Once upon a time, people performed a sacred ritual upon entering a relationship. After going through a series of mental and emotional preparations, they clicked the option “in a relationship” on their Facebook profile page, and voila, they officially shed their dreaded single status.
That wasn’t long ago, back when we were hormone-driven high school and middle school kids eagerly claiming maturity. But times have changed. According to a Buzzfeed survey of 80,000 young adults last year, 43 percent considered changing their relationship status as “something cheesy I’d never do.”
Instead, nowadays when a couple decides to announce their relationship status, their friends may find themselves being bombarded by either insinuating photos of hand-holding or overt cheek-to-cheek selfies on Instagram and Snapchat.
However, don’t claim just yet that the Facebook feature has gone out of style. Going Facebook official can still be relevant in college, albeit for different reasons.
“Any sort of symbol of a relationship with somebody, whether [it] be like a promise ring, a t-shirt or a keychain, is going to make your relationship stronger,” said Evan Bunin, a Medill sophomore who went Facebook official this year with his current girlfriend after dating for one month.
Bunin said he made the decision with great excitement, considering that it’s his first time having a girlfriend. He changed his status without asking his girlfriend, which surprised her, but she soon reciprocated by changing her status as well.
“I was proud to show that I finally had a girlfriend, and that ‘Hey! I was not gay,’” Bunin said, responding to a joke that previously circulated among his friends about his sexuality.
Despite acknowledging the significance of changing a status, Bunin said the decision was largely spontaneous. People wouldn't go Facebook official simply for the sake of doing it, he said.
“I don’t think it’s something you plan out. [It’s] unlike proposing to somebody, but it doesn’t mean it’s empty,” Bunin said.
He also said that the relationship status feature, just like other features of social media, is convenient for communicating to a large number of people or to the so-called “Facebook friends” that one almost never talks to.
“If you go to a restaurant, you tag yourself at the restaurant, and normally you wouldn’t call somebody and say, ‘Hey, I’m at a restaurant’,” Bunin said. “I think it’s the same thing with the relationship.”
Weinberg sophomore Bryce Halloran, who has been dating his girlfriend for two months but hasn't changed his relationship status, said that, in general, going Facebook official in college means more commitment to the current relationship.
“People generally have more casual relationships in college, so they are less likely to change their status,” Halloran said.
Halloran briefly changed his Facebook relationship status as a sophomore in high school during a short relationship. However, in college, he said he only enters a relationship and changes his status after being largely sure about not breaking up anytime soon.
Bunin agreed that at this point in college, some people would want to make their relationship a long-lasting one.
“When I think of a future, I think of us together,” Bunin said.
In addition, Bunin said people’s actions on Facebook can reveal whether they are devoted to their relationships.
“Say you know a person that was in a relationship and just broke up with somebody.” Bunin said. “Then a week later they went Facebook official with somebody else. You can actually learn something about that person.”
McCormick senior Alex Tabing agreed. She has been with her girlfriend for almost two and a half years but hasn’t changed her Facebook status, not only because she doesn’t think a post on social media really adds anything to the relationship, but also because she is unsure about how her Facebook friends would perceive the status.
“Being gay or queer adds another dimension to relationships on social media,” Tabing said. “You are often Facebook friends with family or peripheral people in your life that you haven’t explicitly come out to, and so changing your relationship status would also automatically ‘out’ you to them virtually, which can be weird, I think.”
As for Bunin, he said that he has received all positive feedback from friends on Facebook, including lots of congratulations and compliments.
Even when some people expressed their surprise at how soon he announced his relationship status on social media, Bunin said he didn't really care about those comments. He would not base his relationship decisions on other people’s opinions.
Still, he said he recognizes the responsibility and devotion behind those three words on the profile page.
“At the end of the day, when you push that button, you are telling a lot of people that you like that girl,” Bunin said.