Thanks to the explosion of mass media and social networking, privacy seems to be little understood in the modern age.

Dublin - Virtual displays of affection are the biggest faux pas of the social media age, according to new research. You know the sort of thing – that couple who can’t confine their mutual adoration within the walls of the home they share, but write public protestations of lurve on each other’s Facebook walls as well.

Well, that trend for expressing love a little too openly online apparently annoys or embarrasses almost half of internet users. So to help keep you on the right side of cool when it comes to online love, here are 10 do’s and don’ts for engaging in virtual displays of affection – or VDAs to those in the know.

1 Do value privacy. Perhaps one of the most precious but threatened commodities on earth; some say privacy is part of what helps to keep the spark alive within a relationship. Thanks to the explosion of mass media and social networking, privacy seems to be little understood in the modern age. But the basic rule of thumb is to avoid saying anything to your partner online or in a public forum that could be better expressed in private.

The premise is that public or “showy” acts of expression can cheapen the sentiment. In other words you just look like a show-off and it puts the rest of us off our breakfast.

2 Don’t make your kids cringe. Before you even contemplate writing about your passion in a public space, spare a thought for what a twist they’ll be in if you have to explain it to your mortified nine-year-old. That’s one heart-to-heart no parent ever wants to face.

3 Do think before you speak. Everyone knows that the internet has changed the way we communicate, and the truly wise adapt their communication style to keep pace. Tone of voice gets “eaten” by the internet, so what might sound like funny sarcasm in person when accompanied by facial expressions and body language can come across as disingenuousness when read on a screen. Refrain from writing anything online that you wouldn’t be prepared to say to someone’s face.

4 Don’t forget the internet is forever. That you may never be able to erase what you write online from the annals of time is one of those scary facts that people wield from time to time to make us behave. But if it’s true, you might want to bear that in mind when you’re declaring your undying love on a virtually eternal basis to someone you hadn’t even met this time last week.

5 Do be sure your virtual sins will find you out. What you say or “do” online has a canny way of catching up with you. Think before you click on anything irreversible. And remember the “off” button may sometimes be the wisest move you make.

6 Don’t air your dirty laundry online. There’s only one thing worse than excessively schmaltzy virtual displays of affection, and that’s bitter, venomous fall-outs played out online before an awkward, captive audience. Celebs do this a lot. But beware: what seems like a cathartic outburst of righteous indignation now might become an ill-judged lesson in the bitter taste of regret by the morning. By all means write it, just save it to drafts. Then you’ll feel better without making a fool of yourself.

7 Do be sincere. Sincerity, like privacy, is vastly underrated these days. But insincerity doesn’t carry well across the ether. So if you don’t mean it, don’t say it, because a back-handed compliment or a half-hearted sentiment probably won’t go undetected.

8 Don’t write for anyone else’s benefit. Crowing online about your husband’s culinary skills tends to make it look as though you’re boasting to friends whose husbands are less gastronomically well-endowed. It’s just more straightforward to dish out compliments direct, without the middle men.

My friend Angela says she always worries about couples who communicate their affection virtually.

“Why do they think everyone else needs to witness that?” she asks. “I always wonder why just saying it to each other isn’t enough. And why say your partner is the best wife/husband in the whole world? Are we supposed to assume they think their partner is substandard unless we’re otherwise informed via the internet?”

9 Do remember that actual reality exists. The thing about being overly expressive online is that you can easily lose the ability to express yourself in reality. Are you forgetting to express affection in person? I’m fairly certain that most people I know would rather hear heartfelt sentiment in person than a gushy bit of flattery online.

10 Don’t avoid emotion. If you are going to engage in a display of affection (virtual or otherwise) at least do it wholeheartedly and unapologetically. Tell someone why you love them, give a compliment, pay it forward. Just say it sincerely, and if no one else needs to hear it ditch the audience.

Sharing affection isn’t a spectator sport, and true emotions don’t always need witnesses. – Irish Independent