I've never been Facebook official.
Never "in a relationship." Never "single." Definitely never "complicated." Never left blank either, unanswered for the World Wide Web to wonder about.
That's because I'm not on Facebook. Hold your moans and groans—I’m not holier than thou, nor am I a hater or a holdout; it’s just not for me.
One of the many reasons is that the status puts your relationship (or lack of one) in everyone’s face, timeline, whatever. People can't talk about Facebook without mentioning who is engaged, married, having a baby, or going through a breakup. And the only thing worse than going through a breakup is having all 2,734 of your online friends bear witness.
It’s a delicate situation—when to change your status, whether to change your status at all—one fraught with complexities.
There are those who think nothing says official like changing your relationship status on Facebook. My best friend dated a guy last year who called after a few dates to nudge her along. The conversation went something like this:
Him: So, when are we gonna make this official?
Him: Our relationship...on Facebook.
Her: Silence. And then: If you feel the need to do that, go for it. It’s just not really my style.
Unsurprisingly, they didn’t last.
Because one’s social network often consists not only of actual friends but also relatives and sort-of friends, along with the sort-of friends of their sort-of friends, you might be (understandably) reluctant to broadcast your relationship status. I don’t blame my best friend one bit.
But consider this: While the significance put on social network status may seem silly, it's no different from past relationship symbols. Think back to when couples showed off fraternity pins, varsity jackets, matching sweaters, and promise rings.
Like they did then, insecurities arise if someone objects to making a relationship public—in this case, on Facebook.
Take my other friend and his girlfriend: They’ve been dating for almost two years now, and her status on Facebook still (knowingly) says single. It's odd, no? It’s like she doesn’t want anyone to know she’s with him—ashamed even—and that’s sad.
I would think if you’re comfortable enough to call someone your boyfriend, then what’s the big deal?
But who wants to have that talk with their significant other? It should come up naturally in conversation once you’ve been together long enough. If not, it’s like the old adage goes: If you have to ask, the answer is probably no.
Which is in part why my other friend and his girlfriend have agreed to not list their status at all. He says opting out of that field relieves some of the pressure. But he also told me that he thinks it’s important to make it obvious through the pictures and updates they post, which is why they each have a snapshot of the two of them as their main profile picture. So they’re still sending a (coordinated) message that they’re a couple, just in a different way.
The beauty of social media is that you can make these kinds of choices and share as little or as much as you like. There’s no right or wrong way to handle this conundrum, so long as you’re not hurting anyone’s feelings. Keep in mind of all the mini-declarations we make across multiple platforms—a relationship status change is the only one that directly involves and impacts another person.
Which is why I was happy when the guy I’m dating asked before changing his Facebook status to "in a relationship." He brought it up naturally, once he already knew the answer was yes, since we had been official in the real world for some time. If I was comfortable enough to hold his hand walking down the street, then surely I was comfortable enough to hold his virtual hand.
Even though it was old news to the people close to us, it was new to Facebook; the calls, emails, and texts rolled in as furious as the flames of a brush fire on a dry, windy day.
Like it wasn’t real until he changed it there.
To be fair, he says it did feel more real then because it became a public statement, taking himself off the market in a very visible way.
We live in a strange world now where every mannerism, meal, and marital ceremony is documented. I can’t help but remember the time my older brother asked me if I didn’t tweet about something, did it ever really happen?
I rolled my eyes, admitting to my addiction and over-usage without a word.
Sometimes I feel that way about the guy I’m dating and his relationship with Facebook. It’s complicated. He sometimes shares what I consider to be the minutia of our lives with his thousands of friends and subscribers on Facebook. I never feel like my privacy is compromised, but I do a) find it fascinating that it makes him feel better to post certain details about where we’ve eaten or shopped, and b) wonder if we (all social media addicts, everywhere) miss out on any real world connections or happenings by being so dialed into the online world.
We’ve talked about it and for now at least, the bottom line is this: He loves me and wants to share that with the world. How can I be mad?
He treats me well, and that’s the only thing that matters.
That, and one other thing—if he ever wants to break up, he tells me before changing his status.
In Two Weeks: Jamie and Immaculate Infatuation team up for the best restaurants for your date, whatever kind of date that may be.