine’s anyway. He or she is a keeper.

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There are some things you can't do virtually
Not that, you perv.

Well, that too, but even beforehand, remember talking and eye contact are the actions that keep momentum going in new, and even old, relationships. Avoid the pitfall of many texters and make sure to have some real contact here and there, especially early on.

A budding relationship can’t be maintained by texts and IMs. It's a density-of-information issue. Voice, with its intonation and timing, carries a great deal more information and allows for flirting, humor, sarcasm or unmasked naked desire in a way "gr8 c-ing u last night" just doesn't.

Texting isn't all bad. It can bridge those unavoidable gaps between talking on the phone or seeing one another IRL. In the long run, however, remember: Texting is to voice and in-person communication what long-distance relationships are to, you know, ones that work out.

Facebook: Do not friend!
You've had a good date, or two or three, and you want to keep in touch. What do you do? Well for sure what you don’t do is ask to be Facebook friends.

It’s too much, and it’s too quick. Facebook is a place for friends and relative strangers. It isn’t for new beaus and belles. Here’s why:

A) Your new dream-pal may be dating other folk. Don’t turn Facebook into an arena where you dorks vie for his/her attention.

B) It’s too soon. Facebook is all up in your business, with appearances by friends, family and old pals from high school. It’s like a long, dragged-out Thanksgiving weekend. You don’t friend someone on Facebook for the same reason you don’t invite yourself over for Thanksgiving after a couple of dates; if it doesn’t work out, everybody loses.

The Internet: It's no Virginia
So what if you do become an item and you do become Facebook pals (which I believe we talked about just a page ago, you ingrate)? And what if you’re the kind of netizen who regularly tweets or blogs, or whatever? Well, you have a conundrum.

Your private life is, wait for it … private. But the Internet really isn’t. So how do you reconcile this?

First, remember that it’s crazy low-class to communicate your spats or pillow talk in public, regardless. You should have learned this either by being in high school or by staring into the horror show of reality TV. Unsurprisingly, the whole mess isn’t much improved when your audience is friends and family, as on Facebook.

Second, set rules with your sweetie about your public persona! Whether you’re sharing opinions on the deficit or engaging in weird kinky fooling-around, that’s between you two. Before either of you crazy kids bloggo-tweet-a-flickrs about it, the other should get a chance to veto. Work out a system!

Don’t be an idiot with your virtual paper trail
I feel icky giving advice to cheaters, but seriously you monkeys, get your acts together so my GF isn’t tempted to sneak into my email! The Mark Sanfords and Tiger Woods of the world need to stop using technology they can’t handle.

Whether you’re an all-American (and married) golfer texting (boring) messages to your string of trysts, or a “values-voting” governor emailing Argentina, you’re going to get caught if you don’t know what you’re doing.

If you don’t know how and where your unwise notes leave an impression, don’t send them. Idiot! Technology makes it easier to communicate for sure, but one nice thing about love letters was that once burned, they stayed burned.

Don’t read your significant other’s email
The mirror of establishing a cheatMail account is deciding whether to rifle your honey’s email when it’s left tantalizingly open on an accessible computer.

Tough question.

One guy I know admitted you should NEVER do that … but he would every time, which is the problem really, isn’t it?

The most ethical person I know says snooping is unforgivable … unless 1) you totally think your dearest is cheating, 2) you’ve tried talking with no success and, 3) lots is at stake – like you have two kids and are thinking of another.

Qualified as that is, I’m unconvinced. It’s not like your injured relationship will be fundamentally altered by proof (or healed by snooping) is it? Basically, you want to fight/talk, and you’re looking for justification. The whole point of a relationship though is you don’t need a reason. Talk it over, then talk some more.

If that doesn’t work, there’s always eHarmony.

You will be Googled/Bing-ed
Let's say you fail at some point, say epically. Like maybe you decide to knit a poncho for a chicken and try to sell it online . Well, in the age of Google, that lasts. It lasts forever. If you're not careful, it could become THE thing you're known for. Which is sort of sad (unless you plan to date shivery chickens, in which case, tally-ho!).

The digital footprint of everything you do or have done is available for the world to see. And that means you're going to have to make up for it, oh, and be really careful in the future. Why? Because unless you plan to date the Amish exclusively, your future boyfriend or girlfriend will have Googled you.

What this means for you is twofold. First, do things! Make sure, for instance, you’ve spoken at enough panels and conferences to push your DUI to the second page of results.

Second, either make peace with the real you or keep it very cleverly hidden. The Internet likes to see you fail. So fail quietly when you have to fail at all.

Do look at exes on Flickr
Most of this article has been cautionary. Don’t do this, don’t tweet that. One nice development of the Internet though is that your exes probably put their pics up on Flickr or some other photo-sharing site and their vids up on YouTube. You should totally look at that crap. It’s hilarious.

It also beats the heck out of drunk dialing. Drunk Flickr instead. It’s the perfect way to realize your ex has grown fat or bald or changed genders before you overcommit by calling him or her.

You know that creeping regret you feel a month or two after breaking up with someone? This cures that. Unless he or she has moved on and started dating an investment banker/supermodel.

Be Daniel Harrison’s full-time lover on Twitter and part-time friend on Facebook.

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