“The Socially Awkward Network”
My first encounter with the age-old question of “Should I put my relationship status on Facebook?” happened when I was a 19-year old college sophomore. This was during the very special time in history that I like to refer to as the “Facebook heyday.”
Pseudo-emotional song-lyric statuses cluttered my newsfeed, “check-ins” were bountiful, and your mom had yet to create an account. If you were cool and dating someone, you made sure to note that you were “In a Relationship” on your profile, followed by that person’s name, which then of course linked you to their profile.
That year, I started dating my first-ever then-boyfriend. Within weeks of us dating, the question arose (from him), “So should we make this ‘Facebook official’? His tone was kind of joke-y so I kind of just laughed it off. But then I realized that he was completely, 100% serious.
I expressed that I didn’t see why this was really necessary. I knew we were dating. He knew we were dating. Our friends knew we were dating. Did my cousin in Miami need to know we’re dating? Not really. Some random girl I knew in high school that I happen to be “friends” with? His ex-girlfriend?
It seemed like some kind arbitrary advertisement, and borderline kind of desperate like, HEY YOU GUYS GUESS WHAT I’M DATING SOMEONE NOW I’M COOL AND EVEN IF YOU WANTED TO DATE ME YOU CAN’T CUZ LOOK HAHHAHA.
I explained to my then-boyfriend that I like my privacy, and that I would rather not be boxed into any kind of online identity. Facebook already accesses your Google searches for marketing purposes, why should they know who I’m currently dating? Then-boyfriend became defensive, saying I should want to tell the world, if I really cared. I should take down my “Single” status.
It wasn’t that I didn’t care, or that I had anything to hide. I just couldn’t see why 800 people who weren’t necessarily involved in my daily life needed to know the status of my romantic relationships.
He was so annoying about it that I caved. For six months, there it was, front and center on my profile. And it really wasn’t that big of a deal, I guess. Until we broke up. The morning after we officialized our breakup, I logged onto Facebook and saw that in a moment of post-breakup dramatic flair, he had taken down “In a Relationship with Sofia Barrett-Ibarria” and put up “Single.”
Fair enough, I thought. I got dressed and ready for my work-study job at the campus rec center, where I, my then-boyfriend, and many of our mutual friends worked.
As soon as I stepped into the office, my friends and coworkers descended on me with “Are you OK?” and “What happened?” and “Do you want to talk?”
My then-boss (also a Facebook friend) even pulled me into her office to make sure I was doing OK. After my work shift, then-boyfriend’s best friend stopped me on my way to class to tell me how very sad then-boyfriend was feeling. Thanks to Facebook, everyone I knew knew about the breakup. This was my nightmare.
About a year-and-a-half later, there I was again, having the same exact conversation with my new then-boyfriend. I, once again, couldn’t have cared less whether or not our “relationship status” was on Facebook, but it seemed really important to this guy that we let the world know we were “official.” So I said fine. It’s just Facebook. If it means that much to you.
Fast-forward six months (why this seems to be the magic number I don’t know). There’s a slow and awkward senior-year-spring-semester-fade-out and, eventually, breakup. A few days pass and he changes his status from “In a Relationship with Sofia Barrett-Ibarria” to “Single.” People “liked” it. People wrote comments. Some girl wrote something on his page to the effect of “Hey, boo, miss you.” I officially wanted to crawl in a hole and just not come out. Ever.
Here’s my thing. I’ll post pictures. I’ll share links. And yes, I admit, the occasional obnoxious ranty thing. But overall, I try not to fatigue my friends with hyper-personal posts about what I just ate or how I just had explosive diarrhea in the bathroom at Target, or who I’m currently dating. I try to maintain a bubble of privacy surrounding those topics.
I’m not hating on relationship-havers who choose to go public and make their status a “status” (although you really don’t have to. We see the pictures. You’re making out on top of some mountain. WE KNOW). And I get actual married people on Facebook, because, I mean they’re married. But it’s just not for me.
The other option, putting up the vaguely mysterious “In a Relationship” without a specified person seems weird to me, and I won’t list my “Single” status because it’s irrelevant. Nowadays, I just leave that field blank.
Maybe (probably) the two ex-boyfriends I’m referring to just sucked. Maybe (probably) the decent thing to do would have been to respect the fact that I had no desire to put our relationship status on Facebook. Maybe I’ve just never felt strongly enough for someone that I wanted to publicly declare our relationship via social media. Maybe I’m just a cynical relationship hater (or secret relationship want-er?) with bad skin.
And who knows? Maybe one day, I’ll meet the love of my life, and there I’ll be, selecting “In a Relationship with…” But I hate that this is a conversation that I’ve ever even had. Trying to date someone can be complicated enough, even without throwing our social media accounts into the mix. Plus, knowing that my mom’s next-door neighbor and my high school English teacher are in on our “status” is kind of a boner killer.