Facebook Relationships…It’s Complicated.

12 04 2011

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I have never understood why people declare Facebook relationship statuses.  If they are really your friends, chances are they will know that you have a significant other.  If they are merely Facebook friends, why would I need to reveal personal details about my life to them online?  To me, I always thought that it’s perhaps a bit attention-seeking and potentially sets oneself up for acquaintances to ask how you are doing via a wall post after they saw that you are “no longer in a relationship” with so-and-so when they didn’t even know you were with someone in the first place.

So why do people still do it?!

Well, I thought more about it, and a lot of people I respect tremendously have actually declared their Facebook relationship statuses, so I started to try to come up with reasons why.

Perhaps some people declare their statuses as a matter of fact.  If I declare my birthday on Facebook because it’s simply a part of who I am, why can’t other people declare their relationships for the same reason?  Some people would say that putting your birthday online is already too personal, so who am I to judge what other people define as an appropriate level of personal privacy?  I also think for those who are in a long-term relationship (e.g., married, been together for years, etc.), declaring your partner on Facebook is akin to declaring your brother or sister, because they really are family and hopefully permanent fixtures in one’s life.

Then, there’s the argument that some people only add friends on Facebook when they really know the person, so in fact, friends on Facebook significantly overlap with what I will refer to here as “real-life” friends.  In this case, Facebook could theoretically be used as just a quicker way to notify close friends about personal details like relationship statuses, but I still find this method of communication rather impersonal.  That being said, I’ve transmitted relatively important details in my life to close friends and family through Facebook messages and email, so again, who am I to judge?  The difference, of course, is that Facebook messages and emails are more private and personal (I think…).

Finally, there’s the idea that a Facebook relationship status is really a declaration to the world.  Many people realize (although this may be debatable) that once information is online, it is permanent and exposed to the entire globe.  However, they still declare their relationship status with their girlfriend or boyfriend because it’s a sign of love and commitment.  It can be construed as a sign of dedication that someone is willing to announce to the world (and more importantly, their social circle) that she or he is taken.  I imagine it can be seen as a gesture that moves a relationship forward in some eyes, like a promise ring (when those were still popular) or the introduction of the significant other to one’s (in this case, social) network of friends.

To me, though, it seems like such a public way of demonstrating love, but I guess it’s just my problem with accepting that when it comes to how relationships work, to each their own.

What do you think?

In short, I have way too many random thoughts about the implications of social media when I am procrastinating.

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5 responses

12 04 2011
Eastwood

I’d like to suggest that declaring one’s relationship status on Facebook is a means of saying “I’m available” or “I’m not available” for a romantic relationship. But, hey, as someone who doesn’t use Facebook, what do I know.

12 04 2011
Asteroid

I agree with Eastwood; and with some of the comments you make regarding it being a “fact”; from personal experience, I put up relationship statuses when it is a “fact” just like my birthday or education/work experience; if people are interested in hearing about it they can ask and if not they can ignore it like everything else on my profile. A large part of it is also letting people know I’m not available and that I’m happy with the person I’m with; there’s nothing wrong with a “public way of demonstrating love” –its like holding hands in public; and some relationships work well being out in the open like that. It’s better than the secretive approach some people I’ve seen take…where they don’t declare relationship statuses and act all flirty and single when the significant other isn’t around and their relationship status isnt really known.

To each their own of course–though I do think you understand why some people put their statuses up–everyone has their own reason and I think instead of making assumptions of others or criticizing their choices you could let them do as they please and ignore them if you feel you’re not interested in it or not partake in putting up a relationship status~

Just my 2 cents!

13 04 2011
Rameet

I saw that comic on xkcd! gave me a laugh 😀 haha but yea, it seems kind of attention-seeking to me too. then if things don’t work out, you gotta answer to all the inquiries from random ppl… ppl who wouldn’t have cared if it didn’t come up on their newsfeed. personally, I’d keep it personal until it became serious – like an engagement or something along those lines. then again, we’re talking abt facebook lol..let’s not question the idiosyncrasies it inspires 🙂

on a side note, I changed my status from “single” to “married” in first year – just a silly whim 😛 ..didn’t wanna follow the rules

17 04 2011
Courteney

As you know, I very rarely comment. But I just HAD to say something after this post, as I have had this conversation with people many a time!

In general, I agree. I think posting a relationship status on Facebook IS extremely permanent. It makes it very real and public. Personally, I don’t and never have, regardless of my relationship status. It’s just not something I think the world needs to know, and if someone is in my life at any point in any shape or capacity, they will find out personally from me (or someone who knows me). The internet doesn’t need to know (or, I suspect, care). On the other hand, I might do it were I married. I guess it’s the online equivalent to wearing a wedding ring/band…but then again, what would happen if I got divorced? Would I one day go from blank, to married, to blank again in my relationship status? Or is that the risk you run with making a public declaration of your commitment to one another, akin to wearing the ring and changing your name?

5 06 2011
Fighting for Your Relationship « The Pro-Psychotics

[…] made this whole big to-do about Facebook relationship statuses a few blog posts ago, and I still don’t think that I […]

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