One thing I absolutely adore about Facebook is how it has championed subtlety.
It begins nudging your friends two days in advance to wish you a happy birthday. It shows you just how many of your friends are attending that party you weren’t invited to. And when you break up with the love of your college life in the middle of exam week while all your friends are out of town and your beloved dog, Mr. Waggles, just died, Facebook showcases your heartbreak via 37 mini-feed alerts, 26 of which are attached to a broken-heart icon. I believe the other 11 feature Nelson from The Simpsons pointing and laughing.
Facebook asks you to list many things about yourself, from your name and major to your favorite music and religious views. The minifeed then let’s everyone else know what’s up – that you’re no longer interested in “shopping” or can’t get enough of ABC’s sure-to-sweep-the-Emmys Cavemen. Basically, you control the information Facebook puts into its megaphone.
Which is exactly why you should not list your relationship status. Your Facebook relationship status invites everyone to take a front seat to your love life. New boy/girlfriends and breakups become open to public scrutiny. Suddenly the kid who sat behind you in your freshman seminar last year is messaging you to ask if you’re all right. And you thought that his kicking your chair was enough of an intrusion into your life.
In fact, 46 percent of the Northwestern Facebook network chooses not to list their relationship status, and it’s pretty easy to flesh out a few reasons why. For one thing, it makes breakups that much suckier.
“When you have to take [your relationship] off Facebook, it makes the breakup official for sure,” Communication sophomore Krissy Cox said.
My friend recently broke up with her boyfriend of two years. One of the first protests he posed to her was: “Give me a few days before you take it off Facebook. I don’t think I can handle the questions from everybody yet.” In my most recent breakup, I asked my ex-boyfriend to take the status off. I didn’t want to have to deal with it, because, even though it sounds so silly, removing a relationship from Facebook is really emotional.
And it shouldn’t be. Facebook relationship statuses have too much power if they’ve become a major political point of a breakup. Relationships are real, live, breathing things. They shouldn’t be summed up by a heart icon on a social networking site. After a really bad break-up, you need Haagen-Dazs. You need a roommate who doesn’t mind washing the mascara off her sweater after you cry on her shoulder. You do not need a little cartoon broken heart alerting 300 of your and your ex’s closest friends that you’re no longer listed in a relationship.
Maybe, like 23 percent of Northwestern, you’re listed as single.
Cox says she is listed as single simply because she doesn’t have a boyfriend. But why do that, rather than forgo a relationship status altogether?
“People definitely can use Facebook as a dating tool, so if people are looking for a relationship, advertising that they are single on an open profile can be a way of theoretically keeping their options open if people decide to stalk them,” Weinberg senior Samantha Goldstein said.
All right, so Facebook, for better or for worse, is a dating service. But, presumably, you’re not going to stay single forever. You’ll start seeing somebody, and then you can’t keep advertising yourself as single. But maybe you’re not in a full-fledged relationship yet. You’re in a pickle that you’ve created for yourself by letting a Facebook relationship status define your actual relationship status. If Facebook accurately portrayed reality, it would serve up statuses like “It’s Sexual With…” or “We Hooked Up Once, But I Don’t Know If It’s Going Anywhere With With…”
Plus, if you enter a relationship, everyone with access to a computer (so sure, maybe your friends in third world countries will miss out) is going to want to know all the details – pressure a fledgling relationship does not need. Figuring out another human being is difficult enough without your cousins scouring for photos of you and this quarter’s dreamboat. Spare yourself.
Honestly, I don’t have a problem with girls who list themselves as in relationships with other girls, despite a specified interest in “Men.” Guys who are secure enough to do this rock my life. I still think it’s better to go status-less, but I like that this makes a joke out of the entire idea. I know girls who are in relationships but are married to their best friends (chicks before dicks), and others who go to different schools and want to prove their bond has yet to weaken. And, of course, some who are using their pseudo-relationship as a buffer from the cruel reality of listing yourself as “single” after a breakup.
“After a catastrophic breakup, I was in a fake relationship with one of my guy friends. He thought it would make me feel better if I didn’t always have to see ‘single’ whenever I opened up my profile,” Goldstein said. “It actually did cheer me up and we were fake married for about eight months.”
Most of these fake relationships are what make up the 13 percent of Northwestern that list themselves as married, engaged, in an open relationship, or simply “it’s complicated.” If you are actually listing yourself as “it’s complicated” with your significant other, then holy hell, I just don’t even know. You’re not just broadcasting your love life to everyone in your network – you’re actually taking that extra step to let everyone know you’re having problems, too. Wow. Really? I’m betting you’re friends with Lauren Cohn, too.
Okay, ready for a little self-mockery for a change?
In my nearly two years on Facebook, I have been listed as single, married to a guy I’d never met, in a relationship with a long-distance boyfriend, in an open relationship with my roommate, back with the boyfriend and nothing.
Yeah, I’m a bit of an idiot. And a Facebook whore. But I’m speaking from experience. Sure, it’s fun to list your favorite band, but when they break up, it doesn’t blow up on your mini-feed – or in your face. Don’t wait until a shitty breakup or awkward starter-relationship to delete your Facebook relationship status. And don’t let Facebook define how “official” your relationship is. Then you’re just getting caught up in a game where everyone loses. Kind of like that one mini-game in Mario Party (who fucking likes Paddle Battle anyway?).
Besides, now that I’ve settled into my statusless-ness, I don’t plan on changing it (unless, of course, Edward Norton finally accepts my proposal and we drift off into marital bliss). I don’t need Facebook to create an easily digestible reality for my acquaintances. My good friends know what’s up with my love life; creepy chair-kickers do not.
This, however, will all change if Mark Zuckerberg takes a few of my suggestions to heart. New statuses “Drunk Dialed A Few Too Many Times To Be A Coincidence” or “Had Eye Sex in Edit 201 With” are just dying to make a hypocrite out of me.