Facebook Ruins Relationships

Facebook relationship statuses.  Who hasn’t been rocked to the core by a dramatic change in a friend’s relationship status in your news feed?  Maybe you’ve even been the victim of an unintended announcement to the world about the state of your love-life. As a Facebook veteran, I’m here to save you the embarrassment and show you the ins-and-outs of Facebook and the ever important “relationship status”.

What relevance does this have to your life, you ask?  Well, here’s the deal folks…my mother is on Facebook.  That’s right I said “mother”.  So, this basically means that everyone is on Facebook now.  In the 18-30 demographic, Facebook is huge.  And for this demographic, the phrase generally rings true “it’s not real unless it’s on Facebook”.  This phrase is especially true for relationships and relationship statuses.  Even if you’re not on Facebook, not in a relationship, and will never want to tell the world who you’re dating on a social networking site, I think you might find this quick tutorial essential for understanding your peers.

A basic overview:

*A Facebook relationship status is found on both the left-hand corner ‘profile badge’ and on the main information page.

*Facebook relationship statuses can be hidden.  In other words, putting this information on your Facebook is optional

*Relationship statuses are linkable.  This feature allows you to inform anyone who looks at your profile exactly who you’re in a relationship with, including a link to their Facebook profile.

*The following categories are offered, enabling you to describe the nature of your relationship:  single, in a relationship, in an open relationship, engaged, married, separated, widowed, divorced, and finally ‘it’s complicated’.

*Unless you specify otherwise, any change in your relationship status will show up in your friends newsfeed.  This includes new relationships being added and old relationships ending.  Some examples include (click link for enlarged screen captures):

Above, a person declares singledom. Below: a new relationship begins, including a link to an actual person.

Alright, so what does this all mean?

It means I’m here to tell you that there are certain ways to behave with Facebook and relationships that are appropriate.

First and foremost, I think it’s necessary to address the fact that it is optional to have a relationship status on your profile in the first place. Listing nothing can be very effective.  This can cover you if you’re single or in a relationship that is undefinable, or in a definable relationship and prefer less drama.  I applaud you for keeping your business private!

If you do choose to have a relationship posted to your Facebook, you have the option of linking a name to this.  Some people choose to link their significant other’s name to their relationship, providing an easy link for Facebook-stalkers to see this person’s profile or picture; others choose to go the private route and inform the world that they are, in fact, off the market, but to remain tight-lipped about the details.  Either option is acceptable, but be aware of the consequences of having someone attached to your relationship status.  This includes inviting Facebook-stalkers as well as tough situations should you end the relationship.And please, for the love…don’t be in a relationship or marriage with your best friend.  Girls, I’m looking at you.  It was cute in 2004.  It’s passe now.

Be aware that some individuals may find that a relationship is not “Facebook official” unless the individuals both acknowledge the relationship on their profile and include a personal link to one another via “in a relationship with…” Some men and women are willing to bend the rules of dating based on this judgement of “Facebook official” or not.  Don’t stone the messenger here, I’m just reporting what I hear.

Another important thing to point out is that savvy Facebook users will be able to tell who actually ended a Facebook relationship.  True, you may have gotten dumped via text message at a party; but the minute you run home and end your Facebook ties..unless you adjust your privacy settings..your status will change completely and your partner’s status will only remove your name.  For instance, if Jane Doe is a relationship with John Smith, and Jane Doe ends this relationship on Facebook, Jane Smith’s status will now say “single” and John Smith’s status will now simply say “in a relationship”.  Whether you were the instigator of this break-up or parting of ways, the social network implications will be discussed among those who have very little to do.  Trust me..

The timing of your relationship status change can also be important.  Entering into or exiting from a relationship too soon can, indeed, be an embarrassment.  Trigger-happy women often ‘jump the gun’ in sending a relationship requests to men, who find  a Facebook relationship to be a serious step forward.  I’m not sure what an appropriate timeline is for declaring yourself on Facebook, but I think anything less than 3 months can be presumptuous without a mutual discussion beforehand.  If your relationship status is “single”, maybe it’s time to take that feature off your profile for a while, or be ‘in a relationship’ without a connection.

Trigger-happy men exist too, but they’re more likely involved in ending Facebook relationships.  Trust me,  men, when I say your girlfriend’s friends will all call you an asshole if you publicly end a Facebook relationship and leave your ex hanging in the unlinked “In a relationship” while you proudly advertise your “single” status.  Best leave that information off your profile for a period of time, proportional to the serious nature and length of the previous relationship.  Save yourself the embarrassment of being “that person” and go low-key with the ending of a Facebook official relationship.

I know this sounds trivial, but in all honesty, this is the environment we’re living in.  Social networking is becoming increasingly relevant and more information is being put out, intentionally and otherwise, for the world to see.  I think it’s important to behave in a responsible manner, especially when it comes to relationships and social networking.  I have seen many friends make poor judgments regarding Facebook relationship statuses, and I myself have had to cancel a long-term relationship on Facebook.  It can be tricky, but I really believe there are responsible ways to do this.  Ultimately the choice is yours, I suppose, but I think there’s nothing worse than being a bitter, dramatic person at the end of a relationship…unless, of course, it’s being a bitter, dramatic person ending a Facebook relationship.

Images courtesy of Laura Messer, via Facebook.  Names removed to protect the innocent.